Mill House, Pendoggett

The garden of the Mill House at Pendoggett, home of Trish and Jeremy Gibson for the last 8 years, has been developed within a small valley cut into rather open countryside by a small stream that used to power the mill. The value of shelter from the notorious Atlantic wind  provided by this valley, and which has allowed the development of this beautiful garden, was well illustrated on the day of our visit; as we walked down the hill from the car park towards a small wicket gate, the fierce wind gradually diminished until we forgot about it!  As we entered the garden, at about the midpoint and just below the house, we began to realise the treat that was in store for us; facing us as we crossed the stream was the ‘summer garden’, created just two and a half years ago, consisting of a semi-formal ‘parterre’ with four symmetrically arranged beds surrounding a central circle of granite set into the ground, each bed edged with yew hedge. Above the summer garden, over a grey painted trellis climbed scented roses, clematis and sweet peas. But it was the colour coordination of the planting in the beds that was so striking – shades of purple, nepeta, linaria, and aquilegias as well as cornflowers and sweet rocket all added to this purple and mauve haze alleviated with similarly airy white flowers. The effect was quite stunning!

From there we moved on to the terrace in front of the house – a stone building that replaced the original mill house – which is essentially a spring garden, but still had plenty of interest with ceanothus, wisteria and magnolia on the house wall and many smaller plants in raised beds. Walking round the house, the courtyard garden, where we were later to have tea, is formed in the space made in the inner-angle of the L-shaped house; this space, sheltered on the outside by a range of conifers, has been given a formal structure with paved paths separating the wedge-shaped beds that contain variously a sundial and staddlestones; these beds have interesting plantings of more sensitive plants, such as Acacia baileyana purpurea and Cercis canadiensis; entrance to the courtyard from the drive is backed by trellis covered with purple-leaved shrubs including two Acers.

Moving further up the garden and onto the drive, we saw the former mill-pond, now much enlarged to be a small lake with a central island; planting round the edge includes the large gunnera, candelabra primulas, persicaria, and various unusual willows such as Salix udensis ‘Sekka’, a liquidamber, and some bamboos. The wide grass border, separating the pond from the drive, has a number of island beds containing an interesting range of plants that display not only the magnificent colour sense shown in the planting elsewhere in the garden, but here exploits contrasts in shape and texture; for instance the dramatic Rosa omeiensis pteracantha with its huge blood red thorns planted alongside a Buddleia globosa with its dangling orange bobbles, Cotinus coggygria Grace‘and Geranium ‘Patricia’; in another bed Trish has enhanced the golden impact of stems of the giant bamboo, Phyllostachys sinarundinaria aureosuculata by removing the lower leaflets.

Across the drive we entered the ‘long walk’ down the east side of the garden, which is separated from the adjacent field by a newly planted escallonia hedge which looked very healthy; this elicited a vigorous discussion amongst several members who all have escallonia hedges which are not at all healthy, possibly due to fungal disease.

This walk led down, past the summer garden, the greenhouse and herb garden; in the apple orchard were two of the several French oak seats that Jeremy insisted that we try out; he maintained that they were the most comfortable wooden seat that we would find – he was right! The path continued further down the valley and crossed the stream through a small wooded area to reach the bottom field where there is some soft fruit and one lonely chicken* – the sole survivor of repeated fox predations. We returned to the courtyard garden for a very welcome cup of tea and home – made cakes. We were awestruck by the amount that Trish and Jeremy have achieved in creating such a beautiful and original garden in such a comparatively short time.

Alison A Newton –  7th June 2011  

P.S. Trish tells me that ‘the lonely cockerel has now been joined by six 16-week-old chickens.’