Walsall’s ‘Hidden Gem’ Garden

I love visiting other people’s gardens and I have never been anywhere without finding a new plant or colour combination and a useful tip or two, but yesterday was exceptional. Mom and me had such a charming experience at Maureen Allen’s ‘Hidden Gem’ garden – a delicious treat in itself, but what a warm welcome from Maureen and her husband Sid. This garden has achieved well deserved acclaim, including being a favourite of Alan Titchmarsh, featuring in his books and also in the television series ‘Best British Gardens’.

Maureen is not only a plantswoman with an eye for colour combinations, texture and shape, she is a great garden designer. Hidden Gem is tiny in terms of acreage, but it is cleverly designed to provide an intriguing and inspirational experience for the visitor with the use of a wide range of plants and trees, meandering pathways, clever border lines, mirrors and winding passage-ways.

The features are endless: contemplation areas with sheltered seating – usually with an accompanying fragrant rose; a bridged stream, four ponds – and for me, four distinct gardens within a garden. The use of mirrors to create the illusion of size is extremely effective. Small trees, including graceful acers and catalpa biganoides (pollarded) add to the perfect picture Maureen has painted with plants.

The stars of the show yesterday were undoubtedly the roses – not even the slightest sign of blackspot or greenfly. They’re clearly pruned with care, fed regularly and live in well conditioned soil – healthy and happy in a garden that is a nature magnet!

However there’s promise of so much more to come – there’s some early dahlias and clumps of bergamot, phlox, rudbeckia, crocosmia just waiting in the wings – and so much more.

Maureen told us about children who couldn’t wait to get into the garden to see the frogs this morning and they weren’t disappointed – there were frogs of varying sizes sunning themselves!

So back in my own garden a few hours later – what have I taken from Maureen’s ‘Hidden Gem’? I don’t have the same talent for design and planting – but I can see how meticulous plant care and attention to detail can yield fabulous results – thank you Maureen and Sid, for a sensory delight yesterday afternoon – we’ll certainly be back!

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