Sarah Pajwani Interview, NGS Winner of Nation's Favourite Garden '21

In the heart of Berkshire, St Timothee is a a 2 acre country garden planted for year-round interest with a variety of different colour themed borders each featuring a wide range of hardy perennials, shrubs and ornamental grasses. Sarah Pajwani spoke to us about  working in her garden which includes a box parterre, wildlife pond and rose terrace together with areas of long grass and beautiful mature trees, all set against the backdrop of a 1930s house.   

sarah house

Were you an enthusiastic gardener before you took on the garden at St Timothee?

Before moving to this house with this garden, I confess I was a relatively inexperienced gardener. I'd had only had a couple of quite small gardens before, but had already thoroughly enjoyed tinkering and tweaking, particularly enjoying playing with colour. It was really exciting to be presented with the larger blank canvas at St Timothee. 

Sarah Pajwani

Did you inherit a love of gardening?

My mother was a keen gardener, and my grandfather was a landscape gardener, so with a love of the outdoors, and the countryside in general in my blood, it may have been inevitable that I'd get interested in gardening. For me it is a joy; I genuinely enjoy the hard work of it!   

sarah paj

Does your family share your passion? 

When my two boys were at home, I remembers them enjoying using the ride-on mower, as you might imagine, but I wouldn’t say that either of them particularly share my passion. My husband, Sal, is incredibly good at digging out borders, but the the garden is definitely my territory!

srah pajwani

Which are your favourite and least favourite parts of the garden?

I really don't have a least favourite part of the garden - what I enjoy most with gardening is the process of physically working in it, so my favourite bit is always the patch I'm currently focused on. 

sarah pajwani

Are there any particularly challenging spots?

There has been a deliberate plan to ensure the garden at St Timothee is as easy maintenance as possible, so I don't find any areas particularly challenging, and I willing and able to accept the challenges. One of the best decisions was to include a wildlife pond. I think some would see the first 2 years of developing that pond, when patches of blanket weed constantly needed to be fished out, as rather frustrating, but I never minded doing all of that - it's all part of gardening, just like the patches of thuggish dock!

sarah pajwani

If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change? 

What I would love more than anything is for my drifts of spring bulbs to spread and naturalise more quickly -  the dream is for the cyclamen coum and the patches of crocus to be denser, but, at the same time 'slowly, slowly' is part of the process and worth the wait.   

sarah pajwani

Are there any gardens and gardeners you particularly admire? 

The late Beth Chatto’s garden in Colchester, and Beth’s whole gardening approach, are inspirational and have given me a great deal of comfort when approaching my own garden. I focus on perennials at St Timothee, with no annuals, no pots, and no irrigration, and I do my utmost to embrace Beth’s mantra of ‘right plant, right place’. I find Beth’s approach really stands the test of time, and the book Beth Chatto’s Green Tapestry, which focuses on the sustainable approach to creating a garden, has been invaluable to me. It's heartening to read accounts of Beth coming across incredibly similar problems to my own - sometimes it simply takes time to find out what works.

sarah pajwani

Do you have a garden tip we could pass on, or a piece of advice you are grateful to have been given?

Check out how long something is in flower and always buy plants with caution, as some will only flower for maybe three or four weeks each year.  Properly researching how much time each plant will give you flower or foliage performance is incredibly helpful.

sarah pajwani

When did you become aware of the NGS?

Before moving to St Timothee, I always enjoyed seeing private gardens, but that appreciation has had a little more focus since we moved - it's inspiring to see what others are doing. 

What structures do you rely on in the garden?

In the deep borders of clump-forming plants and very tall prairie planting, where the centre needs as much support as the outer edges, well positioned grow-through supports, put in place before plants have put on too much height, are invaluable. Having to climb into a flower bed to prop things up once the growing season is fully underway is far from ideal, so deciding which support to put where just as the green shoots first appear is crucial. 

I'll be using grow-through supports, specifically to support things like the abundant Aster Laevis in the middle of the borders.
 sarah pajwani

Find St Timothee’s opening information on the National Garden Scheme website.