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  • Helen@Moreton

Down the garden path

Updated: Jan 2

Not surprisingly, getting the house safe and watertight has been our main priority this first year, but we have enjoyed getting to know the garden. We were keen to develop our ideas so that we could show a coherent plan to the council with our applications, and also so that we could get a few things going right away, as gardens don’t grow overnight (except for the weeds, apparently).

The site has been divided up since the Grenville days, leaving the house on one corner of a roughly 5-acre plot. It’s a bit of an odd shape at the entrance side, and that’s something we’ll have to develop as we see how the surrounding land is sold and developed. The main garden is largely grass with a boundary of trees. Lots of the mature trees lie the other side of our fence, and that’s something we want to add to, so that if ever a future owner did remove them and building did creep right up to us, we’d at least have started growing our own screen.

The formal gardens in Moreton’s heyday must have been stunning. Our neighbour kindly let us wander around to explore, and it’s possible to make out the layout of ponds, orchards and a walled garden and many of the plants listed in the histories we’ve read are still there, if rather overgrown. I might have to beg to dig some bits up to replant in the new Moreton garden if ever the developers get their hands on it.

The walled gardens must have been stunning. We’ve read that they were positively tropical, planted with bananas, lemon and loquat, which survived the relatively mild winters against the shelter of the walls. It’s said that one of the ladies of the house used to organize Shakespeare performances here. The gunera plants by the now overgrown ponds are ‘gignormous’, according to our daughter.

The collection of trees is also quite amazing. And plenty lie without our part of the garden. There are many types of oak, evergreen Holm oaks (one fewer than when we took over, unfortunately), a rare cork oak, turkey oak, pin oak, red oak and probably more. There are redwoods over the fence, monterey cypress and pine. And a monster of a rhododendron patch, 50 metres in diameter. That alone is bigger than our old garden.

So where to begin in planning an homage to some of the history and something that will work on the smaller scale of the 5 acre plot, even if the surrounding grounds are eventually built up? At this stage, as budget isn’t bottomless and there were higher priorities, I had a go myself, by taking the fantastic online course entitled ‘Design your own large garden’ offered by the legendary John Brookes through My Garden School. I loved every minute of it, and I’ll post about that next time.

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Moreton House, Abbotsham Road, Bideford, Devon, EX39 3QW

moretonhousedevon@gmail.com

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