A sprawling nursery garden in the Essex countryside
Rolling out towards the Essex countryside, the garden alongside Long House Plants offers a beautiful foretaste of how its plants will mature. Words John Hoyland, photographs Annaick Guitteny.
Just a mile or so from the traffic of the M25, near the picturesque village of Noak Hill, nurseryman Tim Carter has created a garden that sits in the rolling landscape of fields and copses, with layers of plants melding seamlessly into the meadows of the family farm. Tim has long been growing, collecting and selling plants and 14 years ago he set up Long House Plants, named after a converted heavy horse stable, and began working on the garden.
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The land had been used to graze cattle for decades so he spent five years clearing it, before he began making borders for his wide-ranging collection of shrubs, grasses and herbaceous perennials. “The most important function of this garden is to provide propagation material for the nursery – but that doesn’t mean I can’t lay it out with an eye to making a beautiful space,” says Tim. A series of winding paths circle back on themselves to form beds that are filled with different cultivars of the same plant. The shape of the beds and the route of the paths have been designed looking from the house across to the fields. “I can’t see the paths because they go diagonally across and they are hidden by the planting.” The effect is to create layers of planting that roll out towards the countryside in waves. Discover more about the garden and plants below.
The garden in brief
What A garden alongside a nursery. Where Essex. Soil Slightly acidic clay. Size One and a half acres. Climate The county has lower than average rainfall. Hardiness zone USDA 9
16 key plants from Long House Plants
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In the garden of Long House Plants nursery cultivars of the same genus are grouped to allow easy comparison. Groups of New England asters and forms of Miscanthus sinensis seem to roll out towards the surrounding meadows and woodlands.
Winding paths that circle back on themselves allow Tim to create beds that are filled with a range of cultivars of the same genus. In early autumn a patchwork of colourful sedums and low growing grasses spill over the paths.
Tim has designed the garden with paths of differing widths. Where the paths are more expansive it is possible to step back and see the plants growing in a garden setting and enjoy the landscape beyond.
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Since the age of 12 I’ve been totally immersed in plants. I love looking over this garden and the fields around us. It feels a privilege to do this job.
In the foreground a hardy bamboo that reaches only one metre tall, Pleioblastus viridistriatus, grows against the giant leaves of Gunnera manicata. On the opposite side of the path is a collection of Hesperantha. Formerly known as Schizostylis, this is a South African plant that produces colourful flowers late in the year.
Address Long House Plants, Church Road, Noak Hill, Romford, Essex RM4 1LD, 01708 371719, longhouse-plants.co.uk
Open The nursery is open March to September, Friday to Saturday and Bank Holidays, 10am-5pm; Sundays, 10am-4pm, and by appointment. Tim also opens his garden on selected dates throughout the year, see website for details.
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