Jane Bastow’s garden is open this weekend – near Bungay and Halesworth, for the National Gardens Scheme
- Credit: Archant
We're on British Summer Time... which means it's definitely time to enjoy the great outdoors
If ever a house were aptly named it's The Laburnums. There are nearly 30 of the trees in the one-acre garden, with new seedlings always coming along.
The house is home to former police officer Jane Bastow and partner David, and the garden is a quarter of a century old now, having been created from an empty space.
This coming Sunday, April 2, it opens for the National Gardens Scheme, which is 90 years old this year and has raised more than £50million so far for charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie and Parkinson's UK.
So, Jane, give it the big sell!
'The garden is currently a sea of colour, with a large variety of plants in bloom, from daffodils by the hundred through fritillaries, tulips, Camellias and the delicious perfume of the Daphne odora.
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'There are plenty of seats to take in the garden to enjoy tea and cakes on and to watch the birds. A wren this week has built a nest in the pot of the banana plant in the greenhouse – not so helpful, but wonderful at the same time.'
What were the colder months like?
'The winter was fairly kind to the garden, although the back lawn is bald in places where the ducks, pheasants and 14 blackbirds fed over the winter.
'Storm Doris did damage in the back garden by taking out thirty feet from the Pittosporum. The whole root plate was lifting the lawn, so David and I took saws to the stems to take the 30 feet out, which we think has saved the base of the tree. That was the first tree I planted here 25 years ago.'
I must admit I did visit a couple of years ago. Would I notice any changes?
'In 2015 I radically pruned and opened up the big border at the head of the drive and crown-lifted the Christmas tree and underplanted with rhododendrons, hellebores and bulbs. Can now see right across the garden.'
It's not always plain sailing, though.
'I lost two months last summer as my back seized up quite badly – thank God for the osteopath in Beccles.'
So how long are you spending in the garden now?
'At this time of the year a greater part of the day, and most days are spent in the garden or glasshouse – between getting the garden ready and growing the plants to sell – but after May 13 (another open day) I sit back and enjoy the garden: mug of tea and a book by the pond or under a tree.
'Except this year the big pond has got to be emptied as the liner has reached the end of its life (24 years) and leaks. Also, the water lilies are now so big they need reducing.'
Sounds as if hellebores are still a passion, along with plenty of other plants… 'I potted up 150 hellebore seedlings yesterday.'
Jane's top gardening tips
1. Before starting the day I always take a walk round the garden to see what has popped its head above ground or come into bloom. Don't just work flat out – always take time to enjoy what is happening in the 'now'. That's how I found the wren's nest.
2. Use plants that spread/seed well, particularly if you want to sell plants to fundraise.
3. NO BARE EARTH. Fill it with plants you want or the weeds will fill it for you!
4. Although hygiene and tidiness are important, so too is leaving some rougher areas for the wildlife.
5. Be careful not to drag pots. Lift them. In my garden and the greenhouse there are usually newts hiding under them. I also have several frogs living in the greenhouse, helping with pest control.
6. Look after your tools. Keep them clean, sharp and stored properly; then they will last for years. NEVER leave a rake lying down for someone to stand on or fall on.
Words of wisdom
Remember: you are only a caretaker for your garden – it is owned by Mother Nature and I try to work alongside her, controlling the more exuberant plants. Not rigidly, though. The violets wander out of the borders into the lawn and onto the paths, and plants seed into the gravel areas. (That's where my hellebore seedlings came from.)
Lastly, when visiting a garden, try not to walk on the plants (even if you consider then to be weeds) and never take 'cuttings'. If you see something you like, ask. Most gardeners are happy to share and will assist you. But, most of all, get out there and enjoy the spectacle.
All the garden gen
The Laburnums, The Street, St James South Elmham, IP19 0HN
Six miles west of Halesworth, six south of Bungay
Park at nearby village hall. For disabled parking, phone to arrange
Open for NGS Sunday, April 2 (11am to 5pm)
Admission £4.50. Children free.
Plant stall, home-made teas, cakes, hot soup
Contact: Jane Bastow, 01986 782413
It's her fifth year for the NGS.
A second bite of the cherry
If you can't make April 2, The Laburnums is open from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, May 13
It's in aid of Suffolk Heavy Horse Society and other charities
Admission £2.50 (includes tea and biscuit). Children (under supervision!) 50p
Waveney Valley Brass Ensemble plays 3pm to 4pm
Plant stall, books, cakes, raffle, barbecue
It's Jane's 23rd year for a May opening