Real garden: be inspired by this cottage garden in the Cotswolds

Combining her skills of stone carving with a naturally artistic planting style, Bee Eastman has created colourful, fragrance-filled rooms within the garden of her pretty Cotswold home

courtyard area in a cottage garden with lavender and a bench
(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

There is every reason why the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire have been designated an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. Rolling hills, charming market towns and chocolate-box cottages form the quintessential classic English rural scene. Away from the hub of busy tourist spots, sleepy honeyed stone villages are tucked into pockets of countryside where gentle streams meander beside the narrow lanes. Chedworth, near Cirencester, is one such village. 

Bee Eastman made the village her home in 2011. On moving to her cottage, former forensic consultant Bee expanded her gardening pastime into a full-time passion, which she enjoys alongside her new-found hobby of stone carving and etching.

Read on to find out how Bee transformed the  plot into the perfection of a cottage garden. Visit our gardens ideas page for more advice and inspiration, and find inspiration in our cottage garden ideas guide.

cotswold cottage with rambling plants

Roses and clematis scramble up the honey-coloured stone walls of the cottage and a wooden bench provides the perfect spot to sit and admire the scene

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

‘Since retiring, I decided to explore my creative side by enrolling at the Putney School of Art and Design,’ Bee explains, who then went on to study stone carving at the New Brewery Arts Centre in Cirencester. Her prints and sculptures have been exhibited and sold locally and in London, and her artistic talent is clearly seen in the layout of her garden, too, which she designed from scratch. 

archway with climbing plants over it leading to the lawn and the cotswold house

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

Dating back to the 18th century, Adam’s Pool was originally two homes. When Bee and husband Nigel first moved here nine years ago, the garden was well loved, but in a different form; Bee’s vision was to create a series of garden rooms with plenty of space for relaxing.

cotswold cottage exterior with the lawn

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

‘The first alteration to the garden was to construct a courtyard abutting the older part of the house by building a folly wall with a quatrefoil recycled church window,’ she explains. The wall incorporates ledges to hold candles, and the topiary-studded courtyard is a perfect sun-trap, with lavender spilling across the gravel, Verbena bonariensis and Nigella damascena, love-in-a-mist providing low-growing colour, while pale pink roses and Clematis ‘Perle d’Azur’ spill from the walls of the house and folly wall.

metal garden gate in a cottage garden

The gate that Bee designed to mirror the quatrefoil church window in the folly wall, and which was made at the local Donkeywell Forge

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

In the rear garden, a rectangular lawn is surrounded on two sides by abundantly planted borders, one in ‘hot’ colours and the other planted in soft pinks and blues. In the hot border, chocolatey red Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’ and ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ are dotted among towering sunflowers, while spires of bright yellow Lysimachia Punctata, loosestrife, and fiery orange crocosmia jostle for space among cheerful yellow Rudbeckia fulgida var.sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ and Sedum spectabile. Further height is provided by the apricot-yellow-coloured flowers of the ‘Teasing Georgia’ rose scrambling up obelisk supports. ‘The sunflowers are planted from seed, although they need support as they grow,’ explains Bee.

stone statue in a cottage garden

This seed stone sculpture is one of Bee’s own pieces, which she sells locally and in London

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

In contrast, the cool border is bursting with more cottage garden favourites, such as phlox in shades of white, pink and soft purple. Box topiary domes nestle among the planting and the claret-coloured Clematis ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ smothers the trellissed backdrop and scrambles across the central archway leading to the potager. Scented white ‘Blush Noisette’ rose, lavender and fairy bellflower are some of Bee’s favourite pastel-coloured plants in this border. ‘The pale pink and lilac colours are so restful, and I especially love the wonderful scent of the rose,’ she says.

roses climbing a stone wall

The romantic, timeless blooms of pale pink roses

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

Nigel and Bee enjoy entertaining and the garden provides the perfect backdrop in which to spend long summer evenings with family and friends. An outdoor dining area to the west side of the garden makes the most of the evening sun, where sweet peas in pots are placed in order to enjoy their fragrance.

seated area in the garden

The wooden arbour, near to potted sweet peas and fragrant roses, and tucked away in a corner, is a comfortable vantage point from which to enjoy the garden

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

A wooden arbour furnished with comfy cushions in the corner of the garden, is the perfect spot from which to relax and enjoy morning coffee while admiring the garden, ‘although next door’s cat is rather fond of sitting there, too,’ muses Bee.

floral borders in a cottage garden

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

‘Our most recent project was to create the Secret Garden on a plot bought from our neighbours,’ she continues. The space had previously been a children’s play area and was covered with weed-suppressant matting and rubber chips. ‘With the help of gardener Pete Heaps, we filled three skips with debris to create beds before we could even begin to think about planting and rebuilding the old privy into a tiny potting shed’. 

flowers flooding from a stone planter in front of a cotswold stone wall

A folly wall, inset with a quatrefoil, recycled church window and up which pale pink roses clamber, creates a peaceful courtyard garden area

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

The result is a pleasing gravelled quadrangle approached through a gothic-style galvanised iron gate in a rebuilt stone wall. The gate was designed by Bee and made by Jon Ward at the Donkeywell Forge, Cirencester. The design is based on the quatrefoil in the courtyard garden. ‘I am indebted to the local stonemasons, Trevor Rowlands and Ken Stevens, who rebuilt the wall using stone from the Farmington quarry, and to the craftsmen at the forge; I have great admiration for their skills,’ says Bee.  

raised beds in a garden with arches and greenhouse in the background

Mixed crops of fruit and vegetables, which Bee’s grandchildren helped to sow, fill the raised beds of the potager. They are accompanied by sunflowers in pots beside the greenhouse, while clematis and sweet peas climb up the archways

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

The local blacksmith also made the archway through to the potager, in which Bee grows fruit and vegetables alongside flowers for cutting. ‘Our grandchildren help to sow and harvest the flowers and vegetables; sunflowers and potatoes are their favourites,’ Bee says, fondly.

A tiny greenhouse bursting with tomatoes is useful for bringing on seedlings before planting out. Bamboo canes topped with empty snail shells are not just there to support plants. ‘The snail shells are quite sculptural and they stop you poking your eye out when you’re gardening!’ laughs Bee. 

small greenhouse in a cottage garden

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

The front of the house was formerly an unloved driveway but has now been transformed into a welcoming entrance, giving the visitor a flavour of the delights that lie behind the house. Imposing Acanthus spinosus, spiny bear’s breech, are planted at the gate beside the daisy-like Leucanthemum x superbum. Purple Clematis ‘Perle d’Azur’ clambers through red and white roses across the front of the cottage, beside which a narrow rill trickles gently by. ‘Although it does require dredging once a year to keep it flowing,’ confesses Bee.

garden shed with garden tools hanging on the door

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

With a borrowed view of the Cotswold hills beyond, Bee and Nigel’s garden is the perfect retreat from the modern world. ‘We have lived in several places, from the New Forest to London, but this is definitely our favourite’. 


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