Artistic haven - Gardening

PUBLISHED: 12:36 02 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:29 20 February 2013

Artistic haven - Gardening

Artistic haven - Gardening

Leigh Clapp visits a serene oasis that reflects the owner's passion for antiques and collectables... along with a hint of the Orient

The Daisy House is positioned on a busy main road in Eastleigh, past a mass of appropriate daisy blooms of erigeron, and gives little indication of the peaceful haven beyond. Upon entering, I realise that this is a country-style garden with a difference. Reclaimed objects become sculpture, plants happily scramble over supports in the front gravel garden and then you stare out to the serene green back garden with cloud-pruned shrubs and trees forming foils to touches of colour.

Life imitates art
Owners Diann and Kit Grafton shared their atmospheric garden with visitors through The National Garden Scheme for the first time last year. They were thrilled to have more than 400 visitors over the weekend for their first opening.
One lovely comment from a visitor was it reminded them of the gardens of mystery and secret wonder which appeared in the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood! chuckles Diann.
There is indeed an ethereal, painterly quality to the garden and of the Far East from the clipped, sculptural forms to the dense almost jungly planting.
The garden has evolved over 30 years, from an interest in gardening since childhood. The inspiration is visual, with a knowledge of which plants will work, influenced also by my work as an antique dealer and indeed a visit to the Royal Palace of Thailand, where I first saw cloud-pruning, explains Diann.

Dianns craft
When the Graftons first moved to the house, the garden was just grass and apple trees as it had once been an orchard and then a nursery. The lovely old trees, clothed in moss and still bearing fruit became the framework for the garden. I prune them in a certain way that seems to enhance them. It works, the trees look lovely and we get lots of apples in bunches at the ends of branches. I had tried it on the golden privet, camellias and other shrubs in the garden, using my version of the sculptural pruning that had inspired me in Thailand. I only recently learnt that the name of the technique is Niwaki which means Japanese pruning, after 20 years of just doing it! Diann admits.

Barefoot chic
Structure from the pruned shrubs is softened by informal plantings and entwining roses. Something interesting to look out for is a grill from Old Billingsgate Market which now acts to divide garden rooms.
I dont want to overdo decoration. I dont like too many pots. Less is more, the bits I have kept enhance the plants, Diann explains.
Once the garden gets going, it looks lovely. I am so happy with the combinations of the plants and the way it is clipped. I often walk around very early in the morning with nothing on my feet listening to the birds. When I get a chance to sit in the garden or indeed fall asleep, hidden away in my oasis it is all very tranquil and well worth the effort! concludes Diann.

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