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History of Hopleys Garden

Hopleys was purchased in 1963 by David & Barbara Barker at which time the garden was basic and restricted to the area where the car park is now.

Many large trees surrounded the seven acre property, but as these were mainly elm, they have long since gone. A few large oaks remain on the North perimeter as well as a huge common ash tree (currently the fourth largest in the country measuring over 100ft high and 17ft girth). Cables in the crown are designed to prevent the loss of large boughs as the tree stands in a windy location.

The parkland setting in rolling countryside lent itself to island beds laid out in an informal style, inspiration coming largely from Alan Blooms Dell Garden in Norfolk. Conifers, shrubs and roses were the mainstay of the planting.

The soil is neutral - a good layer of loam over clay. However, the garden is in an exposed situation making it windy and cold in Winter. No watering is done in the garden despite a low average annual rainfall.

The pond was dug in 1980 and much hilarity was had laying out the butyl liner on a bed of wet ash and newspaper on a particularly windy day! The result of having water in the garden brought much new wildlife and scope for marginal planting. (The health and safety executive forced us to put the fencing around the perimeter!). The annual general meeting of the frog and toad community ensure both the nursery and garden have active natural pest control.

A three-quarter acre field was purchased from neighbours in 1985 which has allowed us to improve the driveway access onto the site as well as giving us extra parking for 100 cars - often needed when the garden is open on charity days.

The gales in the Autumn of 1987 caused a lot of damage with many trees both large and small being lost. Amazingly, two variegated Spanish chestnuts which were lying horizontally were rescued.

The nursery production area is situated at the end of the garden, and to protect the view from the garden an avenue of fastigiate hornbeams were planted in 1996 and are developing nicely. These are spaced in converging rows and varying separation so as to increase the perspective.

Changes in the type of plants grown in the nursery naturally started to show in the garden which has become a useful collection of stock plants. Thus many more perennials both hardy and half-hardy are grown. The garden has also been a useful trial ground for the many hundreds of new plants collected over the years from all over the world.

Several new beds were added and others altered in shape to create the oval lawn in 1997 in order to give the garden a more coordinated design. Also beds have been made larger with paths and secret hiding places which are fun for children of all ages. Care has been taken not to develop the concert lawn on the South side of the property not only because this would spoil the view from the house, but we use this lawn as the picnic area during our annual charity evenings!

The trees planted over 20 years ago are now becoming established although many more have been planted recently. However, the gales in November 2002 caused considerable damage to many trees in the garden with the huge beech tree next to the pond being the main casualty. Fortunately it didn't fall into the recently renovated pond, although many beds were flattened. An oak tree snapped off 6ft from the ground and landed on our shade structure completely destroying it, and significant branches were broken off a Judas Tree, Catalpa, Blue Cedar, Nothofagus, Prunus and Ash. Luckily most of the newly planted trees survived undamaged. Another gale in January 2004 felled the large Chestnut tree at the top of the Avenue, so more replanting to be done here soon.

The area of the garden surrounding the Nursery Sales Area has been planted and a new bed to show off Winter stem colours has recently been planted.  Come and see our new copper water feature.

There are many more plans afoot to alter and extend - if only there was more time!


Revised: 03/03/16

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