Oasis of calm in the heart of the city...
THIS magical garden at Ambra Vale, Cliftonwood, will be open to the public under the National Garden Scheme this month. The terraced stone Victorian town house is just above Holy Trinity Church, Hotwells.
At one time, the communal back gardens stretched the length of the street, but as the houses were sold, the site was split into separate private gardens, all of which are a different style and shape to fit into the awkward space between Ambra Vale at the front and Ambrose Road at the rear.
The current owner has lived at the property for 22 years and has a strong interest in art and design, as can be seen from the quirky pieces of art throughout the garden.
The garden once comprised a mix of mature trees and shrubs and a rather poor lawn, but has been lovingly nurtured over the years. It is now packed with many different types of plant – and no lawn.
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If you are a fan of neat borders and tidily trimmed shrubs, this garden is probably not for you.
This veritable oasis in the centre of the city is accessed through a hidden door at the rear of the garden. On the left is a church window festooned in ivy, while to the right is a deep ochre red wall over which a boston creeper clambers, together with an evergreen climbing hydrangea, with its frothy umbellifer flowers.
The pathway is framed by two exotic spiky yuccas and a bright lime green leaved chocolate vine cascades down the fence.
On a small shelf below a trellis interwoven with a Chilean potato climber, is a random arrangement of shells and pebbles – one of many quirky features.
An aged antique metal gate leads up to a grey slate patio with a delicate metal dining table and chairs – an ideal spot for al fresco dining. From the swing seat is a view beyond the tower of Holy Trinity church, Hotwells, towards the woods and hills of the Ashton Court estate.
This view is reminiscent of a classical Italian landscape, and we can only hope for weather to match.
This patio was built on top of the garage roof and effectively doubles the space in this small garden.
Old chimney pots and large planters contain an assortment of exotic and familiar plants, while a clematis montana tumbles down the old stone wall.
At one corner of this patio is an odd fishpond created from an old zinc bath and fed from a tap splashing from above. Planted with reeds, horsetail, lobelia and marsh buttercups, the pond is home to a couple of goldfish and many local frogs. Nearby, an antique Chinese staircase is home to a variety of bright planted pots.
Just round the corner, beyond the willow screens, is a pretty wrought iron pavilion, where the scent of roses that twine through it makes this an inviting place to linger. Hidden away behind some willow hurdles is the fernery, at the centre of which a large tree fern presides. Down two stone steps, the long border contains more exotic planting, with a foxglove tree, bergenias and black bamboo.
Opposite, across the mosaic and slate path which leads to the house, is another more formal pond, also containing frogs and fish, with a backdrop of lush ferns.
Next to the pond is the grasses border, containing black grass, pheasant grass, bronze grass and zebra grass, mixed with yellow and orange poppies and tall stems of blue verbena. A stone moon-gazing hare sits hidden in among the grassy fronds.
At this end of the garden, nearest the house, a delicate metal plant stand is home to a variety of small and frilly flowering plants, while a bolder style prevails on the patio itself.
A banana, a beautifully veined leaf begonia and an assortment of pelargoniums, colourful salvias and heucheras complete the picture, with a backdrop of an ancient grapevine growing against the house wall.
A large bay tree shades a corner bench beside which a lion's head spouts water into the basin below.
This is a true oasis in the city, containing several different places to stop and sit and enjoy the garden and its restful atmosphere – so do come and enjoy it with us.
The garden is open Saturday and Sunday, June 23-24, 1-6pm. Admission is £3.50, children free. Proceeds to NGS charities. Entrance is on Ambrose Road next to Ambrose Villas. Parking is extremely limited and the garden is not suitable for wheelchair users. See www.ngs.org.uk for details of other gardens in the area open under the NGS.
To contact Sue, call 0117 944 2432, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.