The Land Gardeners Arts and Crafts garden around Wardington Manor
Growers, designers and soil enthusiasts, The Land Gardeners are part of a small army of suppliers to London’s most exclusive florists, working from an original Arts and Crafts garden. Words Kendra Wilson, photographs Claire Takacs
This original Arts and Crafts garden at Wardington Manor in North Oxfordshire has six acres of rich, friable loam soil in a temperate climate and a hardiness zone of USDA 8b.
The Land Gardeners, Henrietta Courtauld and Bridget Elworthy – designers, growers, flower decorators and now compost manufacturers – are partly based at a small design studio in Henrietta’s London garden, but the raw materials for their floristry business come from Bridget’s home, Wardington Manor in north Oxfordshire.
A former nunnery dating back to the 15th century, the rambling stone house is surrounded by an Edwardian garden where everything is fair game for cutting. When Bridget moved to Wardington in 2008, the walled garden was no longer productive and a dedicated cutting garden across the street had been let as allotments. Both had miraculously good soil, as did the whole garden, having been worked for almost six centuries. Read our full feature on The Land Gardeners and Wardington Manor in our Plant Special issue.
This growing area was created to meet demand for The Land Gardeners' flamboyant cut flowers. In the adjacent orchard, grass is allowed to grow long over the season.
The Bottom Lawn can be seen from the street, where tall gates separate the main garden from the cutting garden over the road. Built around 1450 as a nunnery, Wardington has evolved over the years, with a pair of oriel windows added at the turn of the last century.
The Land Gardeners put in new borders at Wardington for the exclusive use of dahlias, tulips and soon: peonies. Although the beds are frequently plundered for cut flowers, they maintain blocks of colour for about eight months of the year.
Clear lines of Iris pallida and yew complement the textured old walls before looser perennials take over as the season progresses. These include cosmos, scabious, asparagus and aster. All is available for cutting, including Wisteria sinensis by the house.
In the walled garden, earth is never left uncovered for long. As the season draws to a close, green manures are sown in harvested areas, while compacted soil is broad-forked and covered in compost for the dormant months. A diverse mix of flowers and vegetables attract a wealth of invertebrates above and below ground.
The Land Gardeners have always wanted to get back to the land, the earth and the soil
Crisp outlines of yew, forming walls and entrances, were implemented at least 100 years ago. With the garden's solid structure, flower borders that are spent in terms of cutting, are allowed to romp and go to seed.
The Top Lawn is a former tennis court. This year, grass was left to grow long around the outlines, allowing violets, lady's bedstraw, yarrow and ox-eye daisies to make themselves known. They were joined by self-seeders that drifted over from the borders.
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Long grass on the Top Lawn was cut down in time for the village fête in September. On the other side of the lawn, flower beds are divided by old buttresses of yew, reinforcing the perpendicular layers of an Arts and Crafts layout.