Art in the garden- a visit to Cathy’s glorious plot.

When Cathy Lyon-Green wanted a garden room – she set to and built it herself. "Building really is as simple as laying one brick on top of another- and checking the levels regularly." And the result is stunning- a pink painted summerhouse with grey windows and pretty pantile roof. It's the perfect place to sit and survey Cathy's extraordinary garden.

Readers might recognise Cathy's name from the popular meme In a Vase on Monday and Rambling in the Garden blog. I've enjoyed joining in with the meme for about a year, so when I saw Cathy's garden would be open for the National Garden Scheme for the first time, I couldn't resist a visit. Mum and I were in for a real treat. Everything about Cathy's garden is out of the ordinary. There's a surprise around every corner. Quite honestly, I got out my notebook and started writing down ideas for my own plot. We loved these photo canvasses which brighten up the garden walls.

We spotted these pretty metal plant supports with jewel-like flowers.

Simple ideas are often best, and we loved finding little painted stones around the garden. Some said, empathy – peace, and love. Mum and I pondered what our stones might say. Mum said "giving," and "caring." Mine would say "sharing," and "loyalty." Doesn't it make you think.

You never know what you are going to find next in Cathy's garden. Nestled against the shed wall we found this character. Mum and I had an argument as to whether it was a male or a female of the species. We both agreed it was friendly though.

We thought this beautiful metal sculpture reminded us of wild flowers and cow parsley in particular.

These two birds on top of the garden wall made us laugh. Are they pigeons or crows? We couldn't decide. Just about everything in the garden sparks a debate. It's all a talking point.

I am always looking for new ideas- especially if they save money. So I loved this idea for a cane- topper. It's a painted wooden cube. So simple, but is a brilliant way to protect eyes, and make a statement. The cubes were in bright fuchsia pink and purple shades. They looked gorgeous contrasting with the lime green leaves, and popping up through the cottage garden flowers.

I might copy this idea on my cut flower and veg plot. The plant supports would also be a good idea to hold up the netting over the cabbages etc.

For once, Mum and I were in total agreement on something. This message.

It's always lovely to see items saved and re-purposed in the garden. We loved this little stained glass window set into one of the garden walls.

We found plenty of places to sit and relax in the garden. This cosy seat is enveloped in a pink planting scheme of astrantia, geranium and alliums. We loved the little green checked cushions which were a feature on all benches and seats throughout the garden.

And finally, after much backtracking and going round the garden several times to make sure we hadn't missed anything, we found the terrace in front of the garden room that Cathy describes as her sitooterie.

"I have always 'made' things, and if something is needed, I will want to make it if at all possible. I built my first low brick wall about 40 years ago, but my great interest in bricklaying was well and truly kick-started when we were constructing the extension in 1998 and I have created many more opportunities to continue bricklaying since then. The opportunity for the sitooterie came about when we dismantled the original greenhouse that was on the site. "

I asked Cathy how long it had taken her to create the garden. "We didn't really do anything in the garden except cut the grass until about 2000, then gradually we began reducing the grass by creating beds over the next few years, before coming to a standstill when work well and truly got in the way. Listening to my heart instead of my head and retiring in 2011 was when I was able to focus on the garden as a whole and consolidate or improve on what had been done up until then. There was still no overall plan, and many of the best ideas were created as a response to something that just wasn't working, or something that would otherwise have been a waste- such as the shrub border which came about because our neighbour was filling a skip with topsoil!"

We can report back that the home-made cakes were all delicious and Cathy's helpers Janet and Chris made us feel very welcome. We sat for quite a long time, making mental notes of all the planting combinations we loved and all the little touches that made this such an inspirational garden. Driving home, we kept saying to each other "and did you notice that……," and "what about that……." But neither of us could say how big the garden was because it was so deceptive. The little paths twist and turn through shady fern- filled corners and out into a stream- filled glade. We looked on the NGS website when we got home and it stated- one third of an acre. The blurb also says 'Plant-lovers garden, full of surprises." Mum and I nodded our heads in agreement!

Cathy's garden, East View Cottages, Tamworth, Warwickshire, will be open again for the Yellow Book NGS towards end of June next summer. Cathy had a good turn out for her first ever open gardens. 155 people in total over two days. Click on the highlighted words for more information.

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58 thoughts on “Art in the garden- a visit to Cathy’s glorious plot.

  1. Oh wow – I just loved this tour round Cathy and the Golfer’s garden. Thank you for sharing it. All those small, unique details are just wonderful and make for delightful surprises and talking points. Cathy has such a flair for the surprising and personal touches, as well as a knack for making the most out of the space. And it makes me want to go out and build a brick wall immediately!

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    • That’s exactly what we said! All the way home, we kept saying, we are not waiting around for any help again. We are just going to go for it. If Cathy can build all those walls and the sitooterie, and a little potting shed, surely we can build a simple bin store! It was such an inspiring visit. We came home really buoyed up. Thanks for your kind comments. We couldn’t believe our luck when we saw Cathy’s garden on the NGS website. It’s a charity close to our hearts as both my grandfather and father needed nursing care close to the end of their lives. Thanks for reading xx

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  2. Cathy and the Golfer have created an inspirational garden in a relatively short time. We had the pleasure of meeting them when they visited us, at the time she was having reservations about wether the garden was good enough for the NGS!

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    • Fancy that! Mum and I said it was one of the best gardens we’ve ever visited! Just goes to show, you are not always a judge of your own garden. I will be going back again next summer. I hardly mentioned the planting, but there were some stunning dahlias and roses. I think I’ll have to write another post as I have so many photos. Thanks for reading. All the best.

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  3. Thanks for showing us Cathy’s garden through a different pair of eyes! All those little details are wonderful, aren’t they! And the planting of course is lovely. A very enjoyable post Karen.

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    • Thank you Cathy. It was such a treat for Mum and I to visit Cathy’s garden. I had literally hundreds of photos taken on the day. Such an imaginative garden. Thanks for reading x

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  4. It was fun to see Cathy’s lovely garden through someone else’s eyes (or camera in this case). It always reveals something you don’t see in the gardener’s own accounts. Thanks for sharing your tour!

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    • Thank you Kris. It’s a very special place, and we were glad to be able to capture the spirit of the garden in photos and words. We have a game we play when we drive home from our garden adventures. We each say a word which sums up our day. Mum said fun, and I said energising. We both went home and threw ourselves into some home/garden projects we’d been putting off. It’s amazing how other people can inspire you to get started like that. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

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  5. It is so strange seeing pictures of our garden and a description of it but from someone else’s viewpoint. I am really touched by your and your Mum’s enthusiasm, Karen, as to us the garden is essentially just an extension of ourselves, modified and shaped gradually by the twists and turns of everyday life. As with IAVOM, it is always a joy to be able to bring pleasure into other people’s lives and it was a privilege to be able to do that by sharing the garden (and offering them homemade cake too!) with others. Thank you for all your kind words and lovely photographs – and do come again, of course 🙂

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    • Thank you Cathy. We think we should start a fan club for your garden. It’s so beautiful and full of fun! There is not enough fun in gardens nowadays. Anyway, we loved every minute of the time we spent in your much-loved garden, and felt so privileged to be allowed to see all your quiet corners and vibrant flower beds. It was a delight. Thanks again x

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    • Forgot to say about the ‘character against the shed’ (our neighbour’s pigeon loft) – if you look carefully there is another figure next to it so, as you might now guess, it represents the Golfer and myself! 🙂

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      • Oh yes! So there is. We missed that. The tin lid for a head. Just wonderful! Wait till I tell mum. She will laugh. Who made them? And who painted the modern-art portrait of you both? Love K x

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      • I designed them and The Golfer bolted them together – you can’t tell from the foliage but there is an attachment on one that very clearly suggests it is a male! Elder Daughter drew the original of the Picasso style picture for me, then I painted a copy – acrylics on exterior MDF with 3 coats of exterior varnish. It has lasted well as it must be way over 10 years since I pained it and the others

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      • Mum will laugh at that. We couldn’t decide. Will look out for the “attachment” next time. I’ve told my OH- the sailor- we must make some, in a nautical style. Working on it…we have lots of spare boat bits I’m now eyeing up! 🙂

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    • Of, thank you Anne. That’s lovely to you to say so. I must admit, Mum and I are still arguing over some of the sculptures. For example, Mum said the two birds were rowing. I said they were in companionable/ loving chat. It’s so fascinating to visit a garden like Cathy’s where there’s so much more to see than just plants. (The plants were spectacular too- and might have to form a separate blog.) thanks again for reading.

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  6. Seeing and hearing about Cathy’s garden through the eyes of a visitor was very enjoyable, thank you. I think we all tend to be quite critical of our own spaces, I’m constantly mentally unpicking bits etc.. When someone takes the time to give feedback like this it’s so encouraging for a garden owner.

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    • Hi Kate, that’s so true. I’m always dissatisfied with my garden and looking for faults. But everyone who comes here says it’s a lovely peaceful space. Maybe we enjoy other people’s gardens more than our own. There was nothing I would want to change at Cathy’s garden. It was all perfect. Thanks for reading xx

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    • Thank you Mike. Thanks for kindly reading and taking the time to comment. It was our favourite garden this summer. Hope you are having a better week. I’ve just been outside and all the pot marigolds have been blown over and bashed down in the torrential rain. Sigh. I’ve cut them back and hope they come back on shorter stems. What a summer we are having. It’s positively tropical with the heat followed by the downpours and high winds! Love karen xx

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  7. Karen thank you very much for the walk in Cathy’s garden. With your wonderful photos Karen, you have found new and beautiful places and perspectives of the garden creating an authentic walk in the garden. I loved it. Greetings from Margarita.

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    • Thank you for reading Anca. It’s much appreciated. Must say, it’s our favourite garden this summer. A real wow garden. Came home with so many great new ideas for my own garden. Aren’t gardeners inventive and imaginative. It always amazes me what can be achieved in even small spaces. Thanks again x

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  8. I enjoyed really walking round Kathy’s garden again seeing it through your eyes Karen. I was there on the Wednesday, when taking decent photos was a challenge as it was so sunny and bright. I failed abysmally. I walked round at least a couple of times but you have spotted a couple of decorations that I missed completely! A truly magical garden full of surprises and humour. Thank you for your post.

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    • Thank you Anna. Isn’t it a glorious garden. Mum and I are still talking about it today. We went to another open garden today, and we kept saying, “this is not as cheerful as Cathy’s garden.” It certainly made an impression on us. Thanks again for kindly reading and taking the time to comment. Perhaps we will see you there next year x

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  9. I’ve just started an allotment – by ‘start’ I really am at the beginning. One bed prepared so far! There’s an awful lot of rubbish there – not the crisp packet type rubbish but plastic buckets, baskets and doors! I’ve been wondering why they are there and if there’s anything useful I can do with them. I know I wouldn’t be able to make anything beautiful but I’ve been thinking it might be possible to create a sort of lean-to shelter with some of the doors.
    https://looseandleafyinhalifax.blogspot.co.uk/

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    • Go for it Lucy. I have read your blog and I wish you every success with your new project. I have lived here for 30 years. I can’t imagine uprooting myself and moving as you have done. It’s given me pause for thought. Where would I move to, given the chance? First step is a must-visit to Cathy’s garden, because you could fill a notebook with all the inspiration there. I can’t wait to see what you make with those doors. A friend used pallets and doors to make a garden bothy. Then painted it in rainbow stripes. So cheerful to look at. Oh and then she smothered it in climbing nasturtiums. Good luck- and keep us posted. Send photos xxx

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      • Try Malvern Hills rose. Sumptuous tiny creamy yellow pom pom flowers all summer. Repeat flowers. Virtually no pruning. Covers a shed beautifully. Plays host to morning glory and nasturtiums. I can picture it 🙂 xx

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      • Yes, it’s got a beautiful, delicate scent. I’ve grown both for years. Can remember having to be rescued from Rambling Rector when I was up a ladder trying to prune a pergola and it “got” me. I was hopelessly entangled. Had to be pruned out by a laughing gardener 🙂 xx

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    • It’s the most inspiring garden I have ever visited, Diana. You would absolutely love it. Also, I am so enjoying your blog. It’s fascinating to see gardens around the world. We all have similar challenges, even if our climates are different. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. It’s much appreciated.

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