Brooke Cottage

by Val Dawson 

The joy of garden gazing in the Cheshire countryside is the element of anticipation - then surprise. With my handy Yellow Book Guide and regardless of what that nice weather lady, Eno, on BBC North West tonight says (yes, the one with those amazing shoes) off we go.

Gardens are for all seasons and, don’t forget, the added bonus, a gazebo , garage or village hall where you can shelter and consume scrumptious home-made cakes and scones, endless cups of tea…these jaunts are not recommended by Weightwatchers… Brooke Cottage is tucked away in Handforth, off the main Wilmslow road and behind the Health Centre. When I arrived at 3pm one NGS Open Sunday visitor numbers were up to 340 for the week-end and rising.

Joining the queue I managed to have a few words with owners, Melanie Davy, who was on admission duty whilst husband, Barry, wandered casually about his delightful, densely planted and imaginatively designed triangular plot.

They moved to Brooke Cottage in 1996, with no gardening skills. Barry was teaching full-time but his subjects, Botany and Biology, were to direct him down another path. Having dug one bed the bug hit, he was hooked.

He studied Garden Design through the RHS and City and Guilds courses. Friends asked for garden advice and word soon spread. Though he loved teaching it had become too bureaucratic and his passion for plants and garden design took over.

In 2006 he gave up his career and started his own business “Planting Ideas” There has certainly been no shortage of ideas in his own garden. Many gardens suggest a theatrical event. A profusion of plants greets the audience as the path winds past the front door, under the mass of ivy which snakes over an old brick wall.

Act I takes you through the arch and into the small woodland garden. High hedges screen the road and magnificent, cool greens of tree ferns, hydrangea and bamboo create a mini rainforest. I’m eager to see round the next corner.

Act II Wow, we have hosta heaven in Handforth! Thanks to Brian’s killer instinct he has pots of these superb specimens – an d only one hole - late night hunting is the answer to remove those pesky pests.

Yes, he admits to using slug pellets – on 14 February each year – on top before the shoots appear. In the tiny rear courtyard area containers are constantly used but invisible. Here lillies stand bold and bright…with more superb hostas crowding round and asking for applause.

Through another inviting gate Act III reveals an eyeful of colour and movement in the hidden herbaceous border – Persicarias, Ligularia, Astilbes and graceful grasses with a punch of firey Crocosmia.

My favourite, Hydrangea, creamy white, Annabelle surveys the hot heads and cools things down.

There is so much to take in – after nine years of NGS opening many hundreds of people have enjoyed this charming and exuberant corner of Cheshire. Just time for a much needed cuppa. Planting Ideas 01625 536511 (Ask for Barry) How to get there: Postcode SK9 3LT