Mary Benger, Winner of Nation’s Favourite NGS Garden

Were you enthusiastic gardeners before you moved to Burrow Farm?

We moved here in 1959 having just got married, and I was just 19. We had lunch with a neighbour early on and she asked “which one of you is the gardener?” … Well, with John busy building up a herd, it looked as though it was going to be me.

Did you inherit a love of gardening? 

I did, from my father. It’s surprising how much you pick up, and I was surprised how little some other children knew about trees, for example, at school.

Does your family share your passion?

Most of them do, yes. One of my four children, my son, has a big landscaping business, and my next daughter does the designs for him. Michael, my grandson, works for me here looking after the website and all things on-line, as well as working in the garden. Another daughter runs the tearoom, and my youngest does the books. 

Mary Benger NGS winner interview - Burrow Farm Gardens

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

My favourite part always depends on the time of year, and my least favourite is the part that needs the most work. If it’s not right, then it gets changed.  

Are there any particularly challenging spots?

Part of my garden is a Roman clay pit, with mature woodland trees. It is quite steep, and at the bottom it is very boggy and beautifully fertile. Everything about it makes it challenging to keep it tidy enough to be thought of as part of the garden, rather than purely a wild area.

Mary Benger NGS winner interview - Burrow Farm Gardens

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

I am a great believer in creating a garden with what you have, so I don’t think I would wish for anything different. That said, it all might have happened rather quicker if we hadn’t had four children.

Which gardeners and gardens do you most admire? 

Without a doubt, I admire Beth Chatto’s Garden for plant knowledge, but I also really like Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk. Richard Bloom has visited us here to take photos, in fact, which is wonderful.   

Mary Benger NGS winner interview - Burrow Farm Gardens

Do you have a top garden or gardening tip we could pass on?

I’m a great believer in mulching for adding fertility and keeping weeds down. Being on clay, I do very little digging. It is always best not to disturb clay.

When did you become aware of the NGS?

We started opening the garden to the public many years ago. Having visited a garden open for the NGS, someone simply suggested we do the same. We have opened consistently ever since, and have received an engraved sundial from the NGS as a 30 year thank you. Opening for the NGS is always a happy and relaxed experience, and people sometimes even bring me gifts of plants that don’t fit in their own garden, which is wonderful. 

Mary Benger NGS winner interview - Burrow Farm Gardens

What structures do you most rely on in the garden?

I use a selection of arches, arbours and gazebos, I also love gates in a garden, leading from one area to another. Some of the gates here are metal ones from reclamation yards, and we use some old wooden farm gates, too. 

There are four summer-houses here at Burrow Farm, and each one is different. We’ve just completed a stone-built one, in fact, and one is thatched, and another is tiled. Each adds something special. I must admit I love a lot of seats in a garden, too, and this garden has many. The view from each one is different.  

What will you use the £100.00 Agriframes voucher for? 

We are maybe thinking of something to go over a seat -  as you can imagine, it will need to be just the right size so it is fantastic to have such a selection to choose from.

Agriframes Round Arbour  


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