FEATURE: Mount Bures gardener's delight after national competition success
Sarah Rayner has always had an eye for detail, having honed her skills as a visual merchandiser.
This creative skill set was transferred to landscape gardening, which has recently earned her second place in a prestigious national competition.
Drawing inspiration from various platforms, Sarah has thought methodically about outdoor space on her farm in Hall Road, Mount Bures, where she has created a tranquil setting through ‘garden rooms’.
She has mastered the art of topiary through the use of boxed hedges, which involves meticulous pruning to maintain their shape.
Another section – dubbed the secret garden by younger members of Sarah’s family – is accessible through an arched yew hedge, which leads to a shaded area full of acer trees, ferns and euphorbia plants.
Although each section involves careful planning, the design is a constant learning process.
“It doesn’t take long to design, but, with gardening, it’s trial and error,” explains Sarah.
“You need to work out what position plants should be in.”
Another majestic area is the fairy garden and stumpery, which is similar to a rockery, but has been created from parts of dead trees.
“Prince Charles has a stumpery at one of his estates,” says Sarah, who had to adapt the idea on a much smaller scale.
“Obviously, his is very spectacular, and I only have a small space to create something similar.”.
Another archway, crafted from dead wood, leads into a charming grotto, but the magic does not stop there ... within the fairy haven are several six-inch doors, which are often overlooked by less perceptive visitors.
“They are very subtle,” says Sarah.
One of the garden rooms caters for wildlife, with a bug hotel crafted from old pallets.
“I created a little habitat for hedgehogs in the hope that we would have some in the garden,” says Sarah, who chose a sheltered outdoor space to house the animal sanctuary.
Being located in such a rural spot, surrounded by fields, enables Sarah to take in the breathtaking landscape from her garden.
“The decking looks out over the bank and it’s beautiful to watch the sun set. It’s west facing, so you see those beautiful views of the Colne Valley,” she explains.
Reclaimed materials and recycled objects have been incorporated in the garden, including a mill stone wheel to provide a plinth for a statue of Buddha.
Car boot sales are often ideal places for uncovering unusual objects, providing Sarah with a stock-pile for when an idea comes to light.
After a long day on the farm caring for five horses, the 47-year-old relishes the time working on the garden.
“It’s very therapeutic, it keeps you active and grounded,” she said. “It frees your mind.”
Following a visit from a panel of judges from Garden Answers magazine, Sarah was shortlisted in the Gardeners’ Garden 2018 competition and was awarded second prize.
“I was chuffed to bits,” says Sarah. “I was really pleased to be selected in the final four, so this was the icing on the cake.”
Liz Potter, editor of Garden Answers, who took part in judging, said: “The standard of entries was really high, so getting through to the shortlist for judging was a real achievement.
“We were looking for a garden that combined exciting planting with good design ideas, a fusion of gardening skill with plant knowledge and a sense of style.
“Thanks to her clever design skills, Sarah’s garden flows seamlessly from one outdoor room to the next.
“She has made excellent use of her landscape location, framing beautiful views to bring them into the garden.
“Her creative flourishes add a level of style and personality that really impressed us.”