Keith Wiley's Wildside in Devon works in harmony with nature
In the Devon landscape, plantsman Keith Wiley works in harmony with nature, allowing plants to thrive much as they would in the wild. Words Matthew Reese, Photographs Jason Ingram
In 2004, Keith Wiley, former head gardener at The Garden House on the edge of Dartmoor, moved a very short distance to create an ambitious new garden. The flat, four-acre site, once a cider orchard, is now home to the exciting, magnificent Wildside. Looking across the undulating landscape now teeming with plants, it’s hard to believe this was a nondescript field - three acres with a temperate climate and high rainfall - not so long ago.
Over the past 15 years, Keith has hewn a garden out of the land, shifting thousands of tonnes of soil and shillet (originally 20cm of loam over free-draining shillet) to make suitable habitats for a very diverse range of plants. He dug down to create lush pools, and built up banks to make free-draining mounds for bulbs and trees.
Much of the planting is influenced by natural landscapes and communities observed all over the world, though they are not direct copies. “I try to capture the essence,” says Keith. “I take a piece of natural landscape that I like and modify it to create a piece of garden, whereas most people try to make the garden look more natural.” The garden is still growing. Over the brow of another hill, there is a new area waiting to be planted. Keith’s excitement at the planned South African-style garden is infectious. He has it all laid out in his mind’s eye and doubtless it will be every bit as extraordinary as the rest of the garden. Discover more about the garden below.
I take a piece of natural landscape that I like and modify it to create a piece of garden
The strong shapes of Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’ and Anthemis tinctoria ‘EC Buxton’ contrast with floating Stipa tenuissima. A carefully pruned Fitzroya cupressoides in the background adds height and drama.
The Lower Water Garden has a more luxuriant feel, where Hemerocallis ‘Ariadne’ and Campanula lactiflora combine on the banks beside pools brimming with thick stands of Pontederia cordata.
The free-draining shillet banks make excellent habitats for Erigeron karvinskianus and Linaria triornithophora. Welsh and Californian poppies mingle with ox-eye daisies and Dierama Wildside hybrids.
Old cider apple trees form a backdrop to pink and white forms of Lychnis coronaria, punchy, lemon-yellow Oenothera stricta ‘Sulphurea’ and wandering Geranium sanguineum and Papaver cambricum.
This alpine meadow is awash with colour. Orange and yellow helianthemums and campanulas dominate the foreground, while Geranium pratense, G. sanguineum and pulsatillas form the bulk of the planting, with Eschscholzia californica and Oenothera stricta self-seeding.
The floriferous, single, red Rosa ‘Dortmund’ climbs through the pergola. Self-seeding dieramas thrive among pink Diascia fetcaniensis, frothy Stipa tenuissima and tall lily stems and buds.
Planting is more formal in the Courtyard Garden, with stands of Potentilla recta ‘Warrenii’, Hebe ochracea ‘James Stirling’ and Eryngium x zabellii among cheerful ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare).
Looking south towards the house, Eragrostis curvula creates a misty effect. The golden plumes of Stipa gigantea catch the light in a planting that has both a Mediterranean and South African feel to it.
Address Green Lane, Buckland Monachorum, Devon PL20 7LP. Tel 01822 855755, Website wileyatwildside.com Open Occasionally in spring and summer to correspond with the main peak flowering seasons; see website for details.
Mat Reese is head gardener at Malverleys Gardens
Niwaki bundle worth £57 when you subscribe
Subscribe to Gardens Illustrated magazine and claim your Niwaki bundle worth £57
Transform your Garden- Special Edition
Transform Your Garden
This special edition features advice on designing your garden from the world’s top garden designers, including top tips for redesigning your plot or creating a new garden from scratch.
Discover eight inspirational gardens in town and country, and beautiful planting ideas for year-round colour. Learn how to make the most of a small space, how to cope with a slope, and the ten most common mistakes people make, according to professional garden designers, and how to avoid them.
Enjoy insights on everything from paths and parking spaces to wildflowers and water features, so that you can be confident in starting to create the garden of your dreams.
Just £9.99 inc UK p&p
Gardens of the Globe
From botanical wonders in Australia to tranquil havens closer to home in Ireland, let this guide help you to discover some of the most glorious gardens around the world