PUBLISHED: 12:32 01 April 2014 | UPDATED: 14:17 01 April 2014
Every year, scores of dedicated gardeners open their gates under the National Gardens Scheme so that we can enjoy the fruits of their labours. Sally Hepher gets a sneak preview of Woodwards at Coddenham just outside Ipswich
Four vintage wheelbarrows, planted with spring bulbs, give a first taste of what lies the other side of the flint wall at Woodwards in the pretty village of Coddenham.
Passing through a courtyard and under a dramatic arch of clipped conifers, the initial impression is of many pots, generously crammed with daffodils, and a cottage garden maze of beds, encircled by a grove of birches.
Then comes the realisation that beyond the trees is a marvellous view over the Suffolk countryside, and that the garden, far from being small and enclosed, stretches past the birches and right down the hill, running in total to an acre and a half.
Seen from the house, curving beds frame a vista running its full length, while the sheep grazing in the neighbouring field are separated only by a post and rail fence.
It is the creation of owners Marion and Richard Kenward. Marion was born in Coddenham and 25 years ago the couple bought what was then a derelict plot, where they built a house and began a garden.
Over the years they have gradually acquired more land and Richard jokes that while they won Suffolk Garden of the Year in 2005, the garden is now twice as large and colourful as it was then.
Maintaining colour throughout the year is a key aim, inspired by a talk from professional gardener Fergus Garrett on planting for sustained interest. They now commit themselves to opening several times through the year for the National Gardens Scheme, which provides a spur to keeping the colour going.
Around a hundred pots are planted up with spring bedding and bulbs, joined in the summer by the same quantity of hanging baskets, while the pots are replanted for summer.
The borders are home to permanent plantings of shrubs, herbaceous perennials and bulbs, chosen to give a long season, and densely packed so that by June not a scrap of soil is visible. The effect is of beautiful abundance, with foxgloves, hardy geraniums, delphiniums, peonies, red hot pokers, Verbena bonariensis, self seeding honesty and a host of others mingling and preventing seedling weeds from getting any toehold.
A collection of hostas in pots provides additional foliage interest and height, a few pellets keeping slugs at bay.
A notable tree is the mature variegated sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Leopoldii’, whose yellow and pink speckled leaves never revert to plain green. One of the couple’s most recent projects has been to plant a collection of trees and shrubs set in grass. Marion’s hand can be seen in the clumps of mistletoe growing on hawthorns, achieved by pressing ripe seed into the bark.
The garden receives sun for most of the day. The soil is light and alkaline, no more than a foot of topsoil over pure chalk. It is enriched with bought-in composted green waste and horse manure, and Richard uses pelleted chicken manure on borders and lawns. His technique for clearing the remains of the herbaceous plants at the end of the season is to put a rotary mower over the beds. Wire mesh normally succeeds in keeping rabbits out, though wind can be a nuisance, the downside of the wonderful view.
Richard and Marion maintain the garden entirely themselves, the only outside help being volunteers from the local church who organise teas on open days. The delight they both take in their garden is palpable, as is their pleasure in sharing it with others.
Richard says they are always learning from their visitors, most dramatically from an arborist who warned that one mature tree was unsafe and needed felling! As well as opening for the NGS they receive groups by appointment, and last year saw them welcome over seven hundred people to Woodwards, some of them repeat visitors come to see how this skilfully planned garden unfolds through the seasons.
n Woodwards Garden, Blacksmiths Lane off School Road, Coddenham IP6 9TX