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Garden Visit: A Carpet of Color in the Cotswolds

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Garden Visit: A Carpet of Color in the Cotswolds

March 20, 2019

Just finding your way to Trench Hill in Gloucestershire is a lesson in diligence, but your navigational skills are rewarded as soon as you enter the gate and are greeted by swaths of early spring flowers stretching as far as the eye can see.

For the past 24 years Celia and Dave Hargrave have sought to tame woodland scrub into naturalistic and colorful glades, mixing some serious horticultural skills with a few fun surprises.

Photography by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

Spread over three acres of woodlands, the rambling paths at Trench Hill enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
Above: Spread over three acres of woodlands, the rambling paths at Trench Hill enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
Following one of these paths to the north of the house, as we crunch the beech nuts underfoot, Celia remarks lightly: “Two hundred fifty barrow loads of bark chippings to make this path!”
Above: Following one of these paths to the north of the house, as we crunch the beech nuts underfoot, Celia remarks lightly: “Two hundred fifty barrow loads of bark chippings to make this path!”

But all that seems forgotten as your eyes dart from snowdrops to cyclamen, from epimediums to crocus, and from narcissi to hellebores, covering the ground like a richly colored parterre de broderie. “The color palette changes almost weekly,” she adds.

Watching over the colorful carpet is a carved wooden hare created by the tree surgeon Jasper Drake.
Above: Watching over the colorful carpet is a carved wooden hare created by the tree surgeon Jasper Drake.
In the center of the garden sits the Cotswold stone house with views to the borrowed landscape of southerly hills leading the eye even further.
Above: In the center of the garden sits the Cotswold stone house with views to the borrowed landscape of southerly hills leading the eye even further.

Topiary stands like soldiers guarding the facade and the productive vegetable garden to the east.

Hellebores are in abundance here, including many doubles which are hybridized seedlings of the ‘Party Dress’ strain in combinations of lime green, cream, and pale pink.
Above: Hellebores are in abundance here, including many doubles which are hybridized seedlings of the ‘Party Dress’ strain in combinations of lime green, cream, and pale pink.

Narrow paths thread their way through distant woodland to the west of the house and a crescendo of spring planting, including a delicate pale pink Erythronium revolutum bursting through the leaf mold.

A carpet of hellebores.
Above: A carpet of hellebores.

Snowdrops, just beginning to go over in early March, comprise the larger-flowered Galanthus ‘Elwesii’, the double G. ‘Nivalis’, the delicate G. woronowii and the green-splashed G. ‘Viridapice’.

On the woodland slopes nearer to the house, Vinca minor, dog tooth violets, and pulmonaria carpet the ground, while the delicate Anemone nemerosa comes later.
Above: On the woodland slopes nearer to the house, Vinca minor, dog tooth violets, and pulmonaria carpet the ground, while the delicate Anemone nemerosa comes later.
Celia’s promise to beat the squirrels has paid off. After planting more than
Above: Celia’s promise to beat the squirrels has paid off. After planting more than 2,500 bulbs in the autumn, she delights at seeing the newborn clump of Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’: “I guess we planted enough for all of us.”
Contrasting with this is Iris reticulata, including the soft cornflower blue of I. ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley&#8
Above: Contrasting with this is Iris reticulata, including the soft cornflower blue of I. ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’, named in 1935 after the Royal Horticultural Society member and show judge.
Nearby the velvety purple petals of Iris. r. ‘Harmony’ are complemented by the yellow pattern on the falls.
Above: Nearby the velvety purple petals of Iris. r. ‘Harmony’ are complemented by the yellow pattern on the falls.

Most of the narcissi are the small ‘Tête à Tête’ but very now and then a hot orange ‘Jet Fire’ pokes its head a little higher.

Many of the flowers are framed by the unusual fence made from driftwood and bicycle tire rims, with which Celia fell in love at the Malvern Flower Show.
Above: Many of the flowers are framed by the unusual fence made from driftwood and bicycle tire rims, with which Celia fell in love at the Malvern Flower Show.
An old ash tree which had died was allowed to stand and UK television show host Robin Leach was encouraged to make his first-ever sculpture from it.
Above: An old ash tree which had died was allowed to stand and UK television show host Robin Leach was encouraged to make his first-ever sculpture from it.

The newest addition to the garden towers over the two recently restored ponds. The trunk now houses newts, butterflies, bulrushes, dragonflies, and a Green Man. Very apt for this woodland setting.

The secret of this garden? A happy eco-system. Celia and Dave fill more than  bird feeders at least once a week throughout the winter, encouraging a huge variety of birds.
Above: The secret of this garden? A happy eco-system. Celia and Dave fill more than 20 bird feeders at least once a week throughout the winter, encouraging a huge variety of birds.
Soon Celia will begin to replant the hundreds of pots on her terrace for a summer show of begonias, but for now Trench Hill showcases the English spring at its best.
Above: Soon Celia will begin to replant the hundreds of pots on her terrace for a summer show of begonias, but for now Trench Hill showcases the English spring at its best.

See more growing tips in Hellebores: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design in our curated guides to Perennials 101. For more of our favorite springtime gardens, see:

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