A romantic garden in Troston is a dream come true
PUBLISHED: 12:43 28 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:55 28 June 2016
Amy Gallivan talked to Graeme and Marysa Norris about why they enjoy their green idyll so much
It was Marysa Norris’s dream to move to the country and own a larger garden which eventually helped urge her and her husband Graeme to up-sticks and move from the capital to the pretty village of Troston near Bury St Edmunds.
The pair bought Church Cottage in January 2011, but the property required a large amount of rebuilding work, this coupled with Marysa’s mother’s worsening dementia, meant that they didn’t move to the area properly until January 2012.
Both Marysa and her husband Graeme had lived in London for more than 30 years, but the desire for green space and a brush with breast cancer, from which Marysa has now recovered, gave them the push to get on and do all those things they dreamt of doing to help make the most of their retirement. Marysa explained: “Once our son was grown up and living in his own flat, we began to look around and chanced across an article by Francine Raymond (garden writer and hen expert). I read that she was selling her cottage.” She added: “On a whim we came up to look, and although a small cottage and a rather wildly romantic garden was not what we had planned to buy, we fell in love with the whole atmosphere of the place and, well - here we are!”
To begin with, the garden was extremely pretty and divided into small garden rooms each with a different character. Although it had been well-loved, it was now very mature, a bit overgrown and in need of some taming. The garden had also been home to a flock of Buff Orpington hens which meant the plants had been chosen for their ability to resist the scratching of their scaly feet.
“As we began to work on the garden, we gradually realised that we longed for a more open, free-flowing layout that reflected the open countryside and huge skies of Suffolk. The removal of many of the boundaries in the garden and some of the older trees, has allowed the light to flood in, giving us the opportunity for much new planting and the development of new areas,” she said.
A gravel-garden has now been created in the old shop yard, and here they grow drought tolerant Mediterranean plants. The old chicken run is now an area with young trees, and is filled with the woodland plants and bulbs that Marysa loves. She said: “This area is glorious in spring and I think this is one of my favourite parts of the garden.”
Whereas the kitchen garden has been made much more manageable by the addition of raised beds. Marysa believes this will help to future proof against old age and creaky knees! She said: “In our tiny London garden there was no space for any vegetables except the odd tomato in a pot so this is a complete luxury. In the first year I tried to grow everything, but have since learned to restrict myself to things that we love to eat. I do grow far too much in the greenhouse, which seemed enormous when it was installed but, just as the agent predicted, I now wish I had bought a bigger one. This year I am trying to grow flowers for our son’s wedding and have commandeered four of the beds for cut flowers.”
Marysa and her husband have created an area of the garden in which they try to encourage wildlife, though not the ‘dreaded muntjac’. The pond there was re-dug to be shallower and wildlife accessible, and it is already home to a growing population of newts. A patch of longer grass is slowly filling with wild flowers and spring bulbs and it is a magnet for insects. Marysa added: “There are a few young apple trees here, though last year our very naughty Irish Terrier stole all the apples.”
The avenue of tall yew hedges in the garden, which frames a view of fields, is filled with nesting birds in the spring and early summer.
“This year I have planted-up a border with grasses and perennials which will reduce the amount of staking I do, or more often, fail to do in time. I love the winter interest that these kinds of borders can bring, they seem to die back so elegantly and the seed-heads look wonderful when touched by frost. Even in its first season, the freshness of the emerging grasses and perennials is full of promise,” she said.
Although the garden is not large in size, Marysa feels it is still quite a lot of work and she says she is lucky to have help from Sharon Markell on two mornings a week. She said: “Sharon had worked in the garden in the past and knew it well and she has been very supportive about all the changes we have made. Gardening can be a bit lonely, so it is fun to work alongside such a knowledgeable friend.”