It is all very well visiting great gardens with acres of herbaceous borders, towering yew topiary and water features the size of Lake Windermere, but there is a particular pleasure in seeing what can be achieved in an an ordinary back garden. Which is why I always look forward to Nevill Open Gardens, an event near us on an estate of semis and bungalows with gardens that are often quite out of the ordinary. It is close to my heart as we lived on the Nevill for nearly six years and this is where I had my first proper garden.
Little Weed #1 and I set off on a glorious July afternoon to find out what wonders can be achieved by weekend gardeners – although it soon became clear she was only in it for the cake. The first garden we visited had packed so much in with a pond complete with flamingo, a sunny seat and a serious sweet pea frame as well as an attractive utility area.
Next up was one of my favourite gardens on the Nevill, which takes grow your own to a new level, with shelves of strawberries on the drive, an oversized rainwater butt and fruit and veg galore.
My fried Sarah helped to organise this year’s open garden trail and her own garden is a delight. From her front garden packed with herbaceous perennials such as Verbena bonariensis and Stachys byzantina, to her newly redesigned back garden with its stylish shed, attractive stepping stones across the lawn and hidden play area.
The Nevill backs onto the South Downs, which mean some of the gardens enjoy glorious views and almost blend into the countryside.
Others are more intimate, while showing how much can be achieved on thin chalk soil. I was blown away by this wild carrot (Daucus carota):
Much to Little Weed #1’s relief the next garden was a cake stop, with some lovely features including a beautiful clematis winding through a tree and a little lawn of thyme.
After cake Little Weed #1 bailed out to join her siblings playing on Nevill Green and I was left to tour the remaining gardens by myself. I approached what looks from the front like your common garden bungalow. Behind is a different story: an Italianate formal garden with a semi-circular fishpond and statuary and a glasshouse and pergola that would not look out of place at a stately home.
The back garden of another bungalow on the same road also revealed hidden treasures, including these genius pair of concrete chairs and a gloriously abundant shed-cum-greenhouse.
Being on the South Downs, many of the gardens on the estate are steeply sloping. The next garden on the trail took advantage of this, with paths leading up to a seating area with views, through beds of abundant planting and this very zen water feature:
The following garden was also on a slope, leading up to an enviable potting shed, past the reddest, sweetest gooseberries I have ever seen or tasted.
The last garden I visited belongs to a garden designer and contained several dreamy spots to sit and contemplate the lovely planting.
It is so inspiring to see what can be achieved in a back garden – be it sanctuary, larder or work of artistic fantasy!