PATRICIA’S PATIENT APPROACH TO GARDENING

We recently interviewed Patricia Wells, a keen gardener, who has had a passion for gardening, growing and landscape design from a very early age.

When did you become interested in gardening? Who was your inspiration and at what age?
When I was 4 we moved from London to a new house with a garden which my dad proceeded to lay out and plant. It was left in a pretty bad state by the builders but he sifted all the soil and seeded the lawns. Whenever I could I tried to “help” and from then on as the garden became established I had my “jobs”; deadheading roses, weeding the rockery and keeping the grass edges clipped. Dad continued to be my inspiration when he acquired an allotment when I was about 8 years old and I would go with him after he returned from work to water the vegetables. I acquired a large garden of my own when I moved with my own family to Wiltshire. Mum and dad followed soon afterwards and we always spent time together in the garden designing new beds and planting schemes and tending the plants.  He is 89 this year and still comes around to help me out.

Which garden designers are you most fond of?
I take a lot of ideas from Beth Chatto and also planting schemes from RHS Rosemoor.

What do you currently have growing in your greenhouse?
I only have tomatoes growing in the greenhouse this year. It’s been a busy first half of the year so the cucumbers and peppers have gone by the board this year. In the garden I have lots of mixed planting of perennials and shrubs – with an eye to trying to keep interest throughout the seasons. I also have some favourite specimen trees; silver birch, Acers and Rowan. I have areas which point to more modern structure in the beds with topiary and grasses. I love spring with lots of bulbs, peonies and aliums, not forgetting the wisteria draping the front of the house. The delphiniums are flowering now and I love the deep blues which contrast well with the salvias. Waiting for the agapanthus to flower!

What do you enjoy most about gardening?
I enjoy seeing all the hard work and nurturing gradually flourish and mature. I’m not into instant gardening – it’s the planning and waiting for the planting to come into its own over time (sometimes several years) that makes it all worthwhile. Most of all I enjoy being outside and listening to the birds whilst we are working!

What advice do you have for a beginner?
For someone starting out I would advise visiting gardens to work out what kind of design and planting you like.

  • Think about what you want to use your garden for.  Do you want children areas, patios and/or entertaining areas, veg patches, attracting wildlife, water features, utility areas etc?
  • Work on drawing out the areas and developing structure mindful of the way in which the sun traverses your patch and where you might like to put trees (only appropriate to the size of the garden)
  • Once the structure of the garden is in place you can develop your planting. Take your time and don’t rush to get the garden perfect in one season. Look at what grows well in neighbouring gardens – that will give you a feel for the type of plants that will flourish in your soil type.

What is your favourite garden in the UK?
My favourite garden to visit is RHS Rosemoor in North Devon. I try and visit every 6-8 weeks – all through the year and I am never disappointed and always come away with ideas for my own garden. My other favourite is Hestercombe in Somerset- lovely combination of planting by Gertrude Jekyll and structure by Lutyens. I love Italian gardens and Hestercombe is an English arts and craft take on the hardy herbaceous borders and parterre, with Tuscan pillar style walkways. There is a lovely orangery and the water channel areas designed by Lutyens are reminiscent of Islamic gardens.

What’s your favourite crop and plant to grow?
My favourite crop are tomatoes – shop bought tomatoes lack flavour. You can’t beat the smell of ripening tomatoes in a greenhouse and eating them straight off when they are still warm from the sun.  Favourite plant has to be delphiniums!