Alton garden inspiring ideas for small space creativity

The reclaimed curving path leads to a courtyard area

The reclaimed curving path leads to a courtyard area - Credit: Archant

Small but perfectly formed, 42 Whitedown in Alton offers plenty of ideas to inspire small space creativity says Leigh Clapp

It is easy to see which garden you’ll be visiting as the planting jostles happily, tumbling over the boundaries of the small front garden in 42 Whitedown Road. Home to plantswoman and garden designer Jo Carter and sculptor Richard Farrington, from the outset the creativity of this couple is evident. Exploring the whole plot only re-enforces the first impression. There is a delightful balance of controlled and natural planting, pieces of art peering from under foliage and a fascinating use of upcycled and recycled pieces.

“We moved here 18 years ago when the garden consisted of grass, brambles, two gnarled apple trees and a scattering of LP’s - it was decidedly neglected but as we realised later, had great potential,” comments Jo. The transformation was gradual and evolving as their children grew up and needs changed. “Chickens and trampolines, sculpture and sheds have come and gone, habitats have evolved alongside lots of plants!” she adds.

Jo’s love of plants and gardening started in childhood and has developed into a career, alongside her passion for art, and this combination has informed the landscape. “I studied Fine Art Sculpture at Farnham and now combine my love of gardening and art, maintaining and designing gardens around Hampshire. I gained the RHS Certificate from Sparsholt College as well as a Garden Design Diploma from Merrist Wood,” she explains.

Jo also helps plant for gold winning designers on show gardens at Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows, along with some large landscape firms.

“I was fortunate to plant on Nigel Dunnett’s Diamond Garden at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, as well as an Andy Sturgeon garden for X Factor’s top man to name a few,” Jo adds.

Richard’s career is also impressive, having spanned some 30 years in sculpture and public art, with diverse commissions in steel, bronze or wood – from a giant charm bracelet on a Cleveland clifftop to huge stumps for Hampshire Cricket Ground. He now also takes domestic, private commissions, including sculpture, gates, arches and seating, and you can see some of his pieces in the garden. “We quite like the sculpture nestled in amongst the plants rather than standing alone. Pieces can also be found items, such as an interesting piece of wood found on a walk in the woods, a striking pot or willow woven into domes,” Jo explains.

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The style of the garden draws on English fullness as well as a touch of Japanese minimalism and formality that Jo particularly finds inspiring.

“I like to mix tradition with modern and have naturalistic and quite architectural things, such as large leaves, together - a mixture between nature and control.”

Other influences have been visits to famous gardens, such as Great Dixter, Heligan, Derek Jarman’s garden near Dungeness and Beth Chatto’s garden. Plants are chosen that are interesting, do well in the well-worked clay soil and offer colour, texture and shape. It’s the use of salvaged items that is particularly inspiring. “Our brick path is made of bricks from a chimney when a local 1930’s house was being demolished and replaced with another house. The owner has popped in and loved seeing the bricks being re-used. We also salvaged the roof timbers and have made them into a pergola,” Jo explains.

From succulents planted in characterful tins on a reclaimed shelf on the shed, to lilies blooming in terracotta pots that were found at the local dump, there are great budget ideas and inspiration aplenty for making the most of a small space with imagination, so do pop along for their second year of opening with the National Gardens Scheme.

Opening times

• 42 Whitedown, Alton, GU34 1LU

• Sat 13, Sun 14 Aug (2pm-6pm)

• Combined admission with 22 Mount Pleasant Road, £5, children go free

• Home-made teas on offer

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