My Garden

A garden through the seasons in its first year

My series The Diary of a New Garden appears this spring in House & Garden 
April, May and June issues with illustrations by artist Vanessa Bowman 

Froomes Garden

Spring 2018

The brick-edged beds in the front garden, planted a month earlier, are already filling out.

Froomes Garden

Late summer 2018

Dahlias were fantastic in the heat, and the Stipa tenuissima is dotted around each bed. 

Froomes Garden, Berkshire

Autumn 2018

Sedum 'Autumn Joy', Teucrium fruticans, Stipa tenuissima and rudbeckia seed heads. 

Froomes Garden, Berkshire

Winter 2018

Sedum seed heads catch the frost, and the stipa still looks good against the teucrium.

Froomes Garden, Berkshire

Early spring 2019

The early spring green of euphorbias with the ground peppered with hail. 

Froomes Garden, Berkshire

Mid spring 2019

Tulip time with Ballerina, Pieter de Leur and Belle Epoque, plus Euphorbia polychroma.

I moved to this cottage in the middle of a Berkshire village in November 2017, with a garden of about quarter an acre. The move had happened quickly, and I wasn't wholeheartedly happy with the decision to leave the previous house, so I knew I had to start making a garden as soon as possible to make it feel like home. The previous owners had left me a blank canvas, with an expanse of gravel at the front and a lawned area at the back - almost everything else, apart from thick laurel hedges, had been removed. So on a scrap of paper, I started sketching a few simple ideas, and by March the following year we had the basic framework built. 

First, we made a small vegetable garden in the back garden, with a new greenhouse at the top. I had inherited a greenhouse in the last garden and had become addicted to growing from seed, so a greenhouse was a priority. We made raised beds with timber, and covered the paths in gravel taken from the front garden. At the same time, we made a series of square, brick-edged beds at the front, where I wanted a mad, colourful cottage garden, using a load of old bricks that the previous owners had left in the garage. Then in the back garden, I made a large, curving border for shrubs and tall perennials to soften the back boundary, with a shed and a chicken run down one side. 

Froomes Garden, Berkshire
Greenhouse and veg plot
Froomes Garden, Berkshire
Espaliered apples and tulips
Froomes Garden, Berkshire
The back border, spring 2019

It turned out to be a challenge planting a garden in the spring before one of the hottest, dryest summers for decades, but it's amazing how resilient plants are. Most plants survived the heat (I did water, but tried to keep it to a minimum) and are coming back beautifully, and it's so exciting seeing the garden come to life in its second year. This is the third garden I've made, and I've finally learnt not to over-plant. It's tempting to stuff far too much into a border to make it look instantly full, but plants need room to move into their own spaces and it's surprising how quickly they do this, within two or three years. And in the meantime, you can plug the gaps with annuals such as ammi, cosmos, poppies or nigella - or fill an entire border with dahlias, which is what I did last year when I ran out of money for perennials. I had dug up the tubers from the previous house to bring with me, so had instant colour for late summer and autumn. 

Dahlias in Froomes Garden, Berkshire
The dahlia border with Labyrinth
Sedum Autumn Joy in Froomes Garden, Berkshire
Molly with Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
Dahlias in Froomes Garden, Berkshire
Chat Noir and Cafe au Lait dahlias
Dahlia Café au Lait
Dahlia Café au Lait
Dahlias, Froomes Garden, Berkshire
Dahlia collection in the kitchen
Dahlia Cornel Brons
Dahlia Cornel Brons


In October I planted about 500 tulips in all the borders, sticking to my theme of mad, bright colour for the cottage garden at the front of the house, and more subtle colours for the back garden. My list for the back garden was:

Spring Green: fresh green and white
Mistress: pale pink
Sapporo: creamy white aging to pale yellow
La Belle Époque: dusky apricot, cream and pink

In the cottage garden I chose:

Black Hero: double dark purple
Couleur Cardinal: deep red
Pieter de Leur: crimson lily-flowered
Ballerina: bright orange, small flowers

Plus for pots I had two more combinations:

Request: apricot pink two tone
Antraciet: double magenta crimson
Slawa: deep red edged with apricot
Couleur Cardinal: as above

Tres Chic: white lily flowered
Silk Road: double creamy white tinged pink
Apricot Beauty: pale apricot 
Sapporo: as above.
La Belle Époque: as above

This spring they have filled the garden with colour, and I couldn't be happier with them. So worth the two weekends of back-breaking work in October! The most photographed tulip has to be the broken Belle Époque with incredible markings. It is infected with tulip virus, which makes the colour 'break' like this, but it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and I'm snapping it as much as I can before it fades.

Tulipa Antraciet
Bold & Beautiful tulip collection
Tulipa La Belle Époque
La Belle Époque
La Belle Epoque with virus
La Belle Époque with virus
Tulip collection, Froomes Garden, Berkshire
Pale & Interesting tulip collection
Tulipa Sapporo