When Southleigh House was purchased in early 2006 the house was shielded from the road by massive trees and overgrown shrubs. While this provided significant privacy, the house was dark and in the garden the trees created damp, mossy and dark areas which prevented the growth of bulbs and smaller plants. It was a beautiful place, but with its air of out-dated shabbiness, it was in need of a loving hand.
Thus began the renovation of a garden that was first laid out in the 1970s. Where possible the original planting and layout has been retained, but new areas have been developed; in particular, the pond, woodland bank, and spring planting along the rear boundary to the field facing the house. The old crazy paving around the swimming pool was replaced with hardwood decking in early 2010. This now provides a safe and comfortable surround to the swimming pool area.
In the front garden, the small lawn has been replaced with two gravel squares with two large central pots containing colourful annuals. This area comes alive in the spring when the borders are full of dense plantings of blue, pink and white bluebells, Muscari, Tulips, narcissus and snowdrops.
In the rear garden, the original crazy paving of the patio has been replaced with stone slabs creating a pleasant seating area with views down the garden. Leading up the steps from the patio is an oak pergola. Surrounded by formal box hedging, climbing roses and lavender bushes, this pretty feature leads the eye down the garden to the magnificent red Acer which frames the entrance to the less formal rear section of the garden.
To the right is the stumpery, planted with Festuca, Elymus (wheat grass), Phylitis (Harts Tongue Fern) and other ferns and grasses. Behind the greenhouse there is a cutting garden which last year included Dahlias, Gladioli, Nigella and Calendula. There are also two vegetable squares and a fruit cage.
Towards the top of the garden there is a woodland area with a small pond and two Betula pendula (silver birch) which, with their paper-like bark, look particularly stunning in the winter. Four unusual ‘tree sculptures’ provide added interest. Acquired from the nearby National Trust Ickworth estate near Bury St Edmunds, they add height and provide a talking point to unsuspecting visitors to the garden.
We have derived great pleasure from the garden we have created at Southleigh. It is a very special place.