Garden Design


Coton Manor

Coton Manor

Coton Manor is a beautiful traditional English garden centred around a honey-coloured 17thC manor house. In the 1920s the present owner’s grandparents began developing the garden and successive generations have continued this process to the present day, making best use of its natural setting which provides stunning views across the Northamptonshire countryside.

Close to the house, terraces and borders are filled with plants such as Alchemilla mollis, Centranthus rubra, Euphorbia and Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and throughout the year large pots are changed with the seasons using Tulips, Agapanthus, Lilies and Osteospermums. But perhaps it is the climbers such as Wisteria and Clematis grandiflora covering the walls of the house that at their peak, provide a stunning backdrop to the rest of the planting.

Coton Manor

In 2005 the owners took the difficult decision to clear the Old Rose Garden next to the house as problems with rose sickness had become too difficult to overcome (perhaps not surprising as it is thought roses had been grown in this location since the 1920s). It was decided to replant with specimens that enjoy sun and good drainage so the subsoil was replaced with gravel, the original top soil replaced and the whole area thoroughly dug over. Planting now includes Lavender, Agapanthus, Sedums and Salvias. Some of the new plants are tender and only time will tell which will thrive and which will need to be replaced.

Water forms a large part of the charm of this garden and on arrival one of the first views is of a large spring-fed informal pond surrounded by grass and mature trees but this is just the first of many water features. One of the most spectacular is the formal rill bordered by closely mown grass set amongst old apple trees underplanted with spring flowering bulbs, Cowslips and Snakeshead fritillaries. The contrast of the formal and informal in this area was a brave design move yet it works surprisingly well. Although of considerable age the trees are still productive and the apples and pears are used for making jams and chutneys in the shop and for puddings in the Garden School.

Coton Manor

The garden makes full use of its site at the top of the hill, not just in its views, but also in how it uses its supply of water. The main pond supplies the water garden which meanders its way down the hillside and provides something of interest for much of the year including Primula, Ligularia, Caltha, Astilbe, Acer and Hosta. On a warm sunny day this cool shady area contrasts nicely with the hot terraces above.

Coton Manor is lucky enough to have two examples of the most wonderful sites in the plant world: a Bluebell wood and a wild flower meadow. Visiting the garden in the second week of May 2010 on a beautiful sunny day the Bluebells were looking spectacular beneath the Beech trees. There are no Spanish invaders, no other understorey planting to spoil the effect, just lovely English Bluebells. The recently planted wildflower meadow has recently been added to provide conservation interest in the garden. In May Buttercups provide the first splash of colour with the meadow really coming into its own during June and July with Ox-eye daises, Meadow crane’s bill, Ragged robin, Common vetch and Yellow rattle, followed by Knapweed, Field scabious, Birds-foot trefoil, Wild carrot, Yarrow and Lady’s bedstraw. A meandering path cut into the meadow allows visitors to wander at leisure in amongst the flowers and insects attracted to their nectar.

Coton Manor

One of the most practical sides of this garden is that most of the plants are clearly labelled so the visitor can make a nlabelled so the visitor can make a note of their favourites and perhaps even purchase a specimen from the well-stocked nursery. Those gardeners who would like to learn more about gardening would do well to check out the Garden School which runs half and full day courses on a variety of topics often presented by lecturers who are top of their field such as Fergus Garrett, James Alexander-Sinclair and Bunny Guiness.

This garden can certainly both inspire and educate the visitor: it would not be difficult to recreate planting combinations in smaller back gardens while at the same time the continuing redevelopment gives the garden the opportunity to take account of some of today’s ‘hot topics’ such as planting for biodiversity and climate change.

Coton Manor is located near Junction 1 of the A14 at Coton, Northamptonshire, NN6 8RQ.

© Sharon Brown 3rd June 2010

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