Where the wind blows

Country Life UK|May 27, 2020

Where the wind blows
This coastal garden has woven itself into the landscape with its clever use of wild and cultivated planting, reveals Noel Kingsbury
Noel Kingsbury
THERE is a paradox in British gardening. We pride ourselves on being an island nation and a nation of gardeners, yet there are so few gardens that really embrace the coast. The normal reaction of gardeners who find themselves anywhere near the sea is to plant a big windbreak and carry on activities behind it. This may be understandable: the sea or, more accurately, the winds that sweep over it, are very damaging to a great many of the plants we conventionally grow. Perhaps it also goes against the notion, deep within many of us, that the garden should be somewhere restful and relaxing—often impossible in a strong wind. The sea is also in competition with the garden: the reaction of many people, when faced with the ocean, is to look out at it, and not pay much attention to their immediate surroundings.

'Integrating wild and cultivated, this garden has woven its way into its surroundings'

Jackie and Will Michelmore faced all these issues in 2002 when they moved into their new home, The Lookout, on the Exe estuary. The view is not over open water, but their garden has a long south-westerly fetch for the wind, so they get everything a gale can throw at them. The coming and going of the tide dominates—there is either a stretch of water or a wide expanse of mudflats in view.

Yet although the garden the Michelmores have made does have a shelterbelt, it embraces the coast in a way that is surprisingly rare. In its selection of plants, and its repetition of them, it feels like a very un-British garden (northern Californian, perhaps?), but in the way it integrates garden and landscape, wild and cultivated, natural and managed, this garden has woven its way into its surroundings like no other.

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May 27, 2020