A naturalistic haven at Pilley Hill Cottage garden, near Lymington

Keen gardener Steph finds the garden quite magical

Keen gardener Steph finds the garden quite magical - Credit: Archant

Experience the peaceful flowing garden at Pilley Hill Cottage where plants are selected that not only look beautiful but also thrive in the soil and conditions

A touch of formality with clipped domes

A touch of formality with clipped domes - Credit: Archant

Steph and Sandy Glen have created an informal garden over the past 10 years that flows out from their attractive Georgian House on a gently sloping site amongst mature trees. After entering through the rose-covered timber lych-gate a gravel path meanders down through the garden with glimpses to other areas beckoning exploration. Densely planted borders fringe the path as you brush past wafting nepeta, spires of foxgloves and a jumble of relaxed perennials.

The southwest-facing plot with heavy clay soil has been gardened since 1835 and has many mature trees, including old gnarled lichen-covered apple and pear trees.

“We frequently dig up Victorian pottery and other little hints of past lives, including an almost intact meerschaum pipe, lots of metal bits and of course our share of bricks and builders’ rubble,” says Steph.

As you progress the gravel turns to mown lawn paths and links with a wide expanse of lawn out from the house. Framing the lawn are flowerbeds under a canopy of trees and shrubs screening the garden from the road. There is a slightly more formal feel here with defined lines and groups of containers brimming with seasonal displays on the paved patio by the house. A vine-clad arch leads to a hidden room with a circular theme. Clipped domes partially encircling a pedestaled urn of tufted grasses draw the eye, as do slate-edged water gardens.

“Our garden is a mass of springs which run down to this bog garden. We have two ponds, one for wildlife, one for gold fish and wet beds with gunnera, hosta, candelabra primula and rodgersia,” comments Steph.

Relaxed informality continues as you wander through this garden, in and out of shady areas, through oak archways and willow walks, and surrounded by an eclectic mix of old roses scrambling through branches, wildflowers, hydrangeas, dogwoods and ferns.

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“We have developed the old orchard into a lovely informal woodland type of garden with little paths leading here and there, and much of it is quite wild,” adds Steph.

The main challenges the couple have had with the garden is to cope with the constant presence of ground elder and select plants that really thrive in this garden of wet areas and sunny spots.

“We stopped spraying the ground elder as it was effecting the frogs in the garden and have learnt to work with it by growing really vigorous ground covering plants to supress it, such as crocosmias, daylilies and yellow loosestrife that has done a touch too well and sometimes needs pulling out itself as it spreads through the garden.”

What sets this garden apart is the creative use of quirky objects, many of which are made by keen potter Steph. Take time to observe the details throughout the garden, from Steph’s pottery gargoyles hidden in the trees, houseleeks peeping out of rows of small terracotta Nepalese elephants or a pair of old trainers, to a handmade chess set ready to play on a rustic table under a shady umbrella and the eccentric roundhouse displayed with made and found objects.

Dotted throughout are places to sit to soak up the atmosphere of this oasis of peace and tranquillity.

“I never have time to sit myself though, there’s always something to be done in the garden,” adds Steph. On open days for the NGS the lawn is laid out with tables for delicious homemade teas.


Get the Look

Steph’s tips

Don’t struggle with plants that don’t want to be there

Split and repeat those that do really well

Don’t have too many different plants

Even ordinary plants can look lovely so don’t overlook them

Colour Palette

Pinks and purples create a vibrant hue to the garden while underplantings of yellow mixed with the terracotta pottery help to create an oasis of peace and tranqulity


Make a visit

Pilley Hill Cottage

Pilley, Lymington, SO41 5QF

Open Saturdays and Sundays 29th and 30th June; 20th and 21st July; 31st Aug and 1st Sept (2pm-5pm)

Admisson £3, children go free


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