Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Why I Love NGS Knitson Old Farmhouse

Nestled snuggly in the Purbecks, is Knitson Old Farmhouse, owned by Rachel Helfer.

Rachel, who has spent the last 50 years developing her garden, has filled it with the most wonderful collections of perennials and shrubs, all living cheek by jowl 

The seating area at the top of the garden, where she serves the most delicious cream teas with homemade jam, is surrounded by a rockery filled with plants and affords some welcome shade from a large Tulip tree. 

All the old Purbeck stone used in the rockeries and paths are reclaimed from building work done to the interior of the old farmhouse.

The garden is on a gentle slope leading down to her orchard where she keeps a couple of sheep, hens, ducks and guinea fowl, which she says helps keep down the slugs and woodlice population.

When you reach the orchard, tiptoeing through the plants which spill onto the paths, past an old bench covered in the most wonderfully textured lichen, you reach a moon gate, built by Rachel's daughter and son-in-law in 2003. I imagine, sitting in the garden at dusk when the moon rises, especially at the summer solstice, and seeing it through the moon gate, would be quite magical.

                                                    I love this bench. Not safe to sit on but a thing of beauty


Perennials are my favourite plants and this garden didn't disappoint me, with poppies, irises, geums, kniphofia, aquilegia, every plant you would expect to see in a cottage garden and more. All planted in a cohesive jumble and not an inch of soil to be seen.

A path, which straddles the width of the garden, leads to the most beautifully arranged organic vegetable garden I have seen.

The raised beds are constructed out of railway sleepers, piled two high and are in triangles, just wide enough for you to reach into the middle of the bed, from either side. Willow has been woven in an artisan way, to create a hurdle to edge the beds.

The kitchen garden enables Rachel and her family to be self sufficient in vegetables and fruit which is no mean feat and who would have thought that the Purbecks had the perfect microclimate for growing kiwi fruit?

I have been very inspired by the triangular beds kitchen garden and come winter, my small plot is getting a makeover.

                                                                                  Wonderful raised beds

Whilst I was there, eating my jam and clotted cream scones, I could hear the whistle from the steam train, as it arrived at Herston Halt and it felt like you could be back in the 50's. It really is the most idilic garden and I can see myself visiting it many more times, not just to see the fabulous plants but to soak up the restful atmosphere of this garden.

Rachel opens her garden for the NGS and also to visitors by appointment, details on the NGS website or in Yellow Book.

                                                         National Garden Scheme Knitson Old Farmhouse

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