3. Walbury

⅓ acre garden divided into three sections. Each section has a cottage garden atmosphere with different styles, packed with plants in colour themed borders including many unusual plants, and a fern walk. Also, look out for the Bantams.

We moved into Walbury as newly-weds on Bonfire Night in 1966. We were both very keen gardeners. There was nothing in the garden of note, but we were keen to get started.

View looking north towards Renown Quarry shortly after we arrived. Much of the chalk was used in building the A331 past Farnborough.

Ernie came from a sandy garden in Farnham and had been growing amazing roses and lilies. Surely a clay garden would produce spectacular results. Clay was in fact the first snag as the garden was completely unworkable until March. Much too wet. A fine tilth took days to achieve. From then on, we added all the humus we could find. However, it was horticultural grit which made the difference. The beautiful hybrid tea roses were spectacular for a year or two but then they had to be discarded. They hadn’t made any fibrous roots. Likewise, the collection of late summer perennials deteriorated and died. We had to think again. Gradually we learned what to grow.

 We always wanted a figure of eight shape at the back and this is still true today as it maintains an element of surprise. A bird bath provided a focal point. We always preferred colour co-ordinated plants in the beds with good foliage plants for year-round interest.

Unfortunately, many of our favourite plants wouldn’t grow for us.    But hardy geraniums are a mainstay. 

At the front of the house, Ernie constructed a pond and a rocky outcrop to break up the semicircle and provide a new environment. A bog garden round the pond added more interest. Brenda loves English roses and there is a large selection in the garden. They survive but don’t exactly thrive. Behind the house we put up wooden screens for climbers and widened the borders. New beds were created wherever possible.  We acquired a greenhouse, so we were able to grow annuals to fill in gaps.

After some years we had the opportunity to purchase an additional strip of land 1/3 of the way across the field behind us. Ernie made all the concrete paving slabs by hand to surround the raised beds for vegetables. We also put in a fruit cage to enable us to grow soft fruit.

Brenda had always loved Alpine plants and as a retirement project purchased an Alpine house. This turned out to be an expensive mistake: it was too hot in summer and there was nowhere to care for them outside. However, for many years they were delights in early spring. 

Ernie decided he wanted a flowery place, so he changed the position of all the paving stones at the bottom of the garden and created four beds for perennials. He also constructed a little arbour from scraps. The roof was made from a copper water tank. 

We had a wonderful time visiting plant fairs filling all but the two vegetable beds.  The results were spectacular and have been likened to Monet’s garden. 

As we get older, we’ve had to cut back. So, we filled in the pond and now grow candelabra primroses in it. The boggy area was grassed over. At the back of the house a patio replaced a huge flower bed. The fruit cage was emptied, and bantams now keep the weeds down. The Alpine house was emptied and now we only grow climbing beans in the vegetable patch. 

We now have three gardens: the front, the middle and the back. The front and middle became Brenda’s garden where we have mixed borders with a cottage garden atmosphere. There are many bulbs, roses and mixed perennials many of which are quite unusual. The bottom or Ernie’s Garden has only perennials and a few roses. As we don’t visit that garden in the winter, the flat uninteresting borders don’t matter. However, in the spring summer and autumn, it is a riot of colour.