VISTORS to an East Devon garden will be able to enjoy stunning views and planting, a wildlife haven and help to raise funds for charity.
The garden at Little Ash Bungalow, at Fenny Bridges near Honiton, is the creation of Helen Brown, who was the judges' choice in the prestigious BBC Gardener of the Year 2009 competition.
The self-confessed plantaholic, who works at the Forestry Commission, has developed a haven for wildlife which is just bursting with late summer colour and buzzing with insects.
The garden has been developed over the past 13 years and has mixed tree, shrub and herbaceous borders filled with unusual plants; a pond and natural stream, with shady woodland area. It has been designed to blend into the countryside beyond and enjoys a glorious view towards East Hill and the River Otter.
Helen says she just loves to be outside and finds working in the garden very relaxing.
"It really helps me to unwind after a day in the office. I like to listen to the birds and watch bees working the flowers while I'm weeding," she said. "I'm afraid housework goes by the board in favour of the garden, but luckily my husband is very long suffering and doesn't complain too often."
The long borders (one is 80m) are colour co-ordinated, moving from cool blues and mauves through warm pinks to hot orange, yellow and red and back again. But Helen stresses that leaf colour, form and texture are just as important as flowers in the interesting and unusual plants she loves to source, and find homes for in the garden, conserving them for the future.
A natural looking stream flows into a pebble bordered lily pond with a welcoming rock to sit upon and contemplate. Here, dragon and damsel flies dart over the water, and if Helen does sit in the garden, this is the most likely spot.
"The pond is great for insect watching, whether it's honey bees coming to drink, or the water boatmen whizzing around. It's always busy," she says.
"My other hobby is photography, and a garden full of plants and insects provides me with great opportunities to get the camera out."
Husband Brian is a farmer; which comes in very useful with the tractor available for hedge trimming, bringing in stone, moving heavy objects and taking the grass clippings which won't fit in the compost bin to the farm muck heap.
"He's great with a chainsaw for the heavy pruning too," Helen laughs.
The mixed shrub and herbaceous borders are thickly planted, with little space for weeds to show through.
Helen says she prefers to see plants rather than soil.
"My theory is to get full perennial coverage in the borders by the end of May. This means that as the canopy grows over, I only really need to pull out what dares to raise its head among the flowers," she adds.
"Another reason I leave little bare soil is those banes of country gardens, the rabbits. They will just dig if there is a space. Many plants are regularly chewed off, and I cannot grow wallflowers other than near the house, as they seem to be particular delicacy.
"I've tried various things, from the smelly green gel to keep pets off the garden, to deodorant, but there are so many that there's always something being nibbled or dug up."
Helen works three days a week, but she spends any spare moment in the garden. The garden is open twice a year for the National Gardens Scheme, but she also takes garden clubs and groups for private visits between June and September.
The one-and-a-half-acre garden situated just off the A30, three miles west of Honiton, and is open for the NGS on Sunday, August 18, from 1.30pm to 5.30pm.
Admission is £3.50, children free, with light refreshments and plants for sale, dogs on leads are welcome.