Richard Hobbs’ garden at Witton Lane which houses the National Collection of Muscari was started in 1993. There were three cherry trees and a rowan in the front garden together with three rather scruffy heathers. In the back were six flowering currants all in a straight line together with a leaking spot and a diseased apple tree.
The soil was heavy yellow clay with very little topsoil. Many tons of spent mushroom compost and well-rotted manure have improved the soil no end but there are still a few sticky patches.
The garden at the back is basically a woodland garden and is shaded for much of the year. This is a good spot for Trilliums, Erythroniums and many different wood anemones. The front garden is much more open with gravel used to improve drainage. It is a small garden of 550 square metres and a strange shape ending in a point.
To improve the drainage a number of raised beds have been created mainly in the front. Troughs are used to grow hepaticas, dwarf daffodils as well as few precious little treasures.
The garden has been entirely peat free from the beginning. The large raised bed in the front garden is built of York stones many of which have an ecclesiastical look and were a present from the Friends of Durham Botanical Gardens.
Richard grows a wide variety of plants so that there is colour throughout most of the year beginning with snowdrops and crocuses. In the autumn there are many different Colchicums – about 30 at least. The garden overflows into our allotment in the next village.
The garden includes a few interesting shrubs including Cornus capitatus, C. walteri, Ercilla, Caragana, Abeliophyllum, There are lots of different box plants, several Clematis and some unusual dwarf willows. There are a wide range of herbaceous plants including species paeonies our favourite being P. tenuifolium var biebersteinii and lots of alpine plants also. There are a wide range of ferns.
The garden has been featured in various publications over the years including Gardens Illustrated, Country Life and The Garden.