Thursday, 17 July 2014

The garden at Five Oaks Cottage

Tucked away in a secret spot, along a hazel-shaded lane in the heart of the South Downs, is an unusual and quirky garden encircling a cottage near Petworth in the South Downs National Park, with breathtaking views across the Sussex countryside 

Today, the garden was soaked in bright July sunshine beneath clear, windless skies. The sounds of traffic and towns were replaced with the hum, buzz and chirrups of insects and birds. Managed organically, as a wildlife garden, the garden has been under the ownership and care of Jean Jackman (Twitter @Selfseeding) since she and her husband Steve brought the house on 1994. 
Since that first year, many hours of hard work have transformed the garden into a beautiful, thriving wildlife haven (quite a feat considering the heavy acidic clay soil). A past life as a plant buyer for a garden centre chain has given Jean the opportunity to amass a collection of unusual plants, many chosen for their architectural qualities, their scent or their intriguing back-stories. 

In fact, every plant in the garden seems to have a story or a reason for being there; the bamboo from a friends recommendation, the tree where the Owl perches on quiet evening, or a  mother's much-loved-favourite. Gravel and brick paths, where wildflowers often choose to self seed, take you on a winding journey through the borders, and lead through the garden to a glorious meadow. 

Tall golden grasses wave in the softest of breezes and yellow Birds-foot-trefoil peers out from the edge of the mown paths. 
Purple Knapweed is currently the star of the show, attracting a throng of insects. Bees hum from flower to flower, Hoverflies dance at the edge of your sight, and Butterflies flit on dainty wings; the Small White and the Common Blue, the Meadow Brown and the Small Skipper, and like a flying pocket-chessboard the unusual and beautiful Marbled White.    

An old crooked apple tree, with lichen covered branches, lazes at the end of the meadow, keeping an eye of the productive vegetable patch. 
A feature throughout the garden, is metal work, with quirky artesian gates and obelisks providing both a smile, and a perfect perch for sun-basking dragonflies.

Birds are here too, with Sparrows, Tits and a tiny Goldcrest, performing their circus tricks in high branches. 

I left the garden, for the shady drive down the hazel-lined lane, with a feeling of total relaxation, and smiling at the knowledge that even as I travelled back into town, bees and butterflies were still dancing between flowers of purple, yellow and white, beneath the summer sun. 

The garden is open through July, in support of Sussex Wildlife Trust.
To visit, contact Jean with your preferred date, via twitter @Selfseeding or ring 07939 272 443

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