Keith Plant visits a Shavington garden

Keith Plant visits an English country garden in Shavington

The garden Roger and Rosemary Murphy inherited when they bought their 19th century house 14 years ago had a distinctly 1960s feel. But today’s look is very different. Out have gone the crazy paving and chrysanthemums and the couple have created a magnificent English country garden.It has been developed slowly at their home on the main road in Shavington and they’re still making changes all the time. But most of all it’s been developed thoughtfully. At every step they’ve considered the wider implications of their gardening decisions such as the impact on the environment and the way they affect wildlife habitats.As they stripped away the crazy paving and created the borders they were keen to develop the space around a series of mature fruit trees. This is quite a challenge when the garden is only a fifth of an acre but a series of carefully designed winding paths add to a sense of scale and the trees build the impression of height.There are welcome and unwelcome visitors. Bird life is encouraged with multiple feeding stations, nest boxes and small water features and this is hugely successful: we’re admiring the number of long tailed tits lunching on peanuts when there’s a sudden bright flash of a greenfinch. Despite the location next to a busy road, woodpeckers are not uncommon. Less welcome visitors such as cats are deterred by the dense planting which denies them access to the soil.Bright colours and fantastic drifts of perfume from the lavender and English roses help attract insect life. Indeed the lavender hedge is magnificent in summer and has been carefully propagated from cuttings.The wider environment is also prominent in the structural planning. Water butts and compost bins are discreetly hidden in every available corner. There’s minimal use of chemicals and a strong emphasis on native plants which contribute to the bigger ecological picture. It’s designed to produce all year round interest and the use of containers means that the look of the garden can be easily modified.But the Murphys’ main biggest achievement is in creating a completely natural looking garden of outstanding beauty which fits in perfectly with the character of the house. Plants are tended on a daily basis whether it's dead-heading or looking for insect pests so that everything looks lush and colourful. Everything has to carefully chosen because the sandy soil is always a challenge.Alongside all this thoughtfulness, it’s obviously important to have the time and space to reflect and appreciate the creation. And this has been carefully planned too. The couple have built a conservatory so it can be enjoyed in winter. A new summer house fits perfectly into one corner where they often take breakfast, and a terrace catches the late evening sun. So it’s very much a garden that relaxes and stimulates at the same time. 

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