Late spring jewels in a Baldock garden

PUBLISHED: 12:00 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:08 03 May 2016

The garden is enjoyed from inside the house, too (photo Chris Roper)

The garden is enjoyed from inside the house, too (photo Chris Roper)


An evening in late spring is the perfect time to visit a Baldock walled garden full of charm, colour and interest, says Philippa Pearson

Pretty cottage garden planting in late spring (photo: Chris Roper)Pretty cottage garden planting in late spring (photo: Chris Roper)

Behind a pretty house in the heart of Baldock’s conservation area lies a hidden walled garden bursting with delicious planting and structural trees. Leila Shafarenko moved here 15 years ago and has enjoyed creating the wonderful cottage-style garden ever since. ‘It was the garden that sold the house to us,’ she explains, ‘although the house is lovely, too!’

The property dates to the 16th century with later Georgian and Victorian editions and the L-shaped building looks out on to the garden through many of its windows which frame views and vistas. ‘I like to plant things so that I can enjoy colour and interest from inside the house,’ Leila says, ‘especially in the cooler months when we spend more time inside.’

The garden already had a framework of mature trees when Leila arrived. A magnificent magnolia makes a striking feature, bringing structure and interest to the space which Leila has embellished with informal cottage-style planting in wide borders and by adding collections of plants, including many thornless roses and a particular favourite, peonies. These blousy flowers in delicate pinks to rich ruby enter their peak display in late spring, one of the reasons why Leila decided to open the garden to the public for the National Garden Scheme at this time.

‘I absolutely love peonies. They are in flower before many other plants and are just beautiful to look at.’

Wisteria-clad walls and clipped box balls (photo: Chris Roper)Wisteria-clad walls and clipped box balls (photo: Chris Roper)

She has a good collection including intersectional ones and some tree types, so there’s plenty to swoon over here. Peonies are extremely hardy and adaptable plants and grow best in full sun, suiting most soil conditions, although they prefer not to be too wet in the winter. They are also long-lived plants, living up to 50 years in the right conditions. Contrary to gardening myths, you can move peonies once they are established but it is best to do this in the autumn.

Competing with the peonies for stop-and-look-at-me attention is the beautiful mature wisteria that gracefully clads the walls of the house and also comes into flower in late spring.

‘I do like early flowering plants and this garden does look good throughout spring, whilst another favourite time in the garden is late summer,’ Leila says.

During high summer the collection of roses here come into their peak. Leila favours the thornless varieties as they are easier to handle for pruning and training on to walls and obelisks in the garden. The roses add height and interest at different levels and times of the year, while here and there clipped topiary box plants bring a sprinkling of formality.

This is the third year that Leila has opened her garden for the NGS, one of more than 3,800 private gardens opened each year to raise funds for the charity, the biggest charitable benefactor to the nursing and caring sectors.

Each year, Leila tries to have a project on the go and these have included edging planting with box plants and adding trellis around the walls. She also grows lots of plants from seed each spring. ‘I get a lot of inspiration for what I grow from visiting other open gardens.’

It was on a visit with a friend to another NGS garden that Leila made the decision to open her own. ‘I really enjoy people coming to look around, and its lovely to talk to and learn from other likeminded gardening people.’

Visit the garden

42 Church Street

Baldock SG7 5AF

The garden is open for the NGS on Friday May 6 from 5.30-8.30pm. Admission £3.50, children free. Wine served.

If you are interested in opening your garden for the NGS, contact Herts organiser Julie Wise on 01438 821509 or email

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