The gardens and woodland at Hillfield Village have gone through somewhat of a transformation in the last 12 months and as I walk around I can really take in the extent of the work that has been carried out by Fine Gardening Services’ Mark Watkins and his team.
There is something for everyone to enjoy, whether it be a leisurely stroll to look at the many plants and trees or follow the woodland trail. Great tangles of brambles have been heaved out of the ground and replaced by velvety lawns, and 20 tons of laurel have been removed from the woodland allowing the light to stream through the trees once more. Landscaping specialist Mark points out an ancient spreading oak which has been given tender care over the winter. We have some very fine trees here, mostly around 250-300 years old – purple and green beech, ginko, lime, oak, ash and holme oak.
The 2-acre woodland is mainly sycamore and here a woodland trail has taken shape. We pick our way through the trees careful not to crush Snowdrop, ferns, even tiny bluebells that are emerging from the woodland floor after a long period of dormancy, before entering the Laurel Tunnel. “We took out the middle and the laurel naturally cascaded over each other,” explains Mark. “A natural tunnel.” The sun shines through the twisting trunks and branches that weave the walls of the walkway. “I like to listen to the green woodpeckers whilst taking my morning coffee break,” says Mark.
Ivy is being cleared from the boundary wall which was built using stone quarried on site and a secret garden door has been revealed. “We found a pond too,” says Mark. “It’s been drained. I imagine it was built in the late 1900s. A nice little secluded spot. Have you seen the Gunnera? It’s the biggest patch I have seen in 20 years of gardening. It’s like The Land of the Giants! Having broken the back of the clearing Mark can get cracking with introducing more colour and scent into the gardens. “Everything does well here,” he notes. “The soil’s free draining and it’s sheltered from the wind”. Next Mark plans to develop the English country theme as well as introducing more specimen trees in pots. He describes a particular Himalayan Birch that when you wash the bark it becomes gleaming white.
It was a pleasure to spend time talking with Mark about the future plans for the gardens and woodland areas, Mark has a real passion for his work and like me, he is looking forward to seeing Hillfield Village in full bloom.