A Garden Journey – Ordnance House, Wiltshire
For Terry Winters and his wife Vanessa the garden they have created on a former MoD plot in Wiltshire has been a journey of transformation. From an empty space of sharp draining, thin chalky soil to a sumptuously planted south facing oasis, their journey shows what can be achieved with imagination and passion. Terry shares a little of their ever evolving story from the original plans laid out in 2011 to the award-winning gardens that now bring such joy to owners and visitors alike.
Life is a series of journeys and the creation of gardens is just another one of these paths.
The garden my wife Vanessa and I created at Ordnance House in Wiltshire has been a life enhancing and hugely rewarding journey. The plot was formerly part of a Ministry of Defence property associated with a Royal Navy Armaments Depot established just before World War Two. From the moment the property was built in the late 1930s to when it was knocked down in 2008, its garden was never tended, cared for or loved. It was merely a space.
The decommissioned Depot is now a nature reserve and the rebuilt Ordnance House is our home. After the rebuild the plot was levelled and most of its top soil removed. What remained was a very blank canvas of sharp draining thin chalky soil. Ventilated by the breezes of the Valley on the edge of which we sit, the plot is open and the main part of the garden entirely south facing.
I created the plan of the garden the moment the sale was agreed. In fact, my wife Vanessa complained that I spent more time outside pacing out the plot’s dimensions than inside viewing the house itself. The plan is based on curves, circles, spheres and balls. There is only one straight dynamic line, a central path along the longest line of sight from one corner of the garden to its furthest point. At the mid-point of this path is a central round planting bed that is the heart of the garden and a key focal point from inside the house. From this all curves ripple out.
Landscaping work on the creation of the garden began in August 2011 with planting carried out through the Autumn and Winter into 2012. The planting plan itself is built around plants that tolerate dry conditions and Lavender in particular thrives here. The colour palette changes from the fresh greens of Spring with intense injections of colour from drifts of Allium Purple Sensation, Mount Everest and Nigrum. Early Summer sees Foxgloves and Thalictrums take centre stage moving into our Lavender season and as the months pass into Autumn, Cone Flowers, Penstemons and Daisies create a prairie-like feel.
Over the years the garden has appeared in many garden magazines in the UK and abroad as well as the odd feature on TV. I was hugely honoured, surprised and humbled to receive an RHS Gold Medal for a competition we entered in May 2020. The ‘My Chelsea Garden’ competition held in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society and the BBC One Show was an initiative to engage Amateur gardeners during the period when the RHS Chelsea Flower Show would have been held had it had not been cancelled. Of the four categories (Back, Front, Indoor and Children’s gardens) our medal was for ‘Back Garden’, a section that we are told received 6,700 entries. The judging panel included Gardeners’ World lead presenter Monty Don, RHS Chelsea Judge James Alexander Sinclair, Sue Biggs (DG of the RHS) and One Show presenter Alex Jones. Receiving the award from Monty Don was a true privilege and one I will always treasure.
At such dark times as these, gardening is an outlet for stress and worry against a backdrop of much sadness in this world. Being outdoors alongside nature as the seasons change is utterly enriching. Physical and mental wellbeing is enhanced. We are lucky to have a garden, many people don’t. We are also fortunate to have taken such an enriching journey and as gardens change, alter and evolve all the time, our journey continues.
Terry Winters, Ordnance House, Wiltshire
Click here for the Ordnance House Plant List