The Vicarage Garden

When Father Stephen Stavrou became vicar at St Michael and All Angels he inherited what must be one of the largest gardens in Barnes. However it was also very overgrown. Today it’s a beautiful space, with an expansive lawn, a croquet green, wonderful herbaceous borders and a newly planted fruit trees.

Stephen says: The garden has been previously looked after and planted, but when I arrived at St Michael’s it was very overgrown and neglected. It has been extensively cleared and cut back to reveal original features such as borders, patios and plants hidden by wild growth. There has been widespread replanting in last few years and creation of specific areas for different types of plant.

It has been developed based around what we found as as the garden was cleared. This has taken several years and continues, so it is organic over time rather than having been designed all at once according to a definite plan.

The east-facing side of the garden near the house is a herb garden with brick pathways for access between the herbs. This was already in existence, but needed restoring. The herbs conveniently grow under the kitchen window.

The entire south side of the garden is a long perennial and shrub border. Here you can also find the greenhouse which is filled with seedlings in the spring and tomatoes and chilli in the summer. I have recently opened up WW2 bomb shelter and I’m developing the planting to lead to its entrance as a feature.

In the south west corner this gives way to an an orchard and soft-fruit area interspersed with flowering plants. This is a very sunny and well-drained area with warmth from the wall, so exotic plants like pomegranate and those that like sun such as bearded irises grow very well here.

As you move towards the west-facing corner of the garden and it becomes shadier I am developing more of a woodland feel under some very large ash trees and a horse-chestnut. A large area of grass planted with bulbs and wildflowers is deliberately left to grow long, contrasting with the lawn.

Towards the front garden, you pass by a cottage garden bed with various varieties of old English roses underplanted with flowers. The front garden is chiefly a vegetable garden with raised beds and more fruit trees.

The centre of the garden is all lawn so that the garden can be used for events such as the church fête, garden parties and outdoor services through the year.

My favourite things are the mature trees some of which must be from around when the house was built in 1920. There is nothing like a mature tree for interest and beauty.

It’s wonderful to watch the variety of fruit trees flowering in the Spring: fig, pomegranate, apricot, damson, medlar, mulberry, apple, pear, plum and cherry. They are all quite young at the moment but I look forward to when they are bigger and yield much more fruit!

The bearded irises, blue and yellow, look spectacular for a week or two each year. I love the roses of all kinds, but especially the old English varieties with their strong scent.

Also lovely is the structural and ordered appearance of the vegetable plots with canes of beans, ordered rows of radishes, and the exotic exuberance of squash. Vegetables are really quite as interesting and pretty as any flowers.

One of the nicest thing about a large garden like this is the pleasure it brings to the many people who use it for various events and therefore what a resource it is for the church and parish. Gardens are also very peaceful and prayerful places and they are an important part of slowing down and noticing the beauty of God’s world. By creating something beautiful, I hope I can share in that work of Creation.