Nathaniel Parker: The joys of building a treehouse for his daughters
An aviary, a treehouse, a walled garden – famous faces reflect on how they brought pet outdoor projects to fruition.
Nathaniel Parker, actor
“I have loved gardens since I was a bairn really. I grew up on a very old farm in Oxfordshire that really wasn’t in great shape. My mum’s vision was to create a beautiful, romantic English garden out of it, but it was full of rocks, so my job was to dig them up. I enjoyed it so much because I used to find the most amazing things. It was an old Roman area and I remember finding a coin with Marcus Aurelius on it, and the foundations of the houses people used to live in 500 or 600 years ago. It was such a wonderful place for me and my brothers and sister to grow up, and now all of us love our own gardens.
“I have always wanted a big garden but actually getting it has been a revelation. We used to have no outdoor space aside from a terrace, but I wanted my daughters [Raffi and Angel] to have somewhere outside to play in. The fact that the garden has become such a joy to me has taken me by surprise. When we moved I thought, ‘Hmm… nice garden’, but now! It is a real delight for me.
“It’s about 120ft x 30ft and when we moved in a year and a half ago it was already wonderfully planted, with a really nice area at the end which is paved and raised with an arbour around it. I felt it was slightly overplanted, however. There were lots of hostas, which proper gardeners all love but I am not so keen on in my own garden. They don’t have enough life in them for me – I need a quicker fix. So we cleared it out and unstraightened the lawn. Now it’s a curvy lawn – our lines are more like life.
“We had lots of stuff in pots which we brought with us and have taken real joy in transferring. My favourites are three olive trees, which in a year and a half have trebled in width. There is nothing quite as beautiful as a good olive tree. We also planted another favourite of mine, the tree peony. I was so happy that it took so well – I adore the tree peony. It’s such a luscious plant – like ladies’ French underwear.
“My favourite part of the garden, however, is the treehouse. I used to have a shed at the end of the garden when I was young and we would play cowboys and Indians up there all the time, and I wanted the girls to have something similar. There was a beautiful big cherry blossom tree at the back of the garden, so we bought a shed and got the builders to put up some white struts and a balcony. We hooked it up with electricity, and it is the kids’ idea of heaven.
“We also have a big wooden chest we have turned into a herb garden, which is fantastically exciting as spring comes. We went away for ten days and when we got back it was full of delicious stuff like purple sage, common thyme and oregano. And my roses! They are something really special to me.”
Nathaniel Parker plays Inspector Lynley in the BBC drama series and is currently appearing in Quartermaine’s Terms, which is touring the UK. For details visit www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk. His childhood home, Manor Farm (Old Minster Lovell, Oxon), is opened for the NGS by his mother, and can be visited on June 15, 2pm to 5pm