Cheshire Gardens - a fashionable garden in Macclesfield

The thriving wildlife garden

The thriving wildlife garden - Credit: Archant

It’s no wonder the garden of Delma and Vic Barlow high above Macclesfield is a stylish affair...the couple spent years in the fashion industry

How true it is that gardens reflect the personalities and interests of their owners. I’m visiting a couple who formerly owned a small farm and love the great outdoors.

Both of them have worked for years in the fashion industry so they are imaginative, with a flair for colour and a willingness to take risks. They’re clearly animal lovers because they once owned 24 dogs! They like sharing their knowledge, one having been a higher education teacher and the other is a professional dog trainer. As Loyd Grossman might have said: ‘Who lives in a garden like this?’

The couple are Vic and Delma Barlow and their garden is high above Macclesfield, with tremendous views over Manchester and the Cheshire Plain. They were attracted to the spot two years ago because ‘We wanted a big garden’ and they are well on the way to transforming it.

They waited a year to see what would grow and then began ripping out the ageing shrubs and substantially replanting. New plants, packets of seeds and cuttings scrounged from friends have all found homes here alongside the dogs (now only five!) and hens.

The garden’s strongest feature is a sequence of spacious terraces that descend down to the house. But it’s the curious corners of quirky planting that live in the memory. There’s a wildlife area with pond and establishing wild flowers which sits comfortably in a local toad protection area. Interestingly, a deep yellow primula called ‘Cheshire Life’ has pride of place!

The roof of the woodshed has been turned into an alpine garden using recycled materials. There is a variety of unexpected statues, mostly reflecting their love of animals. This includes a topiary dog which appears to be guarding the hen house. The planting ranges from delicate fritillaries to tough heathers.

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It’s very obvious that the garden is high maintenance and Delma does most of the work herself. She shrugs off the persistent badger damage and is philosophical about success: ‘I expect good results, bad results and a little of both, then I won’t be disappointed’. She has no time for Latin plant names, believing that these put many people off gardening. Suddenly you spot a number of sturdy nettles and realise that these have been deliberately left as butterfly attractors, and the trees are studded with nesting boxes: ‘I want the garden to sing with life,’ she says.

But carefree doesn’t equate with careless. Delma has a fashion designer’s picture in her head to plan the garden’s future and clearly loves being outdoors even when the wind is gusting round the Macclesfield hills and the work is backbreaking. And she’s full of ideas for the future, already hinting at a wildlife meadow along the side of the property.

Like most keen gardeners she generously longs to share her achievements and wants other people to benefit from her endeavours. She regularly lets the community use her one acre plot for garden parties in support of local charities.

So the garden is a healthy mix of idealism and realism. ‘My gardening mantra is gardening is accessible to all, soothing for the soul and provides my very own private health spa and sanctuary – the rewards are a very special experience’ she says. On the glorious early summer day when I visited, they certainly were.

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