Charlie McCormick Restores English Country Garden
Why is it that the non-English – like New Zealand-born florist Charlie McCormick (pictured right) – do classic English so much better than we do? the Telegraph’s Sarah Raven asks. On Raven’s arrival at his Dorset home, McCormick serves scones for breakfast. And for lunch, just-picked salad with broad bean tips, poached salmon and herby homemade mayonnaise, served in a roomful of Lilium regale in vases.
Architectural and interior designer Ben Pentreath, 44, moved into the Old Parsonage eight years ago. It’s a lime-rendered 1820 house in a village in West Dorset, 3.2km from the coast and to the east of Bridport. Over three or four years, Pentreath restored the house and garden, but with the ballooning success of his business, he was overwhelmed by the split London/Dorset life and the garden suffered.
Two years ago, he met his now-husband, McCormick, who rapidly took over. Pentreath says, “When I was very first introduced to Charlie, I suspected that something might work between us – I’d never known anyone else before whose idea of a happy Sunday was a day of garden visiting and junk shopping.”
McCormick was brought up on a farm in New Zealand. His grandfather was a passionate veg gardener and his grandmother keen on cut flowers and arranging. He spent time in their garden all through his childhood and in his teens started showing flowers and veg at local horticultural shows in Canterbury.
McCormick – now 26 – has carried on growing and gardening ever since, moving to England six years ago. He works as a florist, mainly doing large flower installations for events. As with all the best florists, one of the characteristics of McCormick’s work is the mixing of home-grown flowers with exotics in Dutch still-life-style vases.
Overall, the garden is about an acre, with a wildflower meadow to the south, joining the house to the church. McCormick has encouraged wild carrot, scabious and knapweed so he can pick from the meadow, and he’s created three herbaceous borders instead of a lawn to give more room for harvest.
McCormick says, “The borders are so much nicer than just a boring lawn, and it’s good looking back at the house over these three bands of flowers, with box balls at the edges to give structure for winter. And they allow even more room for flowers for picking.”
Original article by Sarah Raven, The Telegraph, August 13, 2016.
Photo by Jonathan Buckley.