10 Years in my Garden

It can be magical, inspiring or just plain stupid, to take photos from the same point in your garden over a 10-year period. I recently posted some on social media and had some amazing reactions from people saying they had been inspired to see the changes over the years. So, here is a snapshot across 10 years, taken by me around the pond looking up the back garden.

The first from 2004, the year we moved in, shows a very green be plain plot.

By 2005 I had begun to tidy the area, neatened the edges of the lawn and moved a few shrubs around as well as added a few containers. I started with many new shrubs in containers, giving me the flexibility to place them around the garden until such time as I had a final plan in my head. A new shed didn’t go amiss too as well as a greenhouse and a studio! Not a trained gardener, I simply did what I thought was right for the exposed seaside slope. I have done nothing to improve the chalky ground, not knowing any better. I started to use structures to help get some height as the salt laden winds blow with such force across the garden, doing much damage.

Having appointed a garden designer in 2007, I soon realised that maybe I was better cutting my losses and having-a-go myself. So, in the spring of that year a summer house and new patio went in at the top of the garden. This was much needed as the sloping garden needed a level area upon which to put a table and chairs. I had killed off the lawn and temporarily covered it with bark chip to help create a totally new look until I could afford to move to the next stage.

Geoff Garden 2004,2005 & 2007

A grape vine was put in to cover the shed. 2008 saw more work done around the pond, digging out old shrubs and putting in new. My ultimate aim was to have no exposed soil across the whole garden, requiring me to put as many plants in as I could!

By 2009 it was well stocked and opened up to the public for the very first time, which then inspired me to try and make it look a little different each year by moving plants around and changing the look of the garden rooms I was beginning to create.

In 2010 the exit area from the pond was sealed off with a low wall and created the pond room which has become one of my favourite areas of the garden, a visitor this year, Eileen Wottsford, said “absolutely magical garden, full of original ideas and inspirations.” More plants had gone in around the pond 2 pairs of tall rusted metal arches had helped create some more height and I was beginning to achieve the overall look I was seeking. Every year I just did what felt right, there was never any grand plan, each garden room developed as I went along.

Geoff Garden 2008, 2009 & 2010

In 2011 the area by the shed and beyond the bench were crammed full of plants finally creating the illusion of a garden room. The rapid growth of the grape vine across the shed helped too. This was the year I was accepted into the Yellow Book by the NGS.

By the summer of 2012 the overall garden was really becoming quite special and looking very lush! This year it became one of the 4 finalists in the Daily Mail National Garden Competition as well as the overall winner of the Garden News Best Small Garden in the UK.

Needless to say I was thrilled. Hamish Webb from the Mail said “I’ve seen hundreds of gardens over the 21 years of judging the Daily Mail Competition and believe me, you are up there with the best of them.” Head judge Tim Sharples said “This bright, beach-inspired plot embraces its location with imaginative planting.” I could not believe that my small seaside garden had succeeded in reaching the final of a national competition from over 1500 entries, let alone win outright the Garden News competition. It just goes to show that you can do whatever you put your mind to, despite the challenging elements and lack of knowledge!

Geoff Garden 2011, 2012 & 2013

By 2013 I’d really become little more confident about what I was doing and was keen to show that anything is possible and the garden was featured in the Mail on Sunday too. The range of plants had increased significantly too, with over 500 on show.

2014 was a truly amazing year for the garden, it featured in a French national gardening magazine, 100 Idees Jardin in February, Garden Answers Magazine in May and on Good Morning Britain in July.

 

Geoff Garden 2014

2015 was equally successful with features in the Sunday Telegraph in August and Daily Mail Weekend Magazine in June. You can see above how amazing the garden is looking each summer now. I never fail to be amazed by what visitors say and post on TripAdvisor. It makes me incredibly proud, so never doubt your own ablility to create something special, and just go for it!

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

A blog from Driftwood with a difference!

Most of my blogs are usually about the plants that Driftwood trials for Thompson & Morgan, as one of their Customer Trial Panel gardens, but for a change I thought I’d pen a little bit about the garden’s location and some of the challenges of gardening by the sea!

Driftwood by sea blog

Room with a view

For those not familiar with Driftwood, it’s located between Seaford and Newhaven on the south coast, not that far from Brighton. It’s in the bay you can see, looking out to sea and there is the view from our bedroom window across the fields to the coast. 2015 has seen strong winds, which makes gardening a real challenge through the summer months, keeping the garden pristine for its many garden visitors. Now, as we approach the winter months, there is much to do to put the garden to bed and get it ready for its 15 scheduled openings in 2016, along with its many private visitors and coach parties.

 

It is also quite possible it may appear on a prime time gardening show on national TV too next summer! Watch this space! I like the garden to look a little different each year, as many visitors come back year after year.

Driftwood by sea blog

The central area is still looking quite smart for November, even if it lacks a bit of bright colour. This view across the garden shows a range of lovely shades of green for this time of year!

Driftwood by sea blog

The garden has many different rooms which I have been working on in recent weeks and you can see the 2 rooms on the left of the garden, the cottage garden area in the foreground and the upper patio at the back, tidied up ready for replanting next spring.

Driftwood by sea blog

 

You can see me working on the raised beds in the centre off the garden too, moving plants around to change the overall look. There are 3 Thompson & Morgan blooms looking quite amazing at the moment, they are Rose Garden Party, Alstromeira Peruvian tree Lily and Hydrangea Vanilla Fraise as you can see.

Driftwood by sea blog

 

I’ve got several ball chrysanthemums in the back garden too, but the largest of them was badly hit by the recent winds as you can see. It’s always difficult with the wind so I try and keep the planting as low as possible and create the height with some rusted metal sculptures. If you want to see more on the garden go to Driftwood by Sea.

 

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

An Amazing Year at Driftwood

What an amazing year one of our trial garden owners has had in 2015. Geoff Stonebanks had a triple whammy of a year. Not only did he celebrate the 100th opening of his award winning garden, Driftwood, this month but he also had TV gardener Christine Walkden visit in July, as well as getting his garden featured in The Sunday Telegraph in August. “Not bad” says Geoff “for a small garden (100ft by 40ft) on the south coast.” Geoff’s incredible success does not stop there! He has now seen 12,500 visitors to his patch since 2009 and raised an astonishing £61,500 for charity.

Geoff meeting Christine Walkden

Geoff meeting Christine Walkden

 

While achieving all this, he has been trialling a number of Thompson & Morgan plants over the last 3 years too. Here Geoff tells us of some of his successes in 2015 with some new stock and some old stock. He says “Looking at the new stock of plants, we have had many wonderful comments about the Clematis ‘New Love’ placed in a pot with wire frame. It has flowered profusely throughout the summer and drawn many comments for the visitors.” Rose ‘Sweet Spot® Calypso’ has been greatly admired too with its gorgeous blooms hanging from a pot in the centre of the garden. Another new addition has been the gorgeous Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’, which has looked resplendent in pot under a pear tree, its blooms still glowing in late September. Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ also made a dramatic appearance in Geoff’s garden this summer too with its effervescent blooms brightening up the borders.

Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer'

Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’

 

Geoff came up with a fun idea this summer when a friend offered him an old fireplace surround! He placed it against a new fence, planted up and old dining room chair next to it, placed pots of tumbling petunias on the mantle, and bought an old rusty grate and filled it with Thompson & Morgan Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’. The result has been stunning, not to mention a talking point this summer. Geoff tells us the plant that has been asked about the most by visitors to his garden has been the delicate Fuchsia Arboresens or Mexican blueberry! Geoff had 3 plugs, which he placed in individual terracotta pots and they have come on well and the flowers have started to turn to berries and ultimately edible blueberries! Another crowd stopper has been the lovely petunia green edge pink.

Geoff's garden fireplace and Begonia 'Glowing Embers'

Geoff’s garden fireplace and Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’

 

However, when pushed for the most talked about plant this summer Geoff said, “Without doubt the single most commented on plant is the beautiful Buddleja ‘Buzz™ Magenta’. It has hit people in the face the minute they walk into the garden!”

Many of the plants from previous years are still doing well in the garden like the incredible Gazania ‘Sunbathers Tikal’ which Geoff overwintered in a covered side alley last year and its blooms have been drawing many dragonflies next to the pond this season. Another reliable eye catcher is the Alstromeria Peruvian Tree Lily now in its 3rd year and looking amazing all through the year, now on its second flowering this season. Lewisia ‘Elise Mixed’ which was delivered in 2014 has done extremely well this year in both pink and yellow becoming quite large plants now!

Lewisia 'Elise Mixed'

Lewisia ‘Elise Mixed’

 

Geoff’s garden seems to thrive despite its exposed location and the journalist from the Telegraph, Francine Raymond, wrote in her article, “I was overwhelmed and charmed, and wondered how so many plants have fitted into such a perfectly formed space? Geoff’s enthusiasm is catching and he and his amazing garden deserve every visitor that makes their way up his enchanting garden path.”

So if you are in Sussex in 2016 try and get along to see Geoff’s garden and some of T&M’s as well! You can read some great reviews of it on TripAdvisor too. You might even see Geoff’s helper too! Albert the Battersea rescue terrier.

 

Geoff's dog Albert

Geoff’s dog Albert

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

Driftwood Garden and Thompson & Morgan 2015 Trials!

The year is moving on at a pace and there are only a few weeks to go until the garden gate is opened again for a summer season of fundraising for a number of charities. This year we will open for the National Gardens Scheme, the RNLI, PSPA and Macmillan Cancer Support, a total of 16 public days as well as the visits by appointment too!

For the 3rd year running we will have many Thompson & Morgan plants on show in the garden! The 2 trees we trialled in the first year, the Cox’s Orange Pippin and the Plum Claude Reine have grown a great deal and are full of blossom at the moment. Under the plum tree is one of my new features for 2015, a vintage children’s horse, mounted on a frame to look as though it is vaulting the hedge!

Thompson and Morgan trials

Other plants from the first year’s trial are the Viola Unique Collection which are starting to flower again! Some stunning tulips from 2014 were Silver Parrot which has come back up again this month too. They look quite amazing around the pond area. Late last year I received a lovely Camellia Cupido and it has now flowered with it’s delicate pink flowers. The Clematis New Love also delivered last autumn has found a new home with a lovely wire frame to grow up though and is now positioned beside the pond. I am waiting for the rose sweet calypso to flower, the plant is looking quite healthy.

Thompson and Morgan trials

The new plants for 2015 that have been arriving in recent weeks are sure to get the visitors talking this summer, Last year we saw over 2200 visitors and raised over £16000 for charity and hope to see the same again in 2015. The new arrivals they will be able to see are Osteospermum Blue Eyed Beauty, which although not yet planted out, has started to flower in the greenhouse! The 2 garden ready Lavender Hidcote I received last month are already looking very healthy with new growth too.

Thompson and Morgan trials

The more recent arrivals have yet to show their true colours but are already well established and waiting to be planted out in the coming weeks! Verbena Lollipop, Fuchsia Pink Fizz and Alstromeria Indian Summer. The piece de resistance in the garden this summer, after the vintage horse that is, will be the begonia burning embers which will have pride of place in a new feature at the top of the garden of an old fireplace with mirror above and a rusted grate in which the plants will be put to resemble the glowing fire!

Thompson and Morgan trials

So all in all a great year in prospect! If you want to read more about the garden go to www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

Fuchsia Festival at Driftwood

It’s like a fuchsia festival every summer in my garden! I have been collecting them since inheriting 2 standard specimens from family members, one from my Aunt, Margaret Grindrod, in 2004 (plant pictured in 2005 on left) and one from my father, Ron Stonebanks, in 2007, (plant pictured in  2007 on right).  My own enjoyment of fuchsias has clearly stemmed from these very first two. Dad and Auntie Margaret can be seen, sat together in my courtyard garden in North London, back in 2003 before we moved to Bishopstone, the following year.

fuchsias at driftwood

They had been very keen gardeners themselves, so after their deaths, I needed to make sure the plants did well and lived on in my new garden here on the south coast. Dad’s, I am led to believe is an Empress of Prussia and my Aunt’s a Geneii. My mother tells me that my Dad had bought the standard Empress for their ruby wedding anniversary back in 1990. Today, I still have both their original plants and have since propagated many specimens from them to either sell on when I open for the National Gardens Scheme every summer, or indeed to plant additional specimens in my own amazing garden, Driftwood.

fuchsia winston churchillIn addition to their original plants, I probably now have over 20  different fuchsias and maybe over 50 different plants, a mixture of trailing, standard and bushes both in the ground, in pots or raised beds! Some hardy and some not! They are the perfect addition to my coastal garden and one in particular, Winston Churchill. This variety thrives really well in my front garden, which directly faces the sea and takes the brunt of the salt laden winds we have here! You can see it protected by the upturned railway sleepers acting as wind breaks.

fuchsia festivalThe back garden has been described as an exuberant yet immaculate seaside garden, split into several garden rooms. It has an eclectic palette, creating a layered tapestry of coloured plantings, beautifully integrating wooden and rusted metal features with the landscape. The heavy, dense plantings (over 600 plants) with no lawn and no exposed soil create an illusion of a much bigger garden. Fuchsias delicate and intricate blooms have always drawn attention from the 10000 plus visitors to the garden in recent years. They love a story and to hear the provenance of the plants, so the one to tell of the Empress of Prussia and Geneii, go down very well. In the picture to the left, you can see one of the Geneii here on the left an Empress on the right with magellicana versicolour centre and Quasar and Pink Temptation in the foreground and Riccartonii in the background! To the right, a flower from Empress of Prussia.

 

In 2013 Thompson and Morgan sent me some Duke of Wellington plugs and 3 are doing really well in the garden now and are very easy to grow and seem to cope well with what the weather throws at them here. As is the stunning Quasar that were sent as a trial plant in 2014. Their enormous blooms making a real statement in any garden.  I also inherited some lovely terracotta wall pots from my Aunt as well and each summer I plant them up with two of my favourite fuchsias, Pink Temptation (a bushy, trailing and floriferous fuchsia with bright, fresh looking flowers) and  Lena ( a medium-sized deciduous shrub of open habit ) They seem to flower all summer long and look so dramatic tumbling out over the wall creating a stunning display of mini ballerinas!

fuchsia duke of wellington

That said, another pretty bloom that looks great in wall pots tumbling down is Ballet Girl which I have had in the garden for the last 3 years! It really is amazing the different colour palettes to be had with fuchsias. Another pretty one we’ve had for a few years is Miss California, another that does not seem to mind the weather conditions down here on the coast! A great coloured variety that looks great in any bed, mine are grown in a raised bed and large pot, are Lady in Black with stunning dark flower heads! No matter what the type, the bees seem to love fuchsias and flock to them in the garden each summer.

fuchsia variety

Last summer I decided to create a bed dominated by fuchsias as they just do not let you down with their beautiful, long lasting displays in the garden! The 2 images above are  Ballet Girl and Duke of Wellington. Other beds last summer had  mixes of Riccartonni,  Lady Boothby, Empress of Prussia, and Lady in Black, which looked amazing all through the summer.

fuchsia varietyLast year I bought a new hardy fuchsia, Versicolour Magellicana and put one in the front garden and one in a raised bed in the back garden and both have done really well flowering prolifically until the first frosts! Here you can see it dominate the raised bed with a Quasar and Pink Temptation in the foreground.

I would have no hesitation in recommending fuchsias to any garden owner wanting long lasting and interesting colour in their garden in 2015. There are so many to choose from that there can be no question of not being able to match the colour palette you want to create.

 

So come gardeners across the UK go out and plant some stunning fuchsias for the Thompson & Morgan Fuchsia Festival 2015!

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £61000 for various charities in 6 years, £32300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex.

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