Bedford Park Festival Open Gardens

The Bedford Park Festival is a two week arts and community festival which takes place early in June. Every year some of the householders in Bedford Park open their gardens to the public. Tracey and Ian Hall have the second largest garden in Bedford Park and they usually open it to the public for the festival. Tracey talked to The Chiswick Calendar’s editor Bridget Osborne about how they had developed the garden over the years.

Designing a garden – children v adults

Tracey and Ian have five boys. When they moved in to their house in Bedford Park in the mid-Nineties, Tracey was pregnant with number four. What they needed was not a garden with secluded nooks and pergolas and walkways enclosed by rose covered arches, but a nice open space where the boys could have a good kick about, with interesting features that they could also enjoy.

They brought in Simon Fraser to design the space. He lost the wild, naturalistic look the garden had previously had, opening it out so Tracey could see the perimeter from the kitchen and providing a balance which suited both adults and children. The garden is designed in a T shape, with a ping pong table on one side and the children’s ‘fort’ on the other, tucked away out of sight from the patio.

The garden had been very shady. It’s so large that the three grown trees – two purple beech and an oak – don’t inhibit the sense of space, but there had been several more mature trees, casting a deep gloom and preventing the oak from growing properly. When a fungus caused the larger trees to decay, that was the excuse they needed to do a little thinning and now the garden is a sun trap, enabling Tracey to cultivate more of the flowers she loves.

Lots of flowers in hot colours

When I met Tracey in the summer of 2019 the ‘children’ were then aged between 16 and 26, so the lawn had seen more use recently as a venue for 18th birthday parties, with a marquee centre stage.

Aila Cinar has been looking after the garden since 2005, keeping the structure but developing the beds to provide all year round interest and the colour palette Tracey wants. “Aila is a great plantswoman” she says, “great with trees and roses and great at pruning”. Tracey likes lots of flowers in hot colours – dark purple, red and orange, and Alia has chosen irises and red and purple rhododendrons amongst others, to create the look she wants.

“She listens to what I want” says Tracey, which you’d think was a basic requirement if you’re providing a service, but is apparently a rarer quality than you might think! She also introduced more plants with dark foliage to contrast and show off the flowers. A lot of the garden is quite formal, with sculpted bushes and low hedges. She’s kept the bottom of the garden as more of a wilderness, where there has always been a fox set and each year is home to a new troop of cubs.

Replacing the Box hedges

Recently they’ve been grappling with the problem of what to do about the Box hedges, as the caterpillars have laid waste to the formal hedging in both front and back gardens. Aila has come up with two solutions – Taxus baccata (Yew) and Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly). These are two on a list of 15 suggestions she has for replacing low hedging.

Discounts on gardening help

Aila’s company AilandCo is a part of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme. She offers discounts to Club Card members for all her company’s activities – garden design, maintenance, garden lighting and tree surgery.

Photographs below: More from Tracey and Ian’s garden

Find out more about the Bedford Park Festival on the festival website.