In The Garden With… David Harber
Midst a huge renovation project, sculptor David Harber is hastening his vegetable garden but wishes the rabbits weren’t such abundant visitors
In the Garden with David Harber
Describe your garden in a few sentences
We have a 17th-century mill house set in six acres of water meadows border by a stream. The actual garden close to the house has changed precious little in the last 400 years and has some beautiful, ancient Yew trees, a Poplar-lined drive leads to up to the house and a walled garden. We are blessed with a mill pond and all manner or aquatic plants.
Did you have any help with the design and planting?
Andrew Duff, managing director of the Inchbald School of Design, is designing our garden. Andrew designed the garden we sponsored with Savills at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show last year, and through this we became good friends. We love his particular design ethos but equally important was his calmness and serenity in every interaction we have with him.
Describe the view from your favourite place to sit in the garden
There is a bank that separates the mill stream from the garden and sitting here I have the long view of the water meadow with willow trees and hedges, and on the other side the burbling of the gin-clear, spring-fed stream.
What are you doing in your garden at the moment?
At the moment we are creating a vegetable garden, which was part of the design but has been brought forward because of the coronavirus.
What gear can’t you live without?
I have for a few years enjoyed the isolation and zen-like focus when driving my Mountfield ride-on mower, which has recently been upgraded to a 1950s David Brown tractor. Anything that allows me to reference DB as one of my vehicles ‘Aston Martin’.
What do you wish you could grow in your garden but can’t?
We have extraordinary loamy soil; however, our only issue are the rabbits and muntjac.
How do you like to spend time in your garden?
The garden and meadows have a wonderful timeless quality, I wonder and daydream which, if I am lucky, results in an idea or concept for a sculpture, if unlucky is ‘which bin is it this week’.
What are your plans for your garden over the next few years?
We are undertaking a major house renovation and building a new extension, once this has been completed, we will start building the simple and quirky design that Andrew Duff has created for us.
What’s your favourite garden job and your least favourite?
My favourite garden job is cutting the grass, and the least favourite is the weeding.
What’s the one thing you would change about your garden if you could?
Negotiate a rabbit repatriation, with a full repairing lease!
Do you have a favourite garden?
Friar Park, owned and much loved by George and Olivia Harrison in Henley on Thames, which was a combination of magnificent grandeur with mature redwood trees, sweeping lawns and phenomenal follies.
What bits of gardening expertise have you picked up over the years that people should know?
Do as I say not as I do. If undertaking building projects, ensure that the garden is started in parallel rather than at the end.
What advice would you give readers who have never gardened before, but want to get into it?
As something of a novice gardener, the primaeval satisfaction in any form of horticulture is both physically and mentally rewarding, so just give it a go. If in doubt leaves up roots down!
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