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Latest Homes Live: not-so-secret gardens

Andrew Bullock and Simone Thorogood explore outdoor delights for Latest Homes Live

 Latest Homes Live

Andrew: We’re halfway through airing a two-part feature I shot in late summer, which saw the Driftwood Fundraising charity host its third annual garden trail for Macmillan. “What’s a garden trail?” I hear you ask. Well, my first response to that would be: “Why haven’t you watched the most recent episode of Latest Homes Live, and seen for yourself?!”

My second (less snide) response would be that a garden trail is just what it sounds: a leisurely walk around a load of gardens. Think of it as promenade theatre for nature. And theatre it is, too. These gardens are marvels.

Latest Homes Live
Geoff Stonebanks, the man behind this concept, started the event by opening up his own fantastic garden to the public three years ago. And I don’t exaggerate in my choice of words. Geoff has designed his garden as an extension to his house, dividing it into several ‘rooms’. It’s not a small garden, but it’s also not massive. Yet, the way he has plotted paths that serve as a route from the bottom of the garden to the top, with stop-offs along the way in self-contained little areas, all with individual themes, is remarkable. And now, at this annual event, for a small admission fee you get to wander through the greenery yourself, with a tea and cake spot to replenish yourself along the way. This garden is full of little details here and unique designs there and you’d have to spend a good few hours to spot every special feature of the design.

Such a success has the garden trail been, that now, more than 30 gardens are involved in the event, and it’s only in its third year. On the day of filming I only got to experience four of the gardens, in all shapes, sizes, themes and colours. Along the coast from Geoff was an incredible tiered garden, multi-levelled and just so impressive. This garden had everything, from a variety of sea grasses to a circular lawn which was home to a fruit tree, to wind chimes made from polished cutlery, to a merry-go-round horse!

In the centre of Brighton I visited both a huge and a small garden. The smaller one was a testament to what the creative gardener can do to his land. Split into three parts, I enjoyed the patio seating area at the front of the garden, the lush, colourful, exotic middle section with its tropical looking flowers and ferns, and then the tucked away back part, which was like a private sun-trap.

On the seafront I visited a couple who had transformed their impressive large garden into a microcosm of wildlife and nature. Vegetables grew in the veggie patch, chickens roamed the grass, a sundial told the time, a Roman-looking wall enclosed it, and at the top end of the garden hidden in the shade of the trees was a hammock, which I very much wanted to have a swing in! What’s more, one of the visitors on the trail was the lady who lived in that very house, with her family, around 70 years ago ... she noted how the garden had greatly improved since her day!

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Such a wonderful day out for me, such a great idea, and such a good cause. Word on the street is that it’ll be back for a fourth year next summer, and even more gardens will be involved, meaning it might be a two-day event. I urge you to go. And watch out for future episodes of Latest Homes Live where we’ll be visiting Geoff Stonebanks again, and he’ll be giving viewers tips on how to look after your own gardens as the seasons change. I think he might be planning some tasks for Simone and I, so we’ll probably be rolling our sleeves up and getting our hoes out as well!

Simone: I don’t claim to be a property expert. In fact, from the inception of Latest Homes Live I have stressed that through our show I’m learning along with the audience. That’s not to say you at home are property novices. Our show caters for all sorts of viewers – whether you’re a serial house-hunter, a seasoned landlord or a well-versed renter, Latest Homes Lives has something for you!

But for those of you that are securing their first-footing on the property ladder, we’ve got plenty of experts on the show, ready and willing to give their advice. They’re teaching me so much, I can certainly vouch for them. If it’s location advice, we’ve got estate agents on hand to spill the beans; if it’s the history of Brighton you want, our regular guest Andy Garth is there to dish the Sussex dirt; building questions – we’ve got surveyors and architects a-plenty; thinking of renovating or re-designing your home or garden – we have access to the best of the best when it comes to local decorators and gardeners.

Each week we work to recruit fantastic experts into our studio. Or, we go to them, and get tips from them in their own environments. We have lots in the pipeline too – from landscapers to handymen to bespoke furniture makers. And of course, every week we continue our House Call feature, where we answer your questions and put them to our weekly specialist. So, email me if you’ve got a query you want to put to next week’s House Call expert –