Enjoying a visit to Terstan garden in Longstock

PUBLISHED: 10:50 12 April 2016 | UPDATED: 10:50 12 April 2016

The rescued cottage is now pretty as a picture

The rescued cottage is now pretty as a picture


Enjoy the harmonious planting in the oasis of country charm at Terstan garden in Longstock says Leigh Clapp

The picturesque garden at Terstan is set in water meadows by the River Test with lovely views to Stockbridge Down, and has been created over 40 years by Penny Burnfield, from bramble and weed infested rough ground. “We rescued a small, damp cottage from near dereliction and have made a garden where none existed. It was a redundant cottage on the farm that belongs to my husband Sandy’s family, and had been empty for a couple of years. My father-in-law said we could take it on as it was in danger of falling into decay. But the setting was peaceful and secluded and I could see the potential in the house and the acre of land that came with it,” she recalls. Today the gardens extends gently out from the house with seven loosely linked garden ‘rooms’ that have individual character, but with common motifs of circles and ovals to give a sense of harmonious continuity.

Penny was formerly a doctor and changed career to becoming a textile and mixed media artist in the 1990s. Her passion for gardening runs deep and, combined with her artistic eye, the results at Terstan are just lovely. “As an artist and writer, I have designed a cottage garden for the 21st century, with abundant herbaceous planting, vivid colours and an ever-changing display of half-hardy plants in pots,” she explains. In spring, fresh greens from a canopy of unfurling foliage act as a foil to splashes of colour from tulips, alliums, cheery violas and clouds of dancing aquilegias.

“Gardening forms a useful counterpoint to art, a time to meditate, to let ideas develop in the subconscious, as well as the benefits of exercise and fresh air! I find parallels between the two: my garden is quite structured, subverted by the randomness of planting, and both my garden and my art often use an element of repetition to make an impact,” Penny comments.

The gravel garden by the vintage caravan and the decorative potager are open and sunny, and there are shaded areas to wander through or sit amongst the abundance.

“I’m pleased with our gravel garden, which was created about eight years ago from a muddle of features which didn’t hang together. We have laid it out with three ovals of gravel and grass, and the surrounding areas are beds topped with gravel, which the plants enjoy.”

The plant palette is extensive, chosen to suit the conditions, the loam and clay soil, and with many treasures having been given by family and friends, such as a collection of roses and clumps of irises. “I love the tulips for their sumptuous colours – like exotic silks, and I like putting new combinations together each year,” she adds.

Many plants have been propagated from seeds, cuttings and division, which is a great way to increase stock economically. The process of creating a garden has had challenges though, including dealing with the contrast from being damp and frosty in winter to hot and dry in summer . Two years ago parts of the garden were actually under water for around a month, not from the river flooding but the underground water table rising higher than usual.

Penny and Sandy have been sharing their garden with visitors through the NGS for six years and also host private visits for gardening clubs. “It’s lovely to share the garden with so many people. Often they ask for advice, or enquire about plants they haven’t seen before. I hope they will go home with the enthusiasm to develop their own gardens in interesting ways” says Penny. Coming under the spell of this tranquil garden, visitors have commented ‘a proper heaven’, ‘so full of interest’ and ‘an absolute gem’, so make sure this garden is on your list of places to visit. 

Opening times

Terstan, Longstock, Stockbridge, SO20 6DW | Sunday April 24 2016, June 26 2016, July 24 2016, September 4 2016 (2pm-6pm) | Admission £4, children free | Visitors also welcome by arrangement May to September | www.ngs.org.uk


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