The Laundry: A Georgian walled garden in North Wales
Tom and Jenny Williams used reclaimed landscaping materials to give their new garden authenticity and a sense of history. Words Louise Curley, Photographs Joe Wainwright
The resourceful owners of this Welsh garden have created a magical place that befits the historic setting. High, old walls surrounding a garden would be top of many a gardener’s wish list, providing privacy, a microclimate and bucket-loads of character.
Those at The Laundry near Denbigh in north Wales date back to 1770, when the Grade II-listed house was once the dairy and laundry for the adjacent Llanrhaeadr Hall. When Tom Williams inherited the property and land, he and his wife Jenny set about transforming the higgledy-piggledy plots that were dotted around the site.
What Relatively recent garden created within the grounds of an 18th-century estate, mixing both formal and informal planting.
Where North Wales.
Size Approximately three acres.
Soil Good quality loam sitting on river shingle, which provides good drainage; a neutral to alkaline pH.
Climate Sheltered from the worst of the wind and rain by Snowdonia to the west. The walls create their own microclimate but frost pockets can be a problem.
Hardiness zone USDA 8.
The Laundry Garden is made up of three main sections: the several areas closest to the house, which are collectively known as the House Garden, the Walled Garden and a patch of woodland.
“We were lucky to have lots of walls, so we already had predefined spaces and didn’t have to think about creating boundaries,” says Tom, who is a builder.
It’s hard to believe that the stone terrace with its box parterre, the oval lawns hugged by curving beech hedges and billowy herbaceous borders are just ten years old, such is Tom and Jenny’s attention to detail and assiduous use of reclaimed landscaping materials.
“We’ve had to be thrifty, doing what we can, when we can, including reusing stone and slate that was already on site. I don’t like things that look new, and our approach has meant that everything looks like it’s always been here,” says Tom.
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Hidden behind an arched, wooden door in a red brick wall lies the jewel in the crown of The Laundry: a one-acre Georgian Walled Garden, which would have once provided fruit and vegetables for the Hall. “While the different areas that make up the House Garden felt manageable, we put off touching the Walled Garden for some time, the scale of it was so daunting,” says Tom.
To make the task more manageable, the couple started with the west border first, dividing it into two sections separated by a terraced seating area with four tall stone pillars. “These were once part of the porch on the main Hall, but in the 1950s my grandfather pulled them down and they lay around for nearly 70 years before we found a use for them,” says Tom. Jenny set about planting the backbone of the border with ceanothus, cotinus and gleditsia, then a gardening friend of Tom’s parents asked if they’d like to dig up her blue border.
They leapt at the chance, coming home with herbaceous perennials to fill in the gaps.
The garden is still evolving with plans for a greenhouse and a Mediterranean garden along the sun-baked south wall. “We don’t really have holidays,” says Jenny. “We’ve put so much care and love into this garden, why would we want to leave it.”
The Walled Garden’s borders brim with the romantic cottage garden-style planting Tom and Jenny love, where a calming pastel palette of Alchemilla mollis, Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ and Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’ sits within a formal framework of yew hedging.
The border known as Regent Street was riddled with ground elder, so Tom dug down around a metre, replacing the old soil with fresh topsoil. A wisteria now covers the stone wall and self-seeding foxgloves intermingle with a mix of shrubs such as Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and Rosa Darcey Bussell (= ‘Ausdecorum’).
Tom and Jenny embrace self-seeders for the informal feel they give the garden. In the Hall Garden, Linaria purpurea, Nigella damascena and fennel emerge above a carpet of aromatic herbs, which spill over the winding cobble path laid by Tom.
In the Walled Garden the west-facing border features the repurposed stone pillars from the old Hall. These lend height and scale to the one-acre space, as does a row of clipped Prunus lusitanica under-planted with an annual seed mix that includes calendula and poppies to provide a contrast to the formality of the trees.
A curving border in the House Garden leads past a silver-leaved, weeping ornamental pear to a wirework gazebo nestled in a sheltered spot and clad in the fragrant, buttery-yellow blooms of the climbing rose Rosa The Pilgrim (= ‘Auswalker’) and the violet-blue flowers of Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’.
Near the house, a circle of pleached Malus ‘Evereste’ encloses an area of cobble, slate and millstone laid by Tom and edged with Erigeron karvinskianus. The crab apple has a frame made from bamboo from Tom’s parents’ garden, which he cut and used while it was still pliable enough to bend into a circle. The crab apples are pruned in late summer back to the frame to form spurs that will produce more flowers and fruit.
8 key plants of The Laundry
Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’
The white form of valerian with grey-green leaves and clusters of tiny flowers, which are a magnet for pollinators. 75cm x 50cm.
Geranium pratense ‘Summer Skies’
Hardy geranium that has masses of ruffled pale-lavender, double blooms throughout summer. Its trailing habit makes it ideal for edging paths. 75cm x 75cm.
Here's our guide to the best hardy geraniums.
Rosa ‘Chevy Chase’
Grown on the Walled Garden’s west wall, this rambling rose makes a spectacular sight in early summer with its deep-red flowers. 4.5m x 3m.
Rosa Joie de Vivre (= ‘Korfloci 01’)
Floribunda rose with neat habit and clusters of scented, peachy-pink blooms borne in flushes from June to September. 60cm x 45cm. AGM*.
Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’
A vigorous spreading perennial with eye-catching, red-purple leaves splashed green and silver; slender stems of tiny white flowers emerge in late summer. 50cm x 1m.
Here's our guide to persicaria.
Nepeta racemosa ‘Amelia’
This compact catmint has aromatic, grey-green foliage and arching stems studded with pale-pink flowers from May to September. 80cm x 75cm.
Used under the pleached crab apples, Mexican fleabane forms frothy clumps of white and pink daisies from May to November. Self-seeds readily and thrives in dry, poor soil. 50cm x 50cm. AGM.
Looking for ground cover plants? Here's our guide to the best plants for gound cover.
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