Ros Byam-Shaw | Writer on Interior Design

East Devon, UK, June 2012

“I love the way the garden is divided into different spaces, each with its own distinct character, by the old walls.” ... more words below images

Ros Byam-Shaw Writer on Interior Design | East Devon, UK, June 2012

The garden is in East Devon, three miles from the coast. It surrounds the house, the main façade of which faces South East. We moved to the house ten years ago but the garden in its present form was only finished two years ago. I garden with Richard, my husband.

We have about ¾ of an acre of garden and the same again of paddock and orchard.  There are two deep herbaceous borders, a lower lawn bordered by a shrubbery, a sunken garden with paving and pots around a swimming pool, a front garden with lawns and deep beds containing hydrangeas, and there is a vegetable garden with eight raised beds, a fruit frame, and a small greenhouse.

I am not quite sure what the soil is, but it is neither heavy clay, nor light sand.  I would say it is something in between the two.

At the weekend, if the weather is good, we work on the garden for a full day or the equivalent of a full day.  Richard will also mow sometimes during the week, or cut hedges in the evenings.  I will often go and do half an hour’s weeding at some stage during the week.   We also use the garden a lot for leisure – we eat breakfast in the garden whenever the weather allows, and lunch and tea come to that.  Usually we start eating out in the garden in late spring and carry on right through to late autumn, but this year it has been so wet that we are feeling a bit deprived of alfresco life.

I am not at all knowledgeable about gardens, but as I have got older, I have appreciated other people’s gardens a lot more and often feel inspired by visiting gardens, whether those of friends, or those belonging to houses that are open to the public.  The gardens at Barrington House, a National Trust property not far from here, are a favourite.  I tend to like quite traditional gardens that are appropriate to the architecture of a house.

The design of our garden was by local garden designer Penny Pritchard and the hard landsaping and planting was done by another local company, Tony Benger.  Tony and Penny are brother and sister and often work together.

Roses seem to thrive – but then we have planted a lot of them as they are a favourite.  Lavender also does very well and we have two lavender hedges.  We have planted a lot of yew and that too seems to thrive. Slugs and snails are a particular problem and I am sorry to say we have resorted to slug bait as nothing else seems to work.

The biggest chore is cutting the miles of box hedging which is all low and makes for a back-breaking job. That being said, I don’t do it, Richard does.

I love the way the garden is divided into different spaces, each with its own distinct character, by the old walls.  The area we call ‘the top garden’ has particularly beautiful walls of Tudor brick.  I love the view of distant hills.  One of my favourite plants in the garden, even though it is a bit troublesome and does get disfigured by leaf curl, is the white peach tree. All through August we eat several ripe peaches a day and they are the sweetest, juiciest, most delicious fruit I know.  And go very well with a bowl of breakfast porridge.

Different parts of the garden are nice at different times.  I love being on the terrace by the pool in the morning with a view of cows on the hills across the valley, and the sound of sheep bleating from down by the river.  In summer it is often sunny first thing in the morning, even if the rest of the day is cloudy or wet.  It is also nice to sit with a cup of tea in the afternoon, especially if you have spent the day working hard in the garden.

I like June because it is when the roses are out and the garden looks at its prettiest.  But I also like August because of the peaches.

My favourite tool is a very sharp hoe, which is beautifully balanced and a pleasure to use.

My garden gives me space, privacy, flowers to pick, fruit and vegetables to eat – these I could not do without.

Check out Ros' delicious and summery Gooseberries with Elderflower Panacotta