Helen’s ‘bung it in’ two acre garden paradise

Helen Martin is opening her garden during the National Garden Scheme at The Paddocks in Hungarton.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-180613-090705005
Helen Martin is opening her garden during the National Garden Scheme at The Paddocks in Hungarton.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-180613-090705005

There’s not much in the picture-postcard Harborough district village of Hungarton – a pub, a church and one of those slightly sun-bleached mini-libraries in the old village phone box.

Get out of the car near the worn war memorial on a fine June evening, and all you can hear is birds, sheep and a single conversation, as two women walk up Main Street, chatting.

Helen Martin is opening her garden during the National Garden Scheme at The Paddocks in Hungarton.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-180613-090630005

Helen Martin is opening her garden during the National Garden Scheme at The Paddocks in Hungarton.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-180613-090630005

But for a couple of days every couple of years, the village becomes a bit more of a people magnet.

It’s the days when Helen opens her garden. (This year it’s Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24.)

Helen says: “I can get 200 to 300 people over two days, but it’s so weather-dependent.”

Helen Martin, a former British Airways stewardess, has been the main gardener at her house on Main Street, Hungarton, for “about 40 years”.

“You just get addicted to it, the more you do it” she said. “I’d hate to tell you how many hours I put into it.”

Her house is the one that’s like a picture in a children’s book, in that it’s dwarfed by the most perfect specimen trees.

“My husband bought the house because of the lovely trees” said Helen. “He lived here before I ever met him.”

Michael Martin died a couple of years ago, and gardeners now help her with the heavy work, like mowing.

But even now, Helen, whose age is “just say retired”, spends “a large part of nearly every day” in her beautiful garden.

“It’s my life” she said. “In fact I’m a borderline nursery. The whole of my front drive is a plant stall for most of the year.” All sales go to local charities.

Her two-acre garden has a magnificent selection 0f mature and specimen trees, plus rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolia grandiflora and wisterias.

There are two lily ponds and a stream, fed by the garden’s many natural springs.

Three lawn areas are surrounded by herbaceous and shrub borders.

There’s a woodland walk, a pergola with clematis and roses, a hosta collection, two rockeries and a fern bed.

So who designs it all? She won’t really have it that there is a design.

“It’s all fairly organic” she said. “Where you have got a gap, you put a plant. Someone once called it a ‘bung it in’ garden.”

Ask here the hardest thing about having a large garden, though, and she doesn’t say the work, she says it’s the distractions.

“I’m always at the bottom of the garden where the stream is, when the house phone rings! And, no, I never take my mobile phone into the garden.”

The best thing? “Just to work quietly and hear the birds.

“Oh, but I did have a bit of a disaster this year, in February, during one of the storms.

“About 20 feet of a cedar tree broke off and came through my bedroom roof. That was pretty traumatic.”

So this year her garden is open from 11am to 5pm on June 23 and 24, as part of the National Garden Scheme.

The scheme invites owners of exceptional gardens to open them to the public for good causes.

Over the last 90 years, the scheme has donated £50m to charities across the UK.

Admission to Helen’s garden – The Paddocks on Main Street, Hungarton is £4 for adults, with children free.

And her tip for any would-be gardeners? “Don’t be afraid of hard work and have a go. You learn by your mistakes.