Ruth and Neale Brydon had to wait eight years to find the perfect garden. After an eight-year spell working in the United States Ruth longed to return to the UK and have a proper English garden in which to indulge her passion for gardening. Follyfield Cottage was the answer. Built in 1850 it started off as a home to a gardener on the local estate and it was this first occupant who probably carried out some of the planting and landscaping in the garden. Built into the edge of a wooded valley, magnificent rocks have been used to retain the lower levels and mature rhododendrons and azaleas grow throughout the garden. A meandering path was installed several decades ago by Ruth and her son and zigzags its way up and across the slope giving wonderful vistas in all directions; a photographer's dream.
Approaching the driveway the first thing to catch the eye is a beautifully clipped mature beech tree, domed, and perhaps twelve feet high and the same across. A magnificent forest of bamboo (probably an original planting from 1850) stands adjacent to the garages and an inviting path leads under a spectacular rhododendron through a gate and onto a lawn. This breathtaking rhododendron has huge flowers two inches across in pale sugar-pink with dark pink stamens and matching nectar guides on the upper petals. Research suggests this may be ‘Pink Pearl’ a hybrid from the 19th century which was only recently awarded a well-deserved AGM (Award of Garden Merit 2013) from the Royal Horticultural Society.
On to the lawn, beech and laurel hedges protect the garden from the quiet country lane while more planting of shrubs, mainly rhododendrons and azaleas border the lawn and work their way up the slope behind the retaining boulder work. It’s from here that the hipped gable end of the house can first be seen. Topped with clay tiles, and clothed in wisteria and ivy it’s an ideal spot for a pair of relaxing recliners, some potted cordylines, and a magnificent clump of pink lupins.
New paving extends around to the house with roses and clematis on the walls and a border of primarily herbaceous plants including persicaria, phlox, veronica, and lysimachia. Yet to flower is an impressive clump of Centaurea macrocephala which will soon boast large yellow artichoke-like flowers. The sign of a true gardener Ruth is a great fan of splitting and dividing plants such as the dark leaved Lysimachia ‘Firecracker’, a trick that subtly unifies a garden as well as filling unexpected gaps with no outlay.
There is a small shed for storage with adjoining ivy-covered trellis and a mature purple leaved berberis. A seating area is sited next to a wonderful oak beamed garden room fully glazed on one side and with internal decoration inspired by a visit to chef Raymond Blanc’s spectacular country hotel and garden Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire.
More lawn extends out from this end of the house and a path leads from the front door passing a mature wall-trained Hydrangea petiolaris and a Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ with its golden yellow foliage and highly scented flowers. To the left a path takes you up to the higher levels, giving a panoramic view of the one-acre garden. A beech hedge has been
planted here not as a privacy screen but as a clever barrier to falling autumn leaves from the surrounding trees and woodland. They accumulate in this one place making collection and removal simple.
There is a beautiful vista on this side of the garden looking along a path and through a large cotinus, its backlit leaves diffusing the sunlight and framing a large mature Azalea luteum - a deciduous species with highly scented flowers. It’s an old variety that was introduced to the UK in 1793 and has been awarded an RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Ruth has managed to include most of her favourite plants somewhere in the garden. Hydrangea paniculata, Geranium ‘Rozanne’, allium, phormium, cotinus, acers, and agapanthus - all have been given a space. To most this garden will fit the description of a perfectly formed piece of plant heaven but with husband Neale’s help, Ruth's energy and passion for plants will undoubtedly continue to form and shape it for many more years to come.