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Come into the garden . . .

PUBLISHED: 11:28 28 July 2015 | UPDATED: 11:28 28 July 2015

The garden at Richmond House.

The garden at Richmond House.

Archant

Catherine Horwood Barwise and her husband, Paddy, are inviting everyone to enjoy their romantic walled garden filled with scented plants, a vegetable patch, chickens and even a swimming pool. Amy Gallivan asked Catherine why she enjoys her garden so much

The garden at Richmond House.The garden at Richmond House.

The desire for a long-season garden led Catherine and her husband, Paddy Barwise, to buy Richmond House just over six years’ ago.

In the centre of the beautiful village of Clare, it wasn’t just the late sixteenth-century house that attracted them but the chance for Catherine, an author and keen gardener for over 30 years, to create her dream garden.

As a long-time supporter of the National Gardens Scheme, Catherine has opened both her previous two gardens in London and once again, will invite all to view her hard work on August 30, when very few gardens are open at this time of year.

“When gardening friends hear that I am opening the garden at the end of August, the usual reaction is surprise. Getting a garden to still look good at the end of summer is supposed to be challenging, but I disagree,” says Catherine.

The garden at Richmond House.The garden at Richmond House.

The move to Suffolk meant the pressure was on to get the new garden ready for opening as soon as possible, but a big building project slowed things up which Catherine now feels was a good thing.

“I always had a five-year plan but this made me consider my ideas very carefully before I was able to start planting. I knew I wanted three things - not to have to water, to stake and to have a long season of interest - the Holy Grail of gardening!

“I just made it to opening the garden for the first time last July, which was a huge success. But now the planting is maturing, it looks so lovely right into the autumn, so this year I wanted to share it with visitors.

“I hope that people who come and visit the garden will see that with a bit of thought, it isn’t difficult to do this even in dry Suffolk soil.”

The garden at Richmond House.The garden at Richmond House.

Catherine is a great fan of the ‘new perennial’ style of planting pioneered by Piet Oudulf and Tom Stuart-Smith using grasses and herbaceous plants that flower well into the autumn. Even in winter, the formal garden near the house has structure and interest as the grasses turn gold and are not cut down until February.

“Some people are nervous of grasses,” says Catherine, “but choose the right varieties and they are the perfect companion plants for summer perennials.”

The water feature on the steps designed by Catherine, is framed by the row of pleached hornbeams which retain their bronzed leaves well into spring while the formally clipped yew and box give structure all year round.

As the authorised biographer of world-famous plantswoman Beth Chatto, it is no surprise that Catherine follows her essential guidelines of planting the right plant in the right place. Treasured plants from Beth’s nursery at Elmstead Market in Essex feature strongly both in the formal and more informal areas of the garden.

Catherine is also establishing a selection of artist Sir Cedric Morris’s Benton End irises for earlier in the year, which love the slightly sloping sunny site. Catherine says he was an ‘inspiration to Mrs Chatto’ who learned much of her ‘gardening skills from Sir Cedric at his home near Hadleigh.

That said, Catherine cannot resist allocating plenty of space in the vegetable garden, which surrounds her beautiful greenhouse, to plants grown just for cutting, in particular dahlias. This year, all eyes are on a new one called ‘Cafe au Lait’, an over-the-top variety guaranteed to turn heads.

“It has the look of one of my chickens, a Buff Orpington,” laughs Catherine, “rather paler but just as fluffy.”

The whole garden is just under half an acre and enclosed by flint walls. When a new swimming pool was installed, it was Paddy’s idea to enclose it completely with a glass wall on three sides with a new flint wall behind. This has been a ‘huge success’ creating a sunny terrace with a Mediterranean microclimate where figs and grapes bask against the walls and in summer, citrus trees hang with lemons.

While Paddy contributes thoughts on design, all the hands-on work is done by Catherine with help from Rebecca, her gardener. Since her last book was called Gardening Women, a history of women and horticulture, Catherine always likes to have a female gardener who, she feels, has a similar feel for her style of gardening.

Although she is very proud of the new formal planted area, Catherine also loves the relaxed wildness of the planting in the informal area, hidden behind the curved yew hedge.

“Women identify particularly with this garden. They love the romantic feel of the loosely-grown scented roses chosen again for long-season flowering or luscious autumn colour and hips,” she says.

There are now over 50 different roses in the garden together with over 40 clematis, mainly small-flowered varieties which are left to happily scramble through the roses and up into trees.

A small corner is piled with decaying tree branches, the ideal habitat for insects. Even a few nettles discretely hidden behind an old apple tree, provide food for wildlife.

Now on the National Gardens Scheme team in Suffolk, Catherine loves to share her garden with visitors. n

Richmond House, 20 Nethergate Street, Clare CO10 8NP: Open Sunday, August 30, 2pm-5pm. Entry costs £3.50, children free. Full details in the NGS Yellow book and at www.ngs.org.uk

Favourite gardens and Suffolk places

Catherine Horwood Barwise gets to see a lot of gardens in her role as assistant county organiser for the Suffolk National Gardens Scheme. One of her all-time favourites is Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow (open for the NGS on Sunday, August 9), the exceptional 50-year project of Bernard Tickner. Full of the most unusual plants, it’s a true plantsman’s paradise on the banks of the River Lark.

“I’ve never seen such enormous lilies,” says Catherine. “And I shall definitely be going over to Troston near Bury St Edmunds, soon when my friends, Graeme and Marysa Norris open their garden for the first time for the NGS.

“It’s always nerve-wracking let alone trying to guess how many cakes to bake but I’m sure they’ll get just as addicted to opening as I am.”

Closer to home, Catherine recommends a visit to the Clare Country Park.

“When we first came to see the house, we arrived early and wandered down to see the river. The Stour is small here but magical (with a great bridge for Pooh sticks) and we fell for the park before we even saw the house.

“Now its management has been taken over by a trust of Clare residents, and it’s becoming a hub where nature and the village meet all in the beautiful grounds of the Clare Castle.”

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