Nature to nurture in Epping Green
PUBLISHED: 20:54 04 April 2012 | UPDATED: 09:22 11 February 2013
An organic and naturalist approach to gardening has led to an atmospheric garden at Michaels Folly at Epping Green, Little Berkhamsted as Philippa Pearson discovers...
IVE always been passionate about gardening, says Fabrizia Verrecchia as we wander around the garden at Michaels Folly, full of roses, interesting vegetables and pretty flowers. My parents were lucky when they moved here as the previous owner loved gardening and it was full of plants.
The owner was the eminent conductor Vernon Handley and he had planted masses of roses, many of which remain today. The house was named Michaels Folly after his friend Michael had thought about buying the house, but suggested it to Vernon instead who re-named the house after his friends foolishness at missing a lovely opportunity.
Fabrizia says she has three essentials in her daily routine that keep her grounded and balanced: yoga (shes a teacher and holds yoga lessons in the garden); Indian dancing (shes an experienced dancer); and her garden, in which she cant get through the day without having earth in my fingers.
The garden was originally small when her parents moved in and gradually over the years, new areas have been annexed and added to, including a wonderful woodland area next to the main garden where bluebells flourish from April to May.
With her mother, Tessa, and step-father Tim, bluebells and snowdrops are increased each year by splitting clumps and adding new bulbs whilst brambles plus other tough weeds are cleared to open areas up: the result is natural woodland with paths through, a lovely place to be at the height of spring. A large natural pond nearby attracts lots of wildlife to this area of the garden and is the perfect place to sit and enjoy the scenery.
Vegetables, fruit, herbs and roses are key players in the main part of the garden with many plants chosen for their healing qualities. An organic approach to gardening means lots of compost, which is re-introduced back to the borders, no chemicals and good use of companion planting.
French marigolds are planted next to cabbages, tomatoes and roses and their bright orange flowers and scent attract many beneficial insects to ward off attacks from other less welcome pests.
Fabrizias approach to gardening is also to keep things simple: I like to let things set seed and see what happens, she says and the results are usually beautiful and balanced. Big architectural plants such as cardoons are allowed to flower and look stunning as well as attracting bees and hoverflies into this eclectic garden.
An orchard has old apple and pear trees whilst a soft fruit area nearby includes raspberries, gooseberries and currants. Theres even a grapevine which Fabrizia has grown from seed; she likes to grow quite a few plants from seed but also gets given plants from gardening friends in her yoga classes.
Elsewhere, the unique straw bale studio in the garden is the venue for Fabrizias yoga classes and a place to practise her Indian dancing. The studio was built 15 years ago and has a low eco-footprint with bales brought in from neighbouring fields and the main timbers obtained from a recycling centre five miles away. The construction was a community effort with friends young and old helping to create a magical and peaceful building.
The garden at Michaels Folly is opening in April for the first time with the National Gardens Scheme as Fabrizia explains: Weve opened a couple of times before at different periods of the year for other groups, but visitors and friends have persuaded us to open the garden when the bluebells are in flower. Its a lovely time of the year to enjoy this unusual and charming garden, complete with goats and lots of organic inspiration, and see how nature and nurture work in harmony with each other.
Philippa Pearson is a RHS award winning garden designer and writer. Visit www.philippapearson.co.uk or contact her on 01767 651253
Visit Michaels Folly garden
The garden is open on Sunday 29th April, 2pm 5pm, in aid of the National Gardens Scheme. Admission is 3.50 for adults, children free; home made teas available and plants. The garden has good access for wheelchairs.