An inspirational Devon estate overflowing with wildflowers

Combining structured but loosely planted garden rooms with acres of wildflower meadows – all with an organic ethos – Donna and Kevin Cox’s Devon estate is a model of thoughtful, ecologically diverse land management
An inspirational Devon estate overflowing with wildflowers
Andrew Montgomery

There is a central sunken Lower Pool Garden and almost secret Upper Pool Garden: elegant, reflective spaces that can be viewed from a generous loggia with a fireplace, used in all weathers as a place to gather. When the gravel in the Rill and Pool Gardens became a seed bed for weeds, up it came. If box succumbs to blight, it is cut back and fed, but if recovery is temporary, it is replaced. In the romantic knot garden, Lavandula ‘Imperial Gem’ has been a triumph.

To one side is the Rill Garden: a slender stone-edged rill surrounded by pleached Malus transitoria. The crab apple blossom, which Donna describes as ‘ridiculously beautiful’ in spring, is continued with a tactile underplanting of lush Hakonechloa macra and mounds of Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’.

To the other side is the Meadow Garden, where a fairy-tale mown path winds through wildflower meadow, clouds of hawthorn blossom and walls looped with pink dog roses. The plan to have borders here ended when Donna looked through the gaps in the hedges to the Great Meadow and decided to link the two areas with a semi-wild meadow with early-pollinating bulbs, such as Crocus tommasinianus.

A seductive bridge made from a home-grown oak lures you across the river to a sea of bluebells and campion, and a gate takes you to the abundant Kitchen Garden, with its central tunnel of ‘Glou Morceau’ pear trees.

This is a garden that reaches outwards. ‘Every meadow counts,’ says Donna, co-founder of Dartmoor community group Moor Meadows. It is also a place of delightful intimacy. Yew hedges and wooden gates lend a sense of calm, and self-seeded foxgloves and Erigeron karvinskianus soften every step and cobbled path. This is exciting, tenderly gardened land, a beacon of hope for all our futures.

Angela Morley Garden Design: | Moor Meadows: