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Jill's Jots

Less is more .....

How many times have I read this phrase in various publications and it has never really struck home as much as when I went to visit Tony Ridler's garden. Tony hails from Swansea and lives in the middle of a row of terraced houses and his garden is situated behind these. It is also home to his graphic design workshop so in many ways acts as his 'shop window'. Tony has semi retired from the business but his garden remains a testament to his passion for simplicity, not that that means boring, far from it in Tony's case. Originally when he first started the garden he followed the more traditional formula of herbaceous borders filled with a wide range of plants in a cottagey style but was never truly satisfied. Then one day he just decided to rip it all out and start again in a much more composed formal way. He had long been an admirer of Sir Roy Strong and his use of topiary and the clipped form, seeing his garden was one of his inspirations. The other inspiration he gives is York Gate in Yorkshire which is on my wish list to visit.

Tony Ridler's garden 2

You enter the garden through a rather unassuming metal back gate and immediately you are transported to another world: a world where order, straight lines, clipped forms and green are the predominant elements. The space is divided into a series of enclosures but you are given tantalising glimpses through from one to the next. Tony made me smile when he said his grandchildren like to play 'shop' using one of the 'windows' and I could fully understand! Ornaments are used but are not allowed to dominate, I think my favourite must be the stroking stone which sits in a weathered stone basin in the middle of a path. It's so smooth and tactile and very calming , and picks up the warmth of the sun. The use of foliage of all sorts is also so inspiring, ferns contrasting against more solid greens. By now, you are probably thinking 'it is all green' but this is far from the case. Tony just uses colour in a controlled way to highlight rather than to dominate. One such case is Astrantia 'Gill Richardson' and a hardy geranium used in combination to fill one bed. Another is Geum 'Prinses Juliana' in a large drift - definitely less is more and it shows a tremendous strength of character to limit yourself in this way. In the vegetable area, yes there is one, the colour orange dominates with pot marigolds a particular favourite.

Tony Ridler's garden 3 Tony Ridler's garden 6

Tony has had to adapt as box blight has not left him alone and his beloved planting of 'Morris Minor' box is no more. But Tony sees this as an opportunity to experiment, to try out a new planting rather than as a loss. Optimism rules in this space. Large metal cubes with a toothed design cut from lead sheet make very simple, practical planters. Grandchildren again like to tease him by turning up the corners of the points - definitely frowned upon! But it is not just the garden that inspired me as Tony asked us to stop for a cuppa and in the Quiet Room he had arranged a single rose with complimentary foliage, which just framed and emphasised the view through the window to the tapestry of green outside. He is just such a lovely chap to talk to and within a few moments of meeting him you feel as if you had known him for years. The garden just has that personal, intimate, passionate feel, a place to think, to find a sense of balance and a real oasis in a busy world. He still has one more area to design and funnily enough it is the area nearest the house, this is proving difficult as it also needs to contain the washing line - so in the end it all comes down to basics!

Tony Ridler's garden 4

The garden is sometimes open under the National Garden Scheme.