Real gardens: The Old Rectory

Digging up the veg in this potager must be a rather bittersweet experience when every lettuce and tomato is part of such a marvellous picture. This vegetable patch might be far more than just functional, but it still keeps the owners of the Old Rectory, Tony and Ann Huntingdon, supplied with plenty of crisp, immaculate veg.

There are many different parts to this garden, but I’m pretty sure F&F readers will fall head over heels in love with the glorious potager that the famous kitchen garden designer Rosemary Verey designed for the Huntingdons in the 1980s. The beds are arranged around a central rose arbour, and are edged with box. But it is what happens in those beds that is so marvellous. You won’t find poker-straight ranks of vegetables here: instead the gardeners plant the plot in geometric shapes using texture and colour for contrasts.

‘The potager gives its own enormous pleasure because there is so much thought put into form and texture and compatibility of plants; yet we do eat almost everything we grow,’ says Ann. ‘In this part of the garden it must be pretty immaculate too.’

What is striking about this kitchen garden is the way Verey has blended some very formal elements such as clipped box hedges, standard bay trees and smart brick paving with wild bits: roses spill over arches, chives bloom in fat drifts, and sweet peas clamber over lovely hazel arches. But there have been some sticking points. ‘I did find it very difficult to combine flowers with the fruit and vegetable growing,’ admits Ann. ‘So that is kept to a minimum.

And if you ever, ever tired of the potager, you would also find standard-trained white wisterias, a rose circle, and rare trees and shrubs including Cornus controversa variegata, birches, Northofagus obliqua, and a large collection of hellebores, which are one of Ann’s great passions.

‘In general, we like to think of it as a pretty and peaceful place to be,’ she says. ‘It is to be enjoyed as much as appreciated for its unusual plants and trees.’

You can visit the Old Rectory Gardens to gain more inspiration from this incredibly stylish veg plot. Click here to visit the website.

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One Response

  1. Nancy Stone

    Thank you for this inspiration. I’m doing my part by making new beds and keeping the soil hauling men in business. Some new raised beds I’m putting in will have some good looking vegetable arrangements come summer. Having famous designers and staff also give these gardens that glorious impression.


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