The Garden off the High Street

An 18th century townhouse with a mature beautifully laid out garden with an exceptional plant palette.

Jill and William Stewart have lived at their home near Towcester for 40 years and the High Street location belies the captivating garden hidden to the rear.  The ironstone detached property was built in the 18th-century but internal features uncovered during renovation suggest possible 16th century origins.  The main home links to office space and a laundry room with a long fully glazed summer room featuring two large potted Camelias, while an exterior staircase is hidden under a thriving Wisteria highlighted by the dark-eyed pink flowers of Geranium maderense growing through the upper balustrade.  Here under the spreading canopies of two large hazel trees a human sized chess board in the form of dark and light paving is accompanied by a pawn, a five feet high king, and a bishop perfectly and patiently rendered in Buxus.  Also, here but hidden out of sight deep underground, William’s engineering skills have been employed through the installation of a ground source heat pump system which now supplies the house with all its hot water needs.

Up steps onto the lawn and a terracotta paved barbecue area offers tabled seating with a shade sail and a willow offering the perfect cool area for a summer lunch.  A path leads up to more seating in the form of a large, curved bench and low-level planting which includes potted hostas, purple sage, geraniums, box, and a red flowered salvia.  There is a stone bust on a plinth and an attractive carved stone font acts as a centrepiece to the area.  Further on, a mown path passes by a fantastic display of self-sown fox and cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca, the happy result of leaving the lawn uncut), before opening out into a lawned area used for croquet in the summer months. It’s here that the design of the garden becomes clearer to see: a series of concentric rings radiating out from a central point comprisinga Hadenstone urn set on a tapered doric column.  Next to this a large rose arbour designed by William is clothed in roses ‘Aberic Barbier’ and ‘Leontine Gervais’.  A wonderful eclectic mix of shrubs and perennials surround this area and include Physocarpus ‘Diablo’, Spirea, rosemary, Macleaya cordata, and the rose ‘Lady Emily Hamilton’.  A seating area is edged with swathes of uncut grass highlighted by ox-eye daisies.  But the real headturners here are the pots of magnificent Geranium maderense; absolute fountains of colour and in June at their floriferous peak.

You enter the vegetable garden through a simple Japanese style torii arch denoting the transition from the decorative garden to the productive.  Small, raised beds are planted with chard, garlic, rhubarb, and currant bushes.  There’s a hotbin composter in the corner and a large Cornus mas just coming into fruit. 

Back out onto the lawn a side border is planted with specimens of Acer underplanted with Geraniums, Alchemilla, hellebores, Carex, and Sisyrinchium.  A beech hedge has had the lower branches removed to offer further planting opportunities for Choisya, Sedum, Pulmonaria, and daylily.  A wonderful octagonal summerhouse equipped with power and wifi offers an alternative and rather tempting location for office work and behind is located a small area for stockplants and a composting area cleverly constructed from plastic export pallets.  One further bed is beautifully planted with fennel, Sedum, Phlomis, dark leaved Lysimachia ‘Firecracker’, Cephalaria, and asters.

Back towards the stables an old pond was filled in some years ago and with the addition of ericaceous soil the area has been planted with azaleas.  A six-tiered water feature offers a bathing spot for the local birdlife.

This wonderful garden offers many hidden areas, and each turn brings a surprise in the form of interesting planting or an imaginative feature.  Jill’s plant knowledge shines through and the addition of sculptures at various points throughout the garden add a relaxed charm to this most interesting of gardens.