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  • pg 1

This vegetable plot is a
showcase and testing
ground for products
offered by Harrod
Horticultural, the company    Where trial
                                  meets style
started by garden owner
Stephanie’s father - she
is now managing director.
Decorative fruit cages,
frost-resistant terracotta
pots and plant supports all
reinforce the message that
                                    This tiny kitchen garden has to satisfy all the demands placed
practical items can and           upon it: to look fantastic, test tools and also produce tasty goods
                                                    for its owner, businesswoman Stephanie Harrod

should look good.

                                                          PHOTOGRAPHS MARCUS HARPUR WORDS EMILY FARE

                                                                               The English Garden   55
                                                                                                                                                                     GLORIOUS GARDENS

                                                                                                          ABOVE LEFT Terracotta roof tiles are being
                                                                                                          trialled as planters for carrots. The raised
                                                                                                          beds are part of an extensive range Stephanie
                                                                                                          developed. ABOVE RIGHT Stephanie Harrod
                                                                                                          (standing, left) works closely with her team.
                                                                                                          LEFT Unusual vegetables join more common
                                                                                                          ones in the four-bed rotation scheme.
                                                                                                          OPPOSITE PAGE The compact but perfectly
                                                                                                          formed glasshouse by Alitex is the heart of
                                                                                                          this garden, used to test a range of growing
                                                                                                          mediums and devices.

                 tephanie Harrod seems to have it                                                         be an ideal place to try them out.’ She called her
                 all - an idyllic early 20th-century                                                      friend, local garden designer Tom Hoblyn, for some
                 house just a few miles from the                                                          ideas (Tom designed the Foreign & Colonial
                 sea; four and a half acres of                                                            garden at Chelsea this year). ‘I liked the Victorian
                 beautifully tended gardens; two                                                          principles of everything looking good as well as
Golden Retrievers and an organic vegetable plot.                                                          being productive, and Tom drew up a design that
Beyond first impressions, there are lots of clues                                                         became the basis of the garden.’
that this is no ordinary kitchen garden, and that                                                            The plot covers about a third of an acre, with a
Stephanie is not someone who puts her feet up                                                             3.5 x 2.5m (12 x 8ft) aluminium glasshouse by
while others do the work.                                                                                 Alitex at one end. The garden works on a
   She is one of the second generation of the          growing was the way forward. In 2000, Harrod       traditional crop-rotation system and is set out in
Harrod family to run Harrod Horticultural, the         launched its first gardening catalogue (just 16    box-edged beds with gravel paths in between.
Suffolk-based garden products company and one          pages), which today has blossomed to 112           It is run totally organically.
of the most respected suppliers in the industry.       pages. Her brother Chris is chief executive, and      Gardener Sharon-Louise Allen helps out three
Her father Ron set up the company in the 1950s,        Stephanie is now managing director.                days a week, and she has the quite difficult task
converting old fishing nets from the nearby               ‘I didn’t jump on the organic bandwagon,’ she   of maintaining balance in a garden of many
Lowestoft herring industry into sports nets for        says. ‘I was already there. I had an Italian       personalities. ‘This is not only a show garden
schools and clubs. Soon Harrod could make nets         grandmother and I was into the whole growing-      for our products and a trial garden for fruit
for anything, and started producing something the      what-you-cook idea. But I had a thirst for         and vegetables - it is also used for photographic
gardener badly wanted - net protection for their       knowledge of how to grow things better and         shoots for the Harrod Horticultural catalogue. It
crops from birds, rabbits and other pests.             there wasn’t much information out there.’          is Stephanie and her husband’s private garden
   More than 20 years ago, Stephanie was about            When she and her husband moved into their       too, and they like to eat what we grow here, so
to train as a fashion designer in London when          current house on the Norfolk/Suffolk border,       it has to work on all these levels.’
somehow the family business lured her in. She          she decided to use part of the garden as a            ‘Customers were asking us for information
was already a keen supporter of organic food,          ‘laboratory’ for the products they were selling.   about how copper rings worked or which frames
and after travelling scores of miles in search of      ‘We had started to offer timber raised beds, as    were best for which beans,’ says Stephanie. ‘We
good produce, decided that organic home                well as net protection, and I thought this would   wanted to give this information back to the

56 The English Garden

                          OPPOSITE Gardener Sharon-Louise Allen
                          (standing, left) looks after the kitchen garden
                          for Stephanie. She has the tricky job of
                          keeping this working garden looking good
                          no matter what’s going on. THIS PAGE,
                          ABOVE LEFT The glasshouse is used to raise
                          tomatoes and trial greenhouse products.
                          ABOVE RIGHT Pretty lichen green obelisks
                          are ideal for climbing beans and sweet peas.
                          RIGHT Plant supports and coldframes are
                          put through their paces.

                          customers from first-hand experience. We make                                                                   expert, Julian Ives, to keep customers and staff
                          a lot of products onsite at our Lowestoft factory,                                                              up to date with progress. ‘Julian will be giving
                          but for the things that I buy in, I always like                                                                 out advice on the website, and we will be trialling
                          to trial them here first.’                                                                                      all the new ideas, from biological pest controls
                             Right now, the garden is looking rather good,                                                                to natural prevention and barrier methods.’
                          with stylish lichen-green timber obelisks holding                                                                  This couldn’t come at a better time for the
                          up the runner beans; low willow hurdles used                                                                    gardening public, where there is great confusion
                          to create smaller growing areas for lettuces                                                                    over whether ‘introduced’ insects are a good idea.
                          and brassicas; tomatoes, basil and strawberry                                                                   The harlequin ladybird, for example, was
                          plants in the glasshouse; as well as all the         successfully. ‘If gardeners, particularly new              introduced for pest control in Europe, but has
                          products Harrod-made or from other sources           gardeners, try to grow vegetables and fail, then           spread alarmingly fast.
                          being trialled and tested here.                      they will get disheartened and perhaps never try              Rest assured, however, that there is someone at
                             ‘It doesn’t always look this good,’ laughs        again,’ says Stephanie. ‘All our work is aimed             the helm who will not be sitting back and leaving
                          Sharon-Louise, glancing around. ‘There is a          towards the gardener getting good results without          it all to chance. ‘Our mission, and my personal
                          lot of pressure on this limited space, and as        using chemicals. And, where possible, we want              goal, is to find good-looking, functional gardening
                          soon as one crop is finished, we will be pulling     our products to look great too.’                           products that work,’ Stephanie says. ‘The more
                          it out to try a different raised bed, or the            To this end, Sharon-Louise has started to               tools we have at our disposal, the more successful
                          same bed with a different crop. I am constantly      experiment with companion planting throughout              we will be in making organic growing a reality.’
                          sowing and planting here.’                           the vegetable garden. ‘The flowers we know work
                             Stephanie, meanwhile, already has designs on      well are marigolds, borage and yarrow. And                 Stephanie Harrod’s garden is not open to the public.
                          an adjoining (unused) tennis court, which            garlic - I plant it everywhere, let it flower to attract   For more information about products and the new
                          ‘would double our area. I just need to convince      beneficial insects and then chop the stems down            range of organic seeds to be launched in 2010, go
                          my husband now,’ she says.                           afterwards. I don’t like bare earth anywhere.’             to You can also call
                             Beneath the banter, both Stephanie and Sharon-       ‘Pest are one of the biggest challenges for us          0845 4025300 for a copy of the latest catalogue.
                          Louise are focused on the serious business           here in the garden, and as a company,’ says
                          of combating pests and growing vegetables            Stephanie, who has just employed a part-time                   Turn over for garden notebook

58 8 The English Garden                                                                                                                                     The English Garden             59

The notebook
Stephanie Harrod’s kitchen garden at her country home covers one third of an acre and lies on acid, sandy
soil, just a few miles from the East Anglian coast. It is surrounded by yew hedges to protect from the wind

                                                                FRIENDLY SOLUTIONS
                                                                Don’t be too quick to look for chemical
                                                                solutions to pest problems. If you give
                                                                nature time it will often come up with
                                                                its own solution. When it comes to
                                                                slugs, though most people aren’t
                                                                prepared to take the chance, so
                                                                these attractive copper collars (below)
                                                                make an instant and good-looking
                                                                barrier for young salad and brassica
                                                                plants - slugs won’t get near.

                                                                                                                GOOD COMPANIONS?
                                                                                                                Gardener Sharon-Louise (above) is a
                                                                                                                fan of organic pest solutions. In the
                                                                                                                garden and in the glasshouse, she
   GO FOR QUALITY                                                                                               recommends growing marigolds - they
   It’s an age-old saying, but one that still rings true - if                                                   attract hoverflies and predatory wasps
   you invest in the best tools you can afford, you will                                                        that keep down greenfly. ‘Yarrow is
   never regret it. The basic kit for a vegetable gardener                                                      brilliant too. As for nasturtiums, the jury
   would include seed storage, seed trays, a sieve, hoe,                                                        is still out,’ she says. ‘They do attract
   fork and hand tools for weeding. Stainless steel                                                             caterpillars, and can be used to draw
   makes cleaning easier and doesn’t rust. Look for                                                             pests away from other crops. Just
   strong handles and ergonomic designs.                                                                        don’t plant them next to your beans.’

   STEPHANIE HARROD’S                                                                                CONTACTS
   ORGANIC TIPS                                                                                      GARDENS AND NURSERIES NEARBY
   G The best solution to carrot root fly                                                            G East Ruston Old Vicarage, East Ruston,
   we’ve found is to grow carrots in a three-                                                        Norwich, Norfolk NR12 9HN. Tel: +44
   or four-tier raised bed. The pests only fly                                                       (0)1692 650432. www.e-ruston-old
   at a low level, so with crops raised 0.5m                                               
   (2ft) off the ground, the carrots are safe.                                                       G Helmingham Hall, Helmingham,
   G Treat all your vegetables to a dose                                                                                         .
                                                                                                     Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 6EF Tel: +44
   of Neem - an organic fertiliser made                                                              (0)1473 890799.
   from the crushed seeds of the Indian                                                              G Reads Nursery, Hales Hall Loddon, Norfolk
   Neem tree. Not only does it feed the                                                              NR14 6QW. Tel: +44 (0)1508 548395.
   plants, but as they suck it up it gives                                                 
   them natural insect repellent as well.                                                            G Somerleyton Hall & Gardens, Lowestoft,
   G My favourite invention fresh to                                                                 Suffolk NR32 5QQ. Tel: +44 (0)1502 734901.
   the UK is the Earthbox, a US idea that                                                  
   takes the guess work out of feeding                                                               G The Walled Garden, Park Road, Benhall,
   and watering crops in containers. It’s all                                                        Saxmundham, Suffolk IP17 1JB. Tel: +44
   you need to grow food in small spaces.                                                            (0)1728 602510.

60 The English Garden

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