For all seasons

PUBLISHED: 11:14 11 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:20 20 February 2013

Centre of the White Garden

Centre of the White Garden

Wol and Sue Staines have been developing their garden at Glen Chantry near Wickham Bishops since 1976. Philippa Pearson discovers why it offers something for everyone

GARDENS should never stand still, completely, and should be open to change and different ideas. Wol and Sue have embraced this ideal and while mature borders and planting still brings surprises, new features and ideas are developed.

This three-acre garden is a tapestry of large informally-shaped mixed borders, crammed with perennials, shrubs, roses, woody plants and bulbs. Glen Chantry is not a garden to visit quickly and definitely not one to go to without a notebook; plants dominate throughout the year with an inspiring mix of foliage, shape, textures and artistically co-ordinated colour themes.

Wol and Sue share a passion for perennials, a real feature in their garden, and it's great to see well-known species mixed with unusual and rare plants. Even more gratifying is the specialised perennial nursery on the site and I challenge anyone who visits not go away empty handed.

Nearer the house three substantial rock gardens constructed from water-worn limestone and tufa provide crevices and nooks for an eclectic mix of alpine plants. Sue has a growing collection of several hundred varieties of standard dwarf bearded iris displayed in raised sleeper beds which are a stunning sight at the end of April and early May. Two ponds connected by a meandering stream have moisture and shade-loving planting. Here, large clumps of Rodgersia, Hosta, Iris and Primula create a cool landscape and the area is underplanted with Anemones, Fritillaria, Trillium, and Erythronium in spring.

Three strategically-placed bridges give visitors the chance to see planting from different heights, aspects and levels. The White Garden has a formal structure, but is informally planted with fantastic seasonal displays of white plants. An intimate and romantic atmosphere is created by enclosing the garden by climbing roses and a formally clipped green coniferous hedge.

Wol and Sue have thought carefully about creating all year round interest in the garden. Away from the busy spring and summer months, interest in the garden continues throughout autumn and winter from grasses, seedheads, bark on trees and shrubs and outline forms of plants. Bulbs are used extensively between perennials to bridge seasonal gaps.

'There are even plants in flower and giving interest here on Christmas Day,' says Wol.

Philippa Pearson is a RHS Silver-Gilt medal winner. Call 01767 651253 or email


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