Cultivated charm - Be inspired by this beautiful cottage garden in Whitegate

PUBLISHED: 16:14 15 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:19 20 February 2013

Cultivated charm - Be inspired by this beautiful cottage garden in Whitegate

Cultivated charm - Be inspired by this beautiful cottage garden in Whitegate

Cheshire Life's gardening correspondent is charmed by a cottage garden in the village of Whitegate. It has delighted hundreds of visitors before him WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEITH PLANT

Theres a real buzz of activity as I arrive at Maurice and Chris Everetts garden in Whitegate village in Vale Royal. The whirr of the lawn mower, the snipping of the secateurs, neighbours called into help tidy up. But its not for Cheshire Life readers although fortunately we can share the product of the labour.

No, the Everetts are about to open their garden for charity. Nothing exceptional in that, you may think...but this is the twenty-fifth and final year of their charity open-days. After raising well over 20,000 for good causes (they admit to having lost count), theyre finally hanging up their gardening boots. One year we raised 2,000, says Maurice. Half was from the opening and making teas, the other half from selling plants that Chris had propagated. Were quietly pleased to think weve done our bit.

Their enthusiasm for good causes is clearly matched by their gardening skills. Theyre lucky to have a plot on different natural levels with a stream running through it. But unlucky to have a light sandy soil so knowledge and careful plant selection is crucial.

Delphiniums are their pride and joy. They buy seed from the Delphinium Society and have a range and quality of plants that astound. In a dozen hues of purple and blue, the plants reach nine feet high drawing in insects like magnets. And the borders beneath are bursting with blooms.

You may have gathered by now that this is essentially a cottage garden. However, theres a difference: Cottage garden is often a term that excuses untidiness, says Maurice. We believe that the extra care in maintaining crisp edges to the lawn and being meticulous about weeding is really important. Perhaps that attention to meticulous care comes from his former career in the nuclear power industry!

The Everetts bought the house in the early 80s and constructed the garden themselves. Its remarkable feature is not in the detail but in the overall impression that it was never designed it slowly grew into its environment so theres no sense of artificiality even though some of the species make emphatic statements.

I become aware that I am lucky with the timing of my visit: theres a magnificent tree, Cornus Kousa in full blossom which only flowers in alternate years. It lights up a garden of unusual trees. Climbing roses are focal too: Maurice is particularly fond of a tall deep red climber called Dublin Bay. Unlike many, it never loses its colour, he enthuses.

The garden used to be home to the village blacksmith who obviously ran a prosperous business because he owned much of the small valley before breaking up his land in the 1920s. The Everetts still regularly unearth chunks of furnace glass in their borders! Their house was built in 1710 to house the workers in the smithy. Theres speculation that the stream used to turn a small waterwheel to fuel it. As Maurice unearths the detail, I begin to think that this should be a venue for a Time Team exploration. Then again, that might interfere with the magnificent planting.

Maurice and Chris take a minute out of their demanding preparation for a photograph and as I clink the gate to leave, the whir of the lawn mower kicks in again. Raising all that money is very hard work. Lets hope they enjoy their retirement.

The print version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Cheshire Life

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