What to do with a garden surrounded by a moat, a walled garden, in effect, without a wall? Answer, thanks to designer George Carter, is to ignore the moat, treat it like a haha. When we arrived in 1993, we were given a blank slate - an iceberg rose and plenty of mature trees.
George planned the ‘platform’ (about an acre inside the moat) with hornbeam hedges, pleached limes, yew hedges and an approach designed to give a better sense of arrival. In 19 years, nearly everything is full-height and mature. With a local nursery’s help we created four beds on the platform, copied from those 1960s men’s ties in horizontal blocks of colour. Both evergreen and deciduous, it’s always colourful.
Beyond the moat, we have a large, walled vegetable garden, also planted by colour by our gardener, Kate Elliott. A red bed, a green bed, a rusty bed and a blueish one - copied from Chateau de Bosmelet in Normandy. We also have a bog garden, filled with ferns and garlic and moisture loving plants which winds its way along an old ditch, now a running stream and a Mediterranean garden of drought-tolerant plants like lavender, cistus, eucalyptus and ivy. We think we’ve finally got it right. After playing about with ‘hot’ colours, it’s now all soft greys and blues. We’ve planted thousands of bluebells and hundreds of tulips.
Kate never lets us rest. Our large greenhouse and polytunnel is generally packed with plants to use and sell and, this year, we're planting a wild rose garden next to the orchard and a circle of Italian cypress trees.
Watch this space.
Kate Elliott came straight from school to become gardener at Columbine Hall in 1997 when she was sixteen. The garden was then in its infancy and she has developed it so well it has been awarded a star in The Good Gardens Guide.
As well as maintaining the garden she takes charge of propagation in the greenhouse and polytunnel and the plant sales. She also helps organise barn and holiday cottage lettings. In 2009 Kate was one of the three shortlisted in Horticulture Week’s Professional Gardener of the Year Awards for her colour-themed walled vegetable garden project at Columbine. She is a member of the Professional Gardeners’ Guild and the Institute of Horticulture.