On 6th of June Wickham Bishops Horticultural Club enjoyed a visit to Moverons in Brightlingsea, an NGS (Yellow Book) garden. We were blessed with a glorious day, sunny but not too hot. The season is very delayed this year, so the plants were a couple of weeks behind, and the foliage still had that freshness of early summer. It was more like late May than early June.
We rendezvoused in front of the tea barn for a short introduction by Lesley Orrock, the owner. When she and her then husband moved to the farmhouse in 1994, the house was dilapidated and the gardens overgrown. They had to make the house habitable, so it was three years before Lesley was able to turn her attention to the garden. In the meantime, in anticipation, she studied garden design. This has obviously paid off handsomely because the garden is a joy, not just in terms of overall design, but in plant combinations. The first task that Lesley did was isolating the garden from the depredations of rabbits with rabbit fencing and a native hedge. The garden was overgrown with brambles and gargantuan rosebay willowherb, which needed to be cleared before the gardens were laid out. There was a storyboard covering this in the barn, but I didn’t have time to look.
I felt envious of the pottager situated in the main yard, which used to be the farm yard. It looked to be the perfect size for a kitchen garden, fenced off, with herbs along the boundary fence. The vegetables, like everyone’s this year, were a little behind. The wall on one side must give it a favourable microclimate.
I resisted the trolley of plants for sale, but it was tough as there were some tempting gems.
The first part of the garden we visited was the courtyard garden. This has a formal parterre framework of box hedges enclosing a boisterous spill of herbs like purple sage with less formal planting round the walls, giving it a relaxed feel. On one side there is a pergola with a white wisteria and seating.
I was particularly taken with the architectural structure of some of the foliage plants like the ferns, and the colour and texture contrast of a purple heuchera and miniature London Pride. The latter was used extensively as edging, and, in flower, gave a lovely foamy informality to the edge. I loved the jumble of different textures.
We then wandered through a wooded area to a seating area overlooking the estuary. A marsh harrier did a few aerobatics for us before vanishing behind some trees. I was thrilled as this was the first one I’ve seen.
When Lesley first moved in, they built a tennis court, but this has now been redeveloped by Lesley and her partner Payne Gunfield into a tranquil space with a reflection pool and rill. This is where they sometimes have musical evenings, and a raised deck commands good views over the estuary.
The garden is home to several sculptures such as this peacock.
The Rosa banksiae which grows against the house was magnificent. I was rather alarmed at how large it is, though, because I have this in my garden, against a fence, and my garden is tiny. I will need to do some prudent pruning, methinks.
The laburnum was also in flower, as was a large red horse chestnut and various other mature shrubs and trees, which melded together into a pleasing whole. The pond was particularly attractive with naturalistic planting surrounding it. The surface shimmered like quicksilver.
I was really smitten with this secret sitting area carved out of a felled tree, sculptural, attractive and functional. I can imagine sitting here on a tranquil evening with a glass of wine, perhaps, listening to the birdsong. The aquilegia in this area were particularly pretty.
Aquilegia were a much repeated theme throughout the gardens at this time of year, mainly being this dark violet colour. They complemented the wine coloured astrantia beautifully.
This bed caught my attention, with the euphorbia Fireglow (I presume) lit up by the sun against the backdrop of the cotinus. A wonderful combination.
Other highlights were the architectural seedheads of the Fritilaria imperialis, a drift of doronicum in the shade of the trees, the roses, in full bloom, some belting out perfume, and the most stunning tree paeony.
The paeony flowers were the size of side plates, yet dainty, each a goblet of white and purple, some with a pink flush as they first open. This pink was echoed on one side by an extravagant underplanting of rose cow parsley (Pimpinella major rosea) whose delicacy contrasted and emphasised the massive paeony flowers. On another side of the bush, the fresh green fronds of an underplanting of ferns complemented the paeony foliage, making the paeony seem to float on a sea of green. Enchanting.
I am sure I overlooked many treasures in this garden. This is a garden for sitting in quiet contemplation and appreciation. I will definitely have to go back.