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A few days later, on another warm and sunny, late afternoon, Kel and I visited Briar Bank, the home of Clare Harris and Mark McCormack, down Stockend Lane, just before this divides in two. What is fascinating about this particular garden is that it has been designed to work with the landscape, by being carved in descending layers into the very edge of the escarpment, surrounded by trees, but with several great views peeping through to the west over the Vale to the Malverns, and sideways towards Horsepools Hill. The house itself is set at the top, just below the lane, with several steep steps and various narrow paths leading on and down towards other parts of the garden. The soil here is quite rocky, which is to be expected and also affected by shade from the trees. However, the progress Clare and Mark have achieved since I last visited during a previous Open Gardens event some years ago has been amazing. The wide, sweeping flower beds and banks I last saw in preparation are now mostly fully developed. Wandering around, the impression is created that the garden is a natural flowering glade, out of time and almost organic, on its hidden wooded outcropping.
Clare likes yellows, such as day lilies, and blues and purple. She also likes contrasting foliage, such as ferns and evergreens. Her preferred approach consists of wide, sweeping banks of the same plant, interspersed between the complex of steps and paths criss-crossing the slope down to the fields beyond. Surprisingly, Clare and Mark find that they can grow most things, save for roses, which usually fall victim quickly to predatory deer, which they struggle to keep out. Fortunately, the deer do not seem attracted to their fine, tall verbascums, white hydrangea or a great sweep of pachysandra. This garden also had some interesting sculptures and garden furniture dotted here and there, including some amusing flat, white metal sheep, some ornamental garden chairs and lots of pot plants. Before leaving, while I confess I was sitting enjoying a beer with Mark, Kel took a photograph of Clare holding her favourite trowel and a pair of Japanese secateurs.
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