Me and my garden: ‘The towering silver fir was planted in the 19th century’ – The Guardian

Walking among the poppies in midsummer is simply magical: they start out life as dark purple and turn into the most beautiful blue. Swathes of them open at around the same time as the handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata), so the effect is wonderful. My mother-in-law, Sylvia McCosh, was a great plantswoman; she introduced the Dalemain poppy (Meconopsis ‘Dalemain’) to the low gardens.

The garden my husband, Robert, and I inherited reflects my life as well as the lives of those who have loved it. When my daughter Hermione was born, we planted a turkey oak, then a lovely weeping beech at the front of the lawn for our twins, Beatrice and George.

The low gardens are wild and not very tidy, but they are incredibly peaceful, with wonderful views over 18th-century parkland and the fells beyond. In spring, there are a mass of daffodils; then, as the poppies fade, they give way to marjoram, cow parsley, achillea, echium, centaurea, wild garlic and autumn crocuses.

I love the towering silver fir (Abies cephalonica), which is the biggest in the country. It was planted by Dorothea Hasell in the 19th century; we believe that her uncle, Captain King, who sailed with Captain Cook, brought back a seedling, which has thrived here since.

When we inherited the garden, we decided not to appoint a head gardener but to do it ourselves. I was inspired by Sissinghurst Castle garden in Kent, so we have a lovely white garden, which has given me hours of pleasure.

My children all grew up with this garden, but gardening with small children is not easy: they keep pulling flowers off by their heads to show you. So, we created an animal garden full of plants with animal names for them – harebells, horseradish, lambs’ lugs and so on. We had to be careful not to plant hound’s tooth next to foxglove or catmint next to dogwood, although we do have lots of mouse plant.

We also now have a lovely rose walk leading to the Georgian summer house, which is full of wonderful old-fashioned roses with the most amazing scent. I introduced lots more seats to the garden, so people can linger to enjoy the serenity.

My favourite spot

George and I created a herb garden on the site of an old greenhouse destroyed in a storm. I meditate there, gazing at the fells.

Go to dalemain.com for opening times and admission prices.

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