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L I V E 2 4 -SE V EN


THROUGH THE GA RDEN GAT E WIGMORE ABBEY


This month our media horticulturalist, Camilla Bassett-Smith, heads to the home of one of our most loved comic actors and finds grounds worthy of countless encores……


In the 1990s, a Cornish garden which had lain derelict for years was discovered and famously brought back to life, well I think I’ve found Herefordshire’s Heligan – Wigmore Abbey!


When John Challis (most famed for his role as Boycie in ‘Only Fools & Horses’) and his wife purchased the land, along with the 800- year-old dwelling, ivy tumbled over walls, both internal and external, and wildlife was making itself at home both outside and in! Sycamore and ash were gathered en masse and wild cherry trees had declared this area welcome to all fellow saplings.


No room for fools here...John certainly needed his wits about him to tackle this challenge.


A pampas grass, flowering currant and bright orange Berberis indicated that a


concoction of everything had been added over the years, but to quote Eric Morecambe, '…not necessarily in the right order'! While most of the unfashionable plants were banished, the large random blackcurrant bush would live to berry its way into the jam jars and onto the toast of the Challis family for years to come!


So here they were with five acres in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside, a blank stage ready for the performers to begin rehearsal. Now they needed to paint the set and decide on the plant life props to surround this ongoing story.


Architecture in the garden is a real botanical buzz word these days (or buzz phrase!) and John was lucky enough to have an ancient romantic relic at his feet (well not at his feet, that would make John a giant, he is tall, but that would be silly!!). With the Abbey as the backdrop, inspiration was taken from Sissinghurst and plans to create a white garden were set into motion. A parterre was filled with Phlox and Astrantia, lily of the valley and Soloman's seal. At this time of year, the white Narcissus and Clematis alpina are busy casting their bright spotlight on the borders, whilst rambling roses await their moment as the summer approaches. Rambling Rector and Kiftsgate from Gloucestershire’s Kiftsgate Court Gardens provide the beloved disdain for anything that gets in their way, that John so loves about these roses.60


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