Yorkshire Gardens - Ellerker House, Everingham, near Pocklington
PUBLISHED: 20:52 02 September 2013 | UPDATED: 20:52 02 September 2013
A gardener's work is never done, as Jo Haywood discovers in East Yorkshire
They say if you want something done, ask a busy person. An apposite phrase if ever there was one for the tireless work Roz Los has put into her garden.
She arrived at Ellerker House in Everingham, near Pocklington in East Yorkshire, 22 years ago to find a dark, dingy, overgrown mass of trees. She had three young sons and her own business – Steads of York in Goodramgate – to take care of, but she plunged in, hoe in hand, regardless.
‘There wasn’t a garden as such, just woodland,’ Roz explained. ‘My time was limited but I just gradually worked my way round. I don’t like taking trees out for the sake of it, especially in a conservation area like this where some are more than 400 years old, but they were declining and suffering because they were so overcrowded.’
So she set about landscaping her five acre-plot, while keeping a further 11 acres as a less structured woodland, planted with bluebells and rhododendrons. The resulting garden is a delightful melange of traditional topiary, rose arches, teeming beds and shady waterside walks.
The water in question is actually an old marl pond, dating back over 350 years. It was massively overgrown when Roz and her family first arrived, and she let it be while her boys were small to keep them safe away from the murky depths.
‘It’s taken me years and years to clear a way round the marl pond, but now it’s one of my favourite parts of the garden,’ she said. ‘The water reflects the colours of the seasons. So when the daffodils emerge it shines like gold.’
She’s created a winding path round the water using fallen oak branches and an astonishing stumpery that looks artistic and intriguing enough to scoop the Turner Prize.
These loose, informal areas are the perfect counterpoint to the more manicured lawns and beds, which provide an abundance of colour. Although it must be the right colour in the right place.
‘I can’t bear colours to be muddled up,’ said Roz. ‘Everything has to match in my garden. If the wrong colour daffodil pops up, I take it out. I also don’t like straight lines. Everything must be undulating and curvy.’
She readily admits to indulging in a lot of overplanting to ensure a carpet of colour from March to November. But this is not just for her pleasure. Roz opens her garden to the public on special fundraising days for The National Gardens Scheme, which currently gives away around £2.5 million a year to nursing, caring and gardening charities.
‘When I first opened the garden I panicked that it wasn’t perfect, but people genuinely don’t seem to see the imperfections,’ she said. ‘They always comment on how lovely and peaceful the garden is.
‘Although I suspect the tea and homemade cakes help too.’
If the weather’s good, Roz and her family have been known to serve tea and cake to around 300 visitors. They also cater for up to 30 private group visits a year.
This is, of course, on top of the endless hours needed every week to keep the garden in tip-top shape.
‘It’ll never be finished, so I’ll never be able to put my feet up,’ said Roz. ‘But that’s fine because I love it. And I’m not alone: I have Nigel who’s worked with me for 15 years, my partner Michael who lends a hand; and the boys help out by cutting the grass – a five or six-hour job in itself.
‘Most often it’s just me out here though. My children have always and will always come first, but the garden does take up most of my time.
‘ Even on horrible November days, I’m out here getting stuck in.’
Next on her never-ending to-do list is a Mediterranean patio by the house and a complete redesign of the orchard to open it up and give it a haunting faux ruined feel with an artfully placed tumbled down wall.
‘I’ve not had any training,’ said Roz. ‘I just do what feels right in the space I have. And if I make mistakes, that’s fine. I can just replant and move on.’
To find out more about visiting Ellerker House, go to ellerkerhouse.weebly.com, call Roz Los on 01430 861465 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The next NGS open day is on October 6th, but private visits can be arranged all year round.