The garden at Severals Grange has a dual identity. Recent visitors and holiday cottage guests know it as Severals Grange, but many of the gardening fraternity know it better as Hoecroft Plants, one of the premier nurseries in Norfolk, specialising in ornamental grasses.

It was started in 1992 by Jane Lister, taking over a mainly mail order business from her mother, Margaret Lister, and nurseryman Nigel Taylor, who was instrumental in innovating planting schemes incorporating grasses.

Great British Life: Jane Lister and Brenda Hines in the garden at Severalls Grange. (c) Annie Green-ArmytageJane Lister and Brenda Hines in the garden at Severalls Grange. (c) Annie Green-Armytage

‘We went straight into showing at Chelsea (Flower Show),’ remembers Jane. ‘And we were the only stand with ornamental grasses in the whole of the show. Now everyone has them, even the bonsai stands!’

The garden around the nursery evolved as customers arrived asking for advice with problem areas. With a flair for combining foliage, grass and flower, and a range of growing conditions running from cool, moist and shady to hot and free-draining, Jane and gardening partner Brenda Hines were able to offer customers visual options for diverse planting, at the same time showcasing the extensive range of plants (more than 750 cultivars) for sale in the nursery.

Great British Life: The end of the garden at sunrise. (c) Annie Green-ArmytageThe end of the garden at sunrise. (c) Annie Green-Armytage

Fast forward 25 years and Jane and Brenda decided it was finally time to call a halt. Brenda explains: ‘To grow a plant properly you have to provide the right conditions. We hand-watered every morning, because some plants needed more moisture than others.’ They were also meticulous with weeding the pots, and this continuous workload, together with Jane’s teaching job, meant that neither of them had attended to much else for some years.

In 2017 the nursery shut its doors, which begged the question of what to do with the space that remained. ‘Customers came up with all sorts of ideas,’ says Jane with a smile ‘ Tennis court, natural swimming pond, grass for wedding receptions.’ In the end though, they decided to make more garden. ‘We just love gardening,’ says Jane simply. ‘It’s fun to create new borders and redesign new areas.’

Great British Life: View of the main garden with central pergola and shelter belt of trees on the edge. (c) Annie Green-ArmytageView of the main garden with central pergola and shelter belt of trees on the edge. (c) Annie Green-Armytage

Preparing the area, which had been compacted over the years into an unyielding, concrete-like state was no mean feat, but thorough preparation of soil has always been a guiding principle for Jane and Brenda throughout the garden. ‘We rotavated in lots of green waste from the council,’ says Jane, ‘and then added everything we could to give it nutrients and a bit of body - compost, horse muck, silt dredged from the bottom of the pond - before we put a single plant in.’

The existing garden had a naturalistic flow with separate areas screened from each other by planting rather than hard landscaping. The rectangular shape of the new area called for a more formal approach, and many conversations and pieces of paper later, they came up with the idea of a central pergola within a circle within a square with ‘quadrant beds’ in each corner. These follow what Brenda calls a ‘loose mirror’, diagonally echoing the planting, while the formality of the pergola is offset by mounds of Verbena ‘Bempton’ and Hakonechloa macra , with rivers of little foxtail barley Hordeum jubatum seeding through the central circle. ‘Originally there was going to be a seat under there, but of course there was no room because it ended up full of plants,’ says Brenda, laughing.

Great British Life: Verbena bonariensis with Stipa gigantea. (c) Annie Green-ArmytageVerbena bonariensis with Stipa gigantea. (c) Annie Green-Armytage

They do actually have a seat now, to one side of the new plot in a summerhouse imported from Jane’s mother’s garden after she sadly died in 2021. It is uniquely suited to sitting and gazing, its base attached to a rotating wheel which enables it to pivot in any direction, following the sunlight across the garden.

The planting in the new area is designed to have a long range of interest, from alliums and spring-flowering alpines through Penstemon and Diascia, Echinacea, Agastache and Limonium latifolium, a cultivated form of sea lavender. Accompanied of course, by grasses. Softening and complementing the mainly perennial planting, they bring life and movement to the garden. More than that, they each bring their own distinct character to the planting. Contrasting the low-growing fluffy foxtail barley are stately Chionachloa rubra in a central pot, as well as golden Stipa gigantea, silky Miscanthus, and feathery Stipa calamagrostis. ‘Thirty-odd years ago I didn’t know one from another,’ says Jane. ‘Now they are very much part of my life. I still think that ornamental grasses can alter the whole feel of a space. They make me relax just looking at them.’

Great British Life: Echinacea purpurea in one of the quadrant beds, with central wooden pergola in the background. (c) Annie Green-ArmytageEchinacea purpurea in one of the quadrant beds, with central wooden pergola in the background. (c) Annie Green-Armytage

The new area has added a different dimension to the garden, too. Brenda says: ‘When I walk round the corner and it is there in front of me, it still surprises me. Thinking of the work that went into it, and the vision - although neither of us could possibly explain it exactly, I think it came out in the end the way we both wanted.’ Jane is thoughtful for a moment, and then adds: ‘When I think back to my Mum and her mail order business introducing grasses for sale, it was her inspiration that got me going here. So in a way this garden is really all about her.’

Severals Grange is open for the National Garden Scheme on Sunday August 13, 1pm - 7pm. Pre-booking is essential, via the NGS website at

Great British Life: Border in gravel at the front of the house featuring grasses (c) Annie Green-ArmytageBorder in gravel at the front of the house featuring grasses (c) Annie Green-Armytage

A message from Annie...

This will be my last garden feature for Norfolk magazine for a while. After 20 years (and that doesn’t seem possible), I have decided it’s time to take a new direction, at least for a while.

With the help of some Arts Council funding I am starting to research a new project. Called Blue Mind, Green Mind, I will be spending time looking at new ways and techniques to develop my photographic practice with the aim of encouraging people to access natural resources to improve their mental wellbeing and reconnect with the natural world. This new project will pull together the different strands of my careers as photographer, writer and accredited psychotherapist.

I want to thank everyone at Norfolk magazine who have all supported me so ably over the years, it has been a delight working with you. I also want to say thank you to all of you out there who have read my features and given me such generous feedback. I will still be around, hopefully back on these pages in a slightly different guise before too long. In the meantime, connect with me on instagram @anniegaphoto, take care of yourselves, and enjoy your gardens!