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The Dew Pool

October 1, 2019

Hiding in a suburban street in North Somerset, a stone's throw from one of the busiest motorways in the South West is an absolute oasis of joy. An ancient dew pool, originally used to quench cattle's thirst, has been transformed into a paradise garden.

Owners Margaret Ann & Ian have spent 50 years developing what had become a rubbish tip for old prams and rubble into a dream garden, opening their gates for many years welcoming visitors and raising money for the National Garden Scheme.

Margaret Ann is a painter and her grasp of colour and form transposes into her garden design. It certainly is an artists' garden and a great source of inspiration.

I have been working for Margaret Ann and Ian since October 2016 and I never forget our first meeting. I was working for a neighbour over the road and suddenly Margaret Ann appeared and said 'Are you a gardener? I mean, are you a proper gardener...do you know about plants?" And we've been great friends ever since.

Gardening had become impossible for Margaret Ann due to health reasons so help was needed. Incredibly frustrating to be an avid gardener who is struggling to garden, so we put the world to rights through chatting about gardening and discussing plants and jobs that need doing.

 

Never say age is an issue with gardening; at ninety years old Ian still mows the lawns, tends to the veg patch and is up trees picking apples! A healthy outdoors life has paid dividends.

It certainly is a garden for all seasons. Every time I visit I am in awe of the continual plant  metamorphosis. The garden has me under a spell! The Fall brings a kaleidoscope of colours as the acers and native maples turn.

 

The further most reach of the garden has a woodland feel and is an arboretum to many trees such as Acer psuedoplantus 'Brilliantissimum,' Acer palmatum which turns bright red in autumn, various brightly coloured and scented witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis), a stunning magnolia, lilac, hawthorn, fig and apple trees.

Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, carpet the rear lawn from winter to spring, nodding their dainty heads, hinting at the forth coming season.

Moving into spring the magnolia buds burst into the skyline and what a spectacle that is.

When Margaret Ann and Ian first bought the house the bottom of the garden was part owned by the local council. The former dew pool was derelict and being in-filled with rubbish. As they were surrounded by diseased Dutch Elms Margaret Ann and Ian agreed to pay for the tree's removal in exchange for the land. They set about transforming the chaotic site in to a horticultural delight.

 

Native trees now line the garden's backdrop alongside apple trees, ferns and an impressive rose collection.

 

By definition a dew pool's water source is collected from dew but here it was filled naturally by an underground spring but local construction work altered the course of the spring and the pool now had a tendency to run dry.

'One summer the pond dried up completely.' says Ian 'The solution was to install a waterfall. The rest of it dries up in summer so we top it up if we have garden visitors. It takes thousands of gallons of water to fill it just over four feet so we don't fill it very often! But all the water is recycled rainwater. There is several feet of mud at the bottom of the pond which houses frogs, toads and newts while dragonflies are frequent visitors above ground.'

Using stone from what was originally a pigsty on the land Ian made a separate elevated netted pool which was built to host fish safely away from a zealous heron that had already poached many prized fish but the stonework proved a little too popular with the local slugs and snails!

 

"I planted it all up from cuttings,' says Margaret Ann. 'And later had a bridge built to provide access from one side to another. Previously there had just been an old tree trunk that didn't quite reach the other side.' 

 

So they contacted a local college and a civil engineering student was excited to take on the project. He made a scale model of the bridge and then constructed it in the garden. On the strengthen of the project the student gained a place at university.

Many plants enjoy moist roots around the pond such as persicaria, Sagittaria sagittifolia  (arrowhead), marsh marigold and astilbes. hostas and ferns adorn the pond sides surrounded by clumps of iris, primroses, cowslips, lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and bulrushes.

 

"We wade into the pond every year to clear it out and clean the water filers once a week. We have to repot the water plants in special pots. We use compost that doesn't get absorbed into the water as well as putting sacking at the bottom to prevent fish disturbing the root ball,' says Margaret Ann.

 

'Bulrushes have thick roots that have to be cut out to thin. My husband tried to pull them out but he ended up in the pond!'

For me personally I think one of the most impressive features the garden holds is the incredible spectrum of green that makes up the rich tapestry of this garden. I like to call it fifty shades of green! Every hue imaginable develops throughout the year and emits calm.

The clay soil is slightly acidic which allows for a spectacular display of azaleas, camellia and rhododendrons in the front garden as well as boasting sweet smelling philadelphus (Mock Orange), Leycesteria formosa (Himalayan honeysuckle), Choisya ternata.