designed by Pollyanna Wilkinson
Three holly trees, for protection. In celtic spirituality, the holly (with the oak) represents a masculine energy, while the fourth tree, a silver birch, embodies the feminine, establishes quickly and acts as a nurse tree to other, more slowly maturing species. These trees stand sentry-like at the corners of the plot. Hawthorn, the faerie tree, hides in the hedge, with hazel, for knowledge.
The symbol for the earth element and divine femininity, surrounded by a wreath of birch twigs and dried flowers, looks over the garden from its prominent position in the centre of the rear wall.
More circles spin you around, though gently – the arrangement of the clay pavers, the steel arch over the entrance, the stand from which the cauldron hangs, rose petals simmering over the circular firepit. We all come back to where we began, the garden whispers.
This feels like the space of someone who knows nature in all her rhythms and caprices. There’s a strong sensation of a life lived, someone for whom this garden is at once sanctuary, storehouse and workspace. Herbs spill over the paving from the beds, grown for the pot, for medicinal use, or to harvest to make use of in dyes – a large zinc bath sits nestled into the plants, subtle-hued yarns draped over the edge to dry in the sun. The many thoughtful details throughout – a vintage copper alembic for distilling essential oils, a jar of ink made from oak galls, balls of yarn died with madder (deep red), walnut (brown) and red cabbage (a gorgeous, light blue-grey) – contribute to the picture of the characterful person who would garden in such a space.
I ask designer Pollyanna Wilkinson whether she had anyone in mind when creating the garden. “Definitely a woman, someone with…pagan leanings? Not exactly a witch but…someone in tune with nature.” Explicit reference to women in the garden’s name was toyed with momentarily, but it was felt that this might have been a little exclusive (I think I could have coped, but we gentlemen can be a little fragile, so perhaps Polly’s caution was well placed). Whatever the garden were to be called, the sense of the gardener is palpable, and I expect her to appear at any moment. I think I catch sight her from the corner of my eye, but it turns out to be only a vintage dressmaker’s dummy decorated with pressed flowers. Perhaps she’ll appear from the shepherds hut when everyone else has gone home.
It’s a show garden with a strong narrative which it murmurs rather than shouts and, in spite of giving such a clear impression of a personality within the space, it seems to have grown out of the ground, rather than having been built upon the spot. I can’t think of higher praise than that.
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Hello! I’m Andrew, gardener, writer, photographer, and owner of a too-loud laugh, and I’m so pleased you’ve found your way to Gardens, weeds & words. You can read a more in-depth profile of me on the About page, or by clicking this image.