Real garden: an enchanting bluebell wood garden

This beautiful garden has been created to meld into the ancient bluebell wood that surrounds the characterful cottage

Bluebell wood garden
(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Working with the environment, and creating a harmonious haven are aims that have guided Barbara Jeremiah and Kay Linnell over the past 26 years, in creating their peaceful garden at Brick Kiln Cottage in the Hampshire countryside. 

The two acres stretch out from the characterful cottage that was once home to a brick master. They mostly comprise a natural bluebell wood, and enhanced areas of lawn and hollows that were the old clay pits.

Find out how they transformed the garden, then see more of our real home transformations. Find out how to plan and design the perfect garden for your home, too.

bluebell wood garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

When they arrived, however, nothing had been done in the wood for approximately 40 years. ‘The whole place was generally derelict and overgrown,’ says Barbara.

The setting was clearly in good hands, though. Barbara is a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners and a talented textile designer, so guided the restoration with an innate artistic eye.

A pebble garden in the bluebell woodland

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

A perimeter path was cleared around the mostly oak and beech wood, leaving the inside a natural habitat that attracts a range of wildlife. The ethos has been to manage the woodland and garden, while also achieving a space in which to relax.

Find more advice on how to create a wildlife friendly garden in our guide.

Bluebell wood garden

A rose- and hop-covered arbour presents a quiet place to sit among the bluebells. The pebble garden in front of it was made by digging up old tree roots and weeds then covering with a liner. Clipped buxus spheres encircle it.

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Paths now meander through the old pits, swathes of Allium ursinum, or wild garlic, scramble over the banks, and native ferns have been added to fill little gullies. Stumperies and rustic arches have been formed with the lighter fallen timber and roots.

Find out more ways to create a eco-friendly garden.

Bluebell wood garden

Two rusty hens provide a fun focal point by the cottage garden fence

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

lavender in wellington unusual planter

Lavender planted in some old wellington boots

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

leigh clapp bluebell garden crown planter

A tiny potted strawberry crown adds a touch of whimsy

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

An area has been set aside as a wild garden, where indigenous and self-seeding plants are given free rein: from primroses, primulas and periwinkles, to borage, wood cyclamen, Alchemilla mollis and Geranium himalayense.


'I encourage the bluebells to multiply by moving them and planting in patches around the woodland, under trees, or at eye level on the top of hollows or in tree roots,’ explains Barbara.  

garden bluebell cat

A ginger tom oversees the gardening

Decorative rustic detailing completes the garden, with sawn logs, tree stumps, old bottles and pottery.

garden wooden planter

Epimedium spills out of the rough-sawn raised container

Reducing and caring for an old yew in the garden gave Barbara logs to build rustic arches that work well with the old shepherd's hut

Bluebell wood garden

Reducing and caring for an old yew in the garden gave Barbara logs to build rustic arches that work well with the old shepherd’s hut

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

arch into bluebell garden

Rustic arch into the bluebell garden

(Image credit: leigh clapp)

Beside the house, a raised fruit bed and vegetable plot offer a variety of produce, and are backed by espaliered ‘Charles Ross’ and russet apples.  A path through it has been made from bricks, each of the holes filled in with sand and then a penny placed on top.

Find advice on how to create a kitchen garden.

Bluebell wood garden

The path in the vegetable garden is made from bricks, the round holes filled with sand and a penny placed on top

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Behind a little picket fence is a rather wonderfully nostalgic cottage garden billowing with bee-attracting flowers and herbs. Here you’ll find hollyhocks, lavender, daisies, nasturtiums and delphiniums coming to the fore later in the summer.

For advice and inspiration on how to create your own cottage garden see our guide.

Bluebell wood garden

Full of bee-attracting flowers and herbs, the little cottage garden is a lovely spot in which to sit for a moment’s contemplation

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

‘Each year we make seats, tables and arches from the wood from our trees, coppice the young branches for flower stakes, use wood for the fires in the cottage, chippings for the paths…’ says Barbara, as she contemplates the continued evolution of the garden.


Key plants included

  • Allium ursinum, or wild garlic
  • Bluebells, snowdrops, daffodils, foxgloves
  • Primroses, primulas and periwinkles
  • Borage, wood cyclamen
  • Alchemilla mollis
  • Geranium himalayse
  • Campanula latiloba
  • Hollyhocks, lavender, daisies, nasturtiums, delphiniums
  • Jasminum nudiflorum
  • Lavatera, honeysuckle, Passifloral incarnate

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Gardening Writer