Garden visit: Coton Manor Gardens

Coton Manor overlooks a large pond that feeds the streams and gullies of the water garden

The weather was more spring break than summer solstice on our Garden Media Guild visit to Coton Manor on June 20. Lucky then that owner Susie Pasley-Tyler is passionate about this being a garden of all seasons. 

“You can’t plant a border one month and expect it to look as good the next, it’s about continuity and thinking what will look great together over the whole year in each season,” says Susie, whose husband Ian inherited the house and gardens, near Guilsborough, north of Northampton, 30 years ago.

Tangerine geum injects a zing of colour on a dull June day

The original garden was developed in the 1920s and nourished and nurtured by Ian’s mother Haroldine Pasley-Tyler – an experienced plantswoman – and while Susie initially took on the daunting task of looking after the garden with very little knowledge under her belt, it’s clear she’s learnt an enormous amount in the interim.

The garden pulsates with interesting planting and the beds and borders are fed by thousands of specimens (you can’t buy in the garden centres) propagated at Coton’s own nursery. Susie also runs her own garden school with courses throughout the year.

Susie sharing her vast expertise with the Garden Media Guild, gained from years of hands-on gardening

Despite the long opening season, from the end of March to September, interest is maintained all year. There’s winter flowering shrubs in January and February, and hellebores and snowdrops in spring. In April and May, the fabulously tranquil woodland area is bursting with bluebells. 

A woodland scuplture catches the sunlight

On our visit we were treated to roses galore. Despite the recent downpours, Susie suggests the rain had given them a second flush of youth. They looked spectacular intermingled with lupins, irises, aliums and salvias. But there were already glimpses of the hot colours of summer creeping through in the herbaceous borders and drought tolerant Mediterranean garden.  

Roses creep up the Manor walls

Coton is a garden of many gardens. Through its series of sloping mini-gardens there are dry rockeries, meadows and terraces, as well as plenty of container garden inspiration. (Don’t miss the menagerie of ducks, pigs and flamingoes too!)

Peach and coral flamingo feathers offset beautifully by a backdrop of stripy hosta!

As someone with a shady, north-facing garden, I particularly love the meandering brooks, bridges and pockets of lush shade planting in the water garden.

A bubbling brook in the water garden

For me, it’s also a garden that cannot be pigeon-holed. Every visitor will takeaway something different and each visit will offer a new treasure to use in your own garden.

Top Coton Manor Takeaways

Think of your backdrop

Not everyone is lucky enough to have the rolling Northamptonshire countryside as a backdrop but the idea of utilising the background and using it in your own garden is one that can be applied wherever you live. In the ‘Meadow Border’ Sue has incorporated plants that might be found in a wild form in the meadow beyond, such as achilleas, cranesbills, grasses, daisies and echinops. Against a shining holly hedge she has also used clashing red-orange roses, which make a real statement against the foliage. “Anything else would be lost to the hedge,” she says.

Red-orange roses bounce out of a border backed by a holly hedge


The borders at Coton are not about single colours but blocks of three plants of different colours used throughout. “It brings a sense of rhythm,” says Susie.

Start with your soil 

As much work goes into nurturing the soil at Coton as goes into the plants. When the younger Pasley-Tylers first arrived at the garden in the 90s they mulched and added compost and leaf mould to the grounds, before anything else was planted. This shows in the health and vigour of the plants.

Use more yellow!

Susie is forthright in her feeling that this colour is much underrated in the garden! She uses it to beautiful effect throughout the grounds, but particularly in the Yellow & Blue garden.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ dominates the beautiful Yellow and Blue Border

Like this? You might also like to read my behind-the-scenes snoop at some of the UK’s floating canalboat gardens. Or leave me some feedback below…

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