Gardening: A lifetime passion

A view of the house from the pond

A view of the house from the pond - Credit: Archant

Thundridge Hill House near Ware has borders full of colour and mature planting as well as far reaching views over Hertfordshire countryside, Philippa Pearson meets the couple whose decades of knowledge has created it

Looking out over a pond to fields beyond

Looking out over a pond to fields beyond - Credit: Archant

‘I’ve been gardening nearly all my life. When I was young I had my own bog garden at my parent’s house.’

Christopher Melluish will be 80 this year and still enjoys regularly tending the garden at his home, Thundridge Hill House near Ware. The plot cover two and half acres and Christopher and his wife Susie have lived at the house for 36 years, moving from Islington in north London where they won a small garden competition for their town garden. ‘We both learnt a lot about gardening there,’ Christopher says.

One of the features of the garden at Thundridge Hill House is the hedges, but also the views beyond. The hedges create structure and enclosed spaces in the garden while far-reaching vistas open on to the Rib Valley and across to Youngsbury Park, a mid-18th-century park and woodland designed by the revolutionary 18th century landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

‘There’s little I can do to improve on the wonderful views from our garden,’ Christopher says, ‘except to add lots of seats to enjoy them.’

Blue and pink colour-themed border

Blue and pink colour-themed border - Credit: Archant

The home was originally a farmhouse on the Youngsbury estate and the current owners have created several seating areas in the garden to enjoy the views of both the surrounding land and of the planting, which is full of colour and interest with well-established shrubs, trees and perennials.

The south facing gardens have a good collection of roses, one of Christopher’s favourite plants, including climbing roses trained on traditional rope supports. The Victorians favoured this method of growing climbing and rambling roses and British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) often grew climbing roses up and through thick swagged ropes. It creates a dramatic feature and adds architectural interest to borders, particularly if you don’t have suitable vertical surfaces to grow these charming flowers. Elsewhere, and especially this month, the stunning red ‘Sevilliana’ floribunda rose takes centre stage. This gorgeous rose has double blooms, is disease resistant, and a good display of hips follows in autumn.

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Other borders are grouped into colour themes. One has mixed planting of pink and blue while another has a yellow theme. A shady border, while dominated by huge laurels now, after the laurels have been cut back, provides a wonderful display of hellebores followed by shade-loving hydrangeas and other plants. In bloom in June are two tree peonies while another area, Granny’s Garden, has a more subtle and informal planting style in contrast to the rest of the garden.

There’s a greenhouse in the kitchen garden area where vegetables and annuals such as cosmos and nicotiana are grown from seed each year by Christopher and also a series of outhouses and a large barn offering space to propagate plants and keep garden tools. Christopher and Susie are helped in the garden twice a week by a gardener, also 80, and the gardener’s son comes in for half a day to keep Granny’s Garden looking good.

As well as roses, Christopher’s favourite plants include forget-me-nots, alliums (lots were planted last year) and lupins. ‘I like lupins,’ explains Christopher, ‘because they are strong, colourful and a good satisfactory plant that adds height and interest to borders.’

The gardens at Thundridge Hill House have been opened to the public for more than 20 years, raising funds for the National Gardens Scheme and the British Red Cross. Christopher was also the first honorary treasurer for the NGS national office, a position he held for nine years.

Plans for the future include planting more trees for the couple’s seven grandchildren to enjoy in years to come and watching the garden mature. ‘It would be nice to enjoy the garden and take in the planting we have created,’ says Christopher, ‘and take more time to enjoy the splendid views.’

Visit the garden

Thundridge Hill House

Cold Christmas Lane

Ware SG12 0UE

The garden is open for the Red Cross on Sunday June 5 from 2-5pm and for the National Garden Scheme on Sunday June 19 from 2-5.30pm. Teas will be served in the barn, there’s plenty of parking and the garden is wheelchair accessible. The garden is also open by arrangement from May to September for groups of 10-plus. Email

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