This Hadleigh garden is a picture of harmonious beauty
PUBLISHED: 12:22 29 March 2016 | UPDATED: 12:13 05 April 2016
Something very special happens when a garden is loved and cared for by a consummate plant collector who happens to be a serious artist too. The overall design works, the planting is harmonious, painting pictures that please and delight, and are a true reflection of the creative soul behind the work.
And so it is at Willow Brook, the home of Margaret Laws for the past 30 years. Set high above the road with captivating views across the water meadows, this garden is a delight, and it is not surprising that a little of the magic from the house next door, the former home of the famous painter and plantsman Cedric Morris, has drifted across the boundary.
When Margaret and her late husband Jack came to Hadleigh, retiring from pig farming in Hertfordshire, they brought with them a multitude of cuttings and specimens to help establish their new plot. Their first home had an orchard full of rare varieties and they had always taken samples of their treasures with them. Here they planted their trees, with shrubs and hedges for windbreaks. Beds and borders evolved, and the pictures began to develop.
With the cuttings taken from their orchard, Jack had grown a really interesting apple tree with five different varieties grafted on to a Bramley stock. It still survives today having a wonderful architectural quality with its ancient limbs snaking in all directions, a perfect climbing frame for little people perhaps?
This interest in orchard fruits has passed down the family to their son. Peter Laws is currently involved in identifying and compiling the definitive register of all apple species, with pears and plums planned for the future. Clearly a childhood among the apple trees had a profound effect on his ultimate career.
Margaret readily admits being a plantaholic and can never pass a nursery or plant stall without stopping for a little purchase. If she hasn’t room in a border immediately she will find them a home in a pot. She has plants growing everywhere. She also loves to propagate and take cuttings, and among her prize acquisitions are an Elaeagnus Quicksilver and a Daphne Odora Aureomarginata, garnered legitimately, from the acclaimed garden next door.
Margaret had always loved painting, training initially with Ted Philips, a commercial artist in Hertfordshire. She painted prolifically and held a solo show in Ware, as well as successful exhibitions in Bishops Stortford, Essex and Suffolk. A gallery was always open for visitors at their farmhouse. She and Jack would spend their winter evenings contentedly painting still life on their kitchen table. She still paints regularly, attending at least one art group every week, as well as working from home. She much prefers to work in oils, but finds that watercolours are cleaner these days, if not so satisfying.
Apart from some help with the heaviest jobs, Margaret continues to tend her garden herself and opens each year for Hadleigh Open Gardens. Throughout the year (health permitting) she swims for an hour each day at the Hadleigh Leisure Centre and regularly attends meetings of the East Anglian Garden Group and Plant Heritage.
This talented, knowledgable yet modest woman, does admit to slowing down a little these days, which is hardly surprising for someone well into her nineties. May she have many more years inspiring her friends and enjoying all the fruits of her creation.