A Town Garden

Posted: 16th September, 2016 Category: Gardens

The long thin town garden surrounded by walls is commonplace in Faversham but what happens within them is often a revelation.

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©Lisa Valder

Many of us in Faversham have a garden much like Mary and John Cousins’. Long and narrow, surrounded by walls, with a return by the kitchen and neighbours on either side. It is a matter of fascination to those of us who blissfully trailed round Faversham Open Gardens in the summer that there is such unexpected variety in these gardens.

As you step through the side gate into the Cousins’ garden, you realise that this is a garden which does not reveal itself all at once. It is south facing and, very sensibly, the sunny area beside the kitchen is given to raised vegetable and herb beds. Beyond that, one glimpses a large apple tree providing dappled shade, walls draped with wisteria and clematis, a fine magnolia overarching a billowing variegated weigela.

photo © Lisa Valder

Strawberries and tomatoes grow just outside the kitchen door     ©Lisa Valder

Mary uses the vertical admirably. When your garden is narrow and ground space is limited, it looks good and it makes sense, to use the height offered by the walls. Mary has two vast pots tumbling tomatoes by the kitchen door. Violet-blue streptocarpus, propagated each year, drips off the walls and a bay tree is lollipopped in the herb garden. The shadier wall hosts a gorgeous herbaceous Clematis heracleifolia ‘Wyevale’. This is a loller and a lounger rather than a climber and perfect for brightening shady beds of evergreen shrubs.

Mary does most of the gardening at the house. John has two allotments. She sees no constraints, only advantages, to a walled town garden: ‘We have privacy. It’s like being in our house – but outside.’ Not surprisingly then, the garden has developed as a series of compartments or rooms. It has evolved (Mary denies that she ever had a coherent ‘design’) to offer new delights as you pass through it.

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Sitting and listening to the bees     ©Lisa Valder

After the kitchen garden, there are the ponds. The larger pond is raised, entertains a frog orgy in the spring and provides an effective boundary to the next compartment. Most charming, near the magnolia, is a small round brick-edged pond. Mary says: ‘I saw a picture in a magazine once and carried it round until it was almost in pieces. John copied the picture and made one for me.’

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A straggler from the spring when the Cousins’ ponds team with frogs     ©Lisa Valder

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A watery garden in the raised pond     ©Lisa Valder

Perennials, shrubs and climbers are interwoven throughout the compartments. Mary loves agapanthus and the huge lavender which hums and shimmers with bee action. She raises a lot from seed – cosmos, sweet peas, tomatoes, hollyhocks – in the small greenhouse hidden at the end of the garden by a large obelisk wreathed in purple clematis.

Onwards around the pond to a shaded seating area, the apple tree, and behind that the delightful shed – a shed as a shed should be. There are old Cooper’s Oxford marmalade jars full of small and useful things. The lids are screwed to the frame of the shed and the jar unscrewed to get to the small and useful thing. Old tins and boxes advertising ancient things are arranged on shelves. There’s a comfortable chair.

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A fine and organised shed     ©Lisa Valder

Mary and John Cousins will be opening their garden for the National Garden Scheme next June as part of a group of three town gardens in Faversham.

Text: Posy. Photography: Lisa