Of Gnomes and Dragons - 45 Waterhouse Lane, Chelmsford, England
January 27, 2012
This week's Flight of Fancy takes us to the town of Chelmsford, Essex, England. In June of 2011 the garden at 45 Waterhouse Lane was visited by twenty plus avid American gardeners. The busy street in front of the house was a challenge to negotiate for those of us used to looking to our left for oncoming traffic. With the help of one of our own, we all managed a safe crossing to the saucy salmon colored home situated between two lovely but less distinctive dwellings. In addition to the color, the front garden of our destination home also stood apart from its neighbors with carefully pruned boxwood shrubs. This might lead one to suspect a very traditional clipped garden in the back of the house. One would be wrong with this assumption.The walkway into the back garden is to the left of the home and is bordered on one side by a fence whose presence was minimized with carefully placed containers filled to the brim with white cosmos. I didn't really see the fence for the flowers and the trees. On the right side of the walkway the wall of the house was used as a foil for three container plantings shown in the first picture - a minimalist painting quite pleasing to the eye. If there had been nothing beyond the gate, my senses were already quite satisfied. Still, the walkway enticed one into the garden beyond where our group was greeted by the Richmond family. Peter and Julie (Julie is missing from the above picture) moved into this home in 1983 bringing with them no gardening experience. They have learned a thing or two since then and have cut their teeth right along with their two sons, Luke and Harry. They were right there in the garden with their Mom and Dad obviously enjoying the group and they seemed to be willing garden enthusiasts in their own right which is a lot to be said for anyone let alone for teen aged boys. The back garden gave the illusion of size as the space was divided into very individual areas yet it could not have been a hundred feet deep and less than that wide. There were at least three distinct seating areas and numerous container gardens. Each space transitioned from one to another quite smoothly, sometimes with a change in paving and always with surprises along the way. I took the path along the back wall of the house. All space was well utilized in this small garden and the wall was no exception.
It contained numerous gardening tools and even a fanciful gnome. Who tied that bunch of fresh lavender he is holding? I would love to hear the story behind the addition of each of these items to the lattice work. An arbor separated a shady garden from the sunlit gravel garden overseen by a graceful muse adorned with a swaying grass gown. Tucked around the corner to the right of the statue, the sound of water beckoned. This water garden has nautilus shells, fish and a shallow edge which allows the birds to use it as their own private bath. We observed several birds doing just that.Beyond the pond sunlight pooled, lighting the gray garden. Transition, not only from one theme to another but also from shade to sun and back again does make a garden seem much larger than its actual square footage. I particularly liked the shape of the fence in this garden area pictured above. Holding court in this garden in June was the Oriental poppy 'Patty's Plum' looking luscious and perfect.The most difficult part of visiting a small garden, even when it feels large, is negotiating it with two dozen others and getting some pictures which can show its individual and unique beauty. Peter and Julia give great attention to every detail of their garden. I saw no stray seedlings, weeds or stones although I am sure there were a few when we left, certainly by chance and not intent. This garden was obviously borne from a loving commitment to gardening and shared passion. I found it to be intrinsically English. Copious amounts of plants, containers, secret scenes and inviting sitting areas were all designed with artistic, creativity but they also contain components not found in American gardens. We would see gnomes and statuary but rarely these decorative chimney flues.I would love to find a chimney flue such as this one and I would not waste it on a roof either.
Many thanks to the Richmonds for their wonderful hospitality and obvious joy in sharing their garden with our group.