Chardleigh Cottage, Limpsfield opens for the National Gardens Scheme

A visit to Chardleigh Cottage in Limpsfield, which opens every year through The National Gardens Scheme, offers plenty of ideas for creating a beautiful garden on a slope

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2010

A visit to Chardleigh Cottage in Limpsfield, which opens every year through The National Gardens Scheme, offers plenty of ideas for creating a beautiful garden on a slope

Words and photography by Leigh Clapp

It’s always interesting to visit a young, developing garden and share in the owners’ enthusiasm as they gradually convert the space, so I was particularly looking forward to meeting Morag and David Roulston. The couple have lived at their cottage in Limpsfield for 14 years, but it was only four years ago that they began work on the house and surrounding garden.

“We decided that we wanted to extend the cottage into a bright and inviting open-plan home and to completely transform the garden,” explains Morag. “Before, it was a tired, sloping, difficult to maintain space so we took the decision to turn it into a terraced garden, with many different routes so that it could be enjoyed from different viewpoints.”

A passion for gardening and design goes way back for Morag. After studying product design, she went on to set up her own interior design business in 2006. She is also actively involved with the local horticultural society and even set up a gardening club at a local school.

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“I believe that the garden should work with the house, because you see it from every room and it needs to look its best from every angle,” she says. “So, when I was planning ours, I put my design degree to good use in order to visualise the best use of space in the home and how to link that with the garden.

“So, for example, our living room opens out onto a large deck that is a great party space. And from the deck itself, you can’t see the whole garden so it was important to make the area that you can see really bright and interesting to entice people to go and explore. This idea was then used throughout the garden, in order to keep up the interest.”Practical considerations also played a part in the design process. With three young children, Heather, Callum and Douglas, their need for a flat area to play prompted the decision to terrace part of the slope.

“When the terracing was getting too high, it was a case of putting in another for safety and this is how it progressed, with the final wall being built in 2008 at the top of the drive,” adds Morag.

Palette of plantsAs the work took place, a seam of stone was unearthed in the garden, which was added to material from an old rockery to form a series of low stonewalls. Another priority was to have a kitchen garden, complete with beehive, and this was achieved by demolishing the remains of an air-raid shelter built into the hillside. To create garden ‘rooms’, pergolas and trellises were added, while the framework was softened with an eclectic palette of plants.

“I am a fair-weather gardener so the main focus for me is to have the bulk of flowers open in the summer months,” says Morag. “However, as the views into the garden are important from the house, I do make sure I have enough colour and interest throughout the year.

“The plants with a long flowering season, or that have an abundance of flowers, are my favourites.”

Following their mother’s example, all three children are involved in the garden, too.

“Heather is the most interested and will spend hours weeding with me – a bit like it was with me and my own mother,” says Morag.

“Although only six years old, she knows a lot of the weeds already and loves to get out gardening.”

Husband David’s role is looking after the lawns and any other odd jobs that need doing, and they all very much enjoy being able to take a break and relax in the garden or admire the views from the highest point over to the Ashdown Forest.

Meanwhile, the evolution of the garden continues. This year’s project is a semi-sunken garden at the top of the drive with part of the planting being taken on by 12-year-old Callum. An adjoining border will be given over to bog plants, as the garden also has natural springs.

“Throughout the garden, the borders have been put in to work with the springs, as you can’t beat them – I have tried and failed!” laughs Morag.

“The whole of Paines Hill is full of natural springs and you can’t make them do anything they don’t want to!”

Opening for the National Gardens Scheme for the first time last year, they were inspired by the idea of raising money for cancer charities.

“Our old gardener and friend died of cancer in 2008,” she adds. “We owe a great deal to him and he is sadly missed.

“Although opening the garden is quite hard work, it is really nice on the day as people are so appreciative and interested in what you are doing.”

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