The Beeches, plantsperson's garden

A plantsperson’s garden in Nottinghamshire

In this spring garden, choice plants are selected for their outstanding individual features. Photographs Bennet Smith

Over the past 45 years, three acres of pasture in Nottinghamshire have been transformed into a garden packed with plants. Margaret Swindin was born in Worcestershire and as a child she loved the wildflowers in the surrounding countryside. When she first arrived at The Beeches with her husband James, it took time to clear the ground thoroughly: “As soon as we started, I was keen to reach the retaining wall – originally a ha-ha – at the end of the vicarage garden next door; it was the ideal place to begin planting.” Several trees were felled, revealing glorious, panoramic views over the surrounding countryside, and garden making began in earnest.

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Wildside Nursery Garden
© Jason Ingram

Read more about the garden and its plants below.

The Beeches, plantsperson's garden
© Bennet Smith

Drumstick primulas, primroses and muscari cover the soil under blossoming magnolia and cherry trees and the stately filigree of an English oak, Quercus robur.

The Beeches, plantsperson's garden
© Bennet Smith

The character of the garden is transformed when the soft light of a spring dawn floods the garden, highlighting the shape and form of emerging stems and fresh foliage. The richly textured planting of hellebores and pulmonarias creates a pleasing counterpoint to the borrowed landscape beyond.

The Beeches, plantsperson's garden
© Bennet Smith

The emerging foliage of bulbs and herbaceous plants in myriad shades of green is illuminated by the joyful yellow blooms of daffodils and rusty-orange Fritillaria imperialis. The mossy boughs of  apple trees and nearby plant supports add height and structure to this gradually evolving scene.

The Beeches, plantsperson's garden
© Bennet Smith

Fritillaries, narcissi, cowslips, bee orchids, primroses and white and blue anemones all self-seed in the rough grass below a beech tree, creating a millefleur, or tapestry of many tiny flowers, that changes subtly every year. The grass is cut and raked off in late summer, once all of the seeds have been shed.

The Beeches, plantsperson's garden
© Bennet Smith

Magnolia kobus is a flower-filled focal point in spring, as herbaceous plants and nearby climbing roses, trained over a wrought-iron arch, burst into early growth. The seat, in a shady spot, becomes the perfect place for contemplation in the sunnier days ahead.

The Beeches, plantsperson's garden
© Bennet Smith
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Early plant growth is faster in sunnier parts of the garden, away from the skeletal shadow of the giant oaks and beeches. Self-seeded hellebores and narcissi are followed later by polemoniums and alliums. Dense planting creates an attractive patchwork and weed-suppressing groundcover.