The Tarvin couple who took four decades transforming their garden

PUBLISHED: 15:56 09 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:43 20 February 2013

The Tarvin couple who took four decades transforming their garden

The Tarvin couple who took four decades transforming their garden

Barbara and Brian Russell have spent four decades transforming the garden of their home, near Tarvin, into a balanced space with bright, colourful blooms<br/>WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEITH PLANT

Good gardens are a complicated mixture of components.
The lawns and borders, trees and shrubs and water and stone all need to be carefully considered. The secret is in the balance. Barbara and Brian Russells garden, just outside Tarvin, is better than good. The balance is perfect and it is stunning.

The couple may be retired but are highly active - living proof that developing and maintaining a garden can help keep you stimulated and motivated. They talk about their garden with modest enthusiasm
and it clearly gives them pleasure all the year around. And, like most good gardeners, theyre generous, sharing their plants and giving advice.

The centrepiece is a well-tended lawn studded with young trees and borders that sweep around it in deep, generous curves. Barbara says that when they moved in 40 years ago the lawn was an orchard of ageing fruit trees. Over time they have been slowly removed and replaced with a grass area that has taken on a number of different guises, including a tennis court when their daughter was young.

The most striking feature is a Chilean Firebush tree. The bark looks fantastic against the grass and the bright vermilion flowers blaze against a blue sky. It is a bold decision to plant such a dominant feature in the middle of a lawn but the colours harmonise beautifully rather than clash.

The soil is slightly acidic, fertilised by barrow-loads of manure provided by a small stable next door. Consequently it is highly fertile ground and acid-lovers like rhododendrons are very much at home delivering radiant splashes of bright colour. Many other plants make a similar impact. One tree peony has flowers that are nine inches across creating a talking point as well as a striking addition to the border.

The garden is small enough to manage but big enough to carry tall vigorous growers. A Clematis Montana, which could swamp a small garden, provides a backdrop for the colours at the front of one of the borders and there are taller trees behind. The consequence is that you look around the garden and up and down at features which are endlessly interesting.

Lots of the plants are enthusiastically grown from seeds and cuttings to cut costs and everything is carefully tended. Most of the plants sit independently in a patch of soil, emphasising their shape and texture but increasing the potential for weed invasion. Unsurprisingly theres not a weed in sight.

There are all sorts of interesting corners hidden around the main vista. A small wildlife pond sits behind the vegetable patch. Then Barbara said: Thats my wild corner, talking about a sophisticated bonsai collection that adjoins a new patio. She added: The grass was rather wet and messy there because of some poor drainage so we extended the patio.

All of this might lead you to think the couple are a mite obsessive about their beautiful garden, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is a garden to enjoy and enthuse about without getting worked up about perfection.

Its important to remember that a garden is a place to relax in. They have a badger problem which frequently causes significant damage and would infuriate many passionate gardeners but rather than getting annoyed, they accept they have to live alongside each other level-headedly. You see, its all about keeping the balance.

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