open gardens, garden centre, plant nursery, tearoom Colchester Essex

Green Island Gardens

open gardens, garden centre, plant nursery, tearoom Colchester Essex

Green Island Gardens

open gardens, garden centre, plant nursery, tearoom Colchester Essex

Green Island Gardens

open gardens, garden centre, plant nursery, tearoom Colchester Essex

Green Island Gardens

Fiona Edmond

Owner and Creator of Green Island Gardens

Fate & Destiny

 

Fiona at work

 "I am a great believer in fate, and as such I know that it was always my destiny to end up at Green Island. Like my farmer father, I know that we are only on this earth for a short time and can only be considered as guardians of the land. Over the last twenty years I have been lucky enough to be able to indulge my passion for my love of plants as well as create the garden of my dreams, and it gives me enormous pleasure and satisfaction now to be able to share it with others."

 

Whether you are a plantaholic, a lover of wildlife, an avid birdwatcher, a student of horticulture or garden design, all or none of the above, I hope that your experience of Green Island leaves you feeling enriched. I never set out for it to be a therapy or cure for my illness however without a doubt it has had a large part to play in my recovery and I hope also some of its healing spirituality can now be passed on to anyone in need who visits the gardens.

Fiona Edmond

Contact Fiona                            View Fiona's Blog

Brought upon a farm in Great Bromley Fiona’s love of plants was started as a small child by collecting wildflowers in the cow fields with her grandfather, and pressing them between his beer cans. Educated at boarding school in Suffolk she developed her interest in gardening throughout her childhood alongside her sport. Both her mother and maternal Grandparents were keen gardeners. Despite being set on a degree in horticulture the careers mistress insisted she had “far too good a brain to waste on plants,” and persuaded her to “go to Cambridge and get a degree” During her 3 years studying Geography at Trinity College she pursued her other passion, golf and made history by becoming  the first woman to play in the men’s varsity match, gaining 2 blues, duly being elected to the Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society and subsequently playing in the Presidents Putter at Rye. After graduating Fiona decided to give the golf a go and played on the amateur circuit for a couple of years, representing England and then Great Britain. Having decided that she did not want to turn professional as it would have meant going to the states in order to be able to make a living, and she had already met Andy and become engaged, it was then that she turned back to her first love of gardening. She enrolled on an intensive 1 year Garden Design course at the Inchbald school of Design in London, and then set up as a freelance garden designer whilst continuing to play golf on the amateur circuit.

Married in 1990, injury put an end to her serious amateur golf career in 1992 and in 1993 Megan their daughter was born. 18 months later Luke arrived and whilst still trying to keep up with the garden design work, and playing competitive golf with 2 small children over the next 6 months her health seriously deteriorated. In March 1996 she was finally diagnosed with the debilitating illness ME. 

Unable to look after the children Fiona’s mother picked the three of them up and brought them back to her home in Essex where they lived for the following six months. The decision was made to look for a property locally, and to stay close to Fiona’s family as she still needed a lot of help with the children, often at short notice. Several properties were viewed but none fitted Fiona and Andy’s brief of an old property with beams, and garden of 2-3 acres. Desperate not to be out of the property market the estate agent encouraged them to view Green Island. Before they had even driven to the top of the drive a boyish grin had come over Andy’s face and he said, “Let’s buy it!”  Two weeks later, on September 12th 1996 they moved in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiona’s health was not good, and so for her the first few months were spent discovering what they had bought. A cottage, two chalets, numerous outbuildings many with running water electric and beds, along with 20 acres of grounds, most of which was woodland that hadn’t been touched since the storm of 1987. Oaks and chestnuts lay horizontal, sycamores had sprung up like cress in every gap, and brambles 6 feet high ensured that most of it was totally impenetrable. 

Despite her illness Fiona still had the urge to create a small garden for her favourite plants and for the children to play in. She commissioned a site survey to be drawn up and her drawing board was put up in a loft room above the kitchen.  Fiona then began to sketch a few ideas on plan for her garden. Inspiration came from some of her favourite gardens including The Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park, Savil Garden at Windsor, and the nearby Beth Chatto Gardens. 

Fortunately the soil and microclimate of Green Island made it possible for Fiona to grow a lot of the plants she had fallen in love with and the style of the house leant itself to an informal natural style. Determined not to waste anything nearly all the features in the gardens today have been created from wood and various other materials found on site.

Over the next 20 years the garden was developed in stages, firstly the area along the terrace, and front of the house including the Japanese garden and the six main beds. Fiona's farmer father Robert Macdonald had a huge part to play in helping with manpower, machinery and putting in the rabbit fence and water system. He had felt helpless watching his daughter in such poor health but this practical way of getting her out working in her garden was his way he believed “to get her better”.  Much was written about the project of designing the garden as being the therapy Fiona needed to get better. Whether the project was what made her better, or whether slowly getting better she became able to take on more is unclear but whatever the case the garden certainly made the 10 years Fiona reckoned she "lost" to the illness more bearable.  Unbelievably four more boys were added to the family during this time, only made possible by the fact that Fiona and Andy had full time help with the children which allowed Fiona to potter in the garden as much or as little as her health would allow.  

In 1999 the second phase of the garden was developed which included the creation of the water garden and woodland beds, the tree house, and area right round to the cottage where the seaside garden was created. By this time Fiona felt that she was pouring all her energy into the garden, and nobody else was able to enjoy it as she was still largely housebound, and her husband Andy had no interest in the garden. Longing to share her creation she decided to open the garden for charity a couple of days in 1999 and the response was overwhelming so the following year a few more open days were held and as the garden grew Fiona needed help so John Wayland was taken on as part time gardener. 

Over the next 10 years the rest of the woodland was gradually tamed in two further phases. Sycamores were removed, brambles dug out and pathways carved between the remaining trees. A carpet of bluebells was uncovered and Fiona was able to plant hundreds of her favourite acid loving plants. The days the garden was open to the public increased as the children grew up. Au pair couples, mostly from Romania came and lived at Green Island to help with the children and the garden. As the garden grew so did the nursery and tearoom alongside, and what was started as a hobby gradually developed into a business. Planted for all year interest the months of the year that the garden opened increased and is now only closed in December.

Fiona turned forty in 2006, and says that having "just existed" through her thirties she was once again able "to live" in her forties. She managed to take up tennis having not played since university, and enjoyed playing for the local club ladies and mixed teams for several years before injury to one shoulder and then the other resulted in surgery to both. She was able to travel and family holidays were taken in Portugal where the boys learned to play golf  alongside Andy and Fiona. Fiona took on private design commissions, mostly locally and was asked to guest speak at various clubs and horticultural society meetings.

 

In 2009 the last phase of the garden was opened up for the first time, 10 acres of woodland and the garden opened 5 days a week.  This area is really starting to mature and is one of Fiona's favourite areas as it is home to so many rare and unusual species. 

open gardens, garden centre, plant nursery, tearoom in Colchester and Essex

In July 2013 one of Fiona's sons persuaded Fiona to take her golf clubs out of the loft and have a game with the boys at Ipswich. Having not played for 25 years, apart from the odd round on holiday Fiona was instantly hooked again and began to play regularly, breaking the course record at Ipswich 6 weeks after taking up the game again, winning the Suffolk ladies strokeplay title and being called up to represent the county side. In 2016 she turned 50 and became eligible for seniors golf. At her first attempt she won the English seniors title in 2017 and was called up to play for England seniors in the European Team Championships and Home Internationals. Unfortunately old elbow injuries reared their ugly heads and 2 frustrating years "off golf"and gardening have followed desperately trying to avoid surgery.

It has however meant that Fiona has had time to write a weekly gardening column for various local papers, create a visitors handbook, and now has a regular blog. She is enjoying teaching and passing on her knowledge to fellow gardeners and enthusiasts and can usually be found chatting to the visitors in the gardens when not baking cakes for the tearoom or mowing the lawns, the latter being a task she likes to do herself as it is when she does a lot of designing and planning planting changes for the following year. It also means she gets right round the 20 acres every week and can see what needs doing.

For Fiona who is a plantswoman first and then designer there is the constant dilemma of wanting to add more plants to her garden, and yet planting the garden so that it works in design terms. She has built up several collections of plants and has just been awarded National Plant Collection status for her Hamamelis and Autumn & Winter flowering Camellias.

She has also built up sizeable collections of Acers, Azaleas, Camellias, and Galanthus, and enjoys growing some of the more challenging woodlanders such as Trilliums and Arisaemas, all of which can be seen in the gardens at various times of the year. As well as plants, Fiona is an animal lover with a particular weakness for cats, especially long haired ones and has rescued numerous Moggies over the years on the premise that they are vermin control!

Fiona is passionate about wildlife, and manages the gardens in such a way to encourage and promote all types of wildlife so there is a vast array of bird, animal, butterfly, moth and insect life as well as wild flowers on Green Island.

For Fiona the garden will never be finished. She has plans to develop a wildlife educational centre, a South African garden and various other woodland areas as well as adding to her collections. Even the oldest parts of the garden are constantly being tweaked and new plants tried out. All this may be dependent on whether she manages to get back to the golf again as she desperately wants to.......the competition "made her feel alive again". Philsophical about what the future may or may not hold, one thing is certain, Green Island Gardens is where she was meant to be!

 

 

 

 

 open gardens, garden centre, plant nursery, tearoom in Colchester and Essex

Book Courses

Teaching and Design

Fiona now runs workshops and courses on a regular basis in the tearoom on garden and planting design. Fiona also offers private commission garden design services. 

She also goes out and presents talks to horticultural groups and societies.

You can also read Fiona's weekly Gardening Column in the Basildon & Southend Echo. Read More

In addition, she enjoys passing on her horticultural skills and knowledge and as such she employs apprentices to help in the gardens, who earn recognised qualifications whilst gaining practical experience in the gardens.

Fiona can often be found working in the gardens or greeting her visitors to the gardens personally.

Contact Fiona