The Down House - Fagus Gardening

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The Down House

We were  warmly welcomed to The Down House by Jackie and Mark Porter, with Mark  proudly sporting his RHS medal having recently been elected a member of  Council.  They bought the house and garden in 2001, which is surrounded  by fields and meadows and overlooks the Itchen Valley.  Chris Beardshaw  was invited to draw up the original plans, which have been modified over  the years, the most significant of which has been the addition of a  vineyard and pleached hornbeams surrounding the main lawn.

I  was very taken by the potager, created by using the framework of  hawthorn standards inside a semi-circle of native hedge species, and  laid out on a triangular system.  What particularly struck me were the  many varieties of boldly-coloured vegetables, such as red onions, green  cos and red curly lettuce, artichokes, runner beans, squash, green and  purple French beans, red cabbages, rhubarb chard, dark red kale and  courgettes to name but a few.

In  the rope/gold garden there were climbing roses up and through thick  swagged ropes, and was created to the memory of Gertrude Jekyll  The  planting is predominantly yellow/gold and rugby/magenta with cornus alba  ‘Aurea’, weigela ‘rubidor’, alchemilla mollis and cupressus macrocarpa  ‘goldcrest’.

There  was a lot of interesting statuary in the garden, and I loved the young  girl in repose on a garden bench which had been sculpted in a hard  metal.  Also very striking was a large architectural greenhouse on one  side of the drive approaching the house, where a great deal of young  plants and vegetables are raised from seed every year.  

The  Down House garden is a series of ‘rooms’, too many to describe here in  any detail but an absolute feast of colour and variety.  After being  assailed on all fronts by form, colour, variety and many different  planting styles, it was a delight to walk out of the gate and down  through very English meadows and watch the swan on the river below.

Felicity Pine.
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