Little wonder: Jane McMorland Hunter has broken every rule to create an Eden in miniature

Maybe she's been forewarned I can be bribed with cake, because when I arrive at the Fulham home of the garden writer Jane McMorland Hunter there is a strong smell of fresh pastry and an apple loaf cooling on the side. Her house is full of interesting things: it's piled with books, as McMorland Hunter worked in the gardening department of Hatchards in London's Piccadilly for 23 years, and here in her hall is the beautiful old hand-painted sign they used to take to the Chelsea Flower Show, saved from a skip.

But it's the garden I'm really interested in. From all the rooms you get glimpses of this miniature 4x4 (metres) affair – small, but beautiful. McMorland Hunter is the champion of the really titchy in all matters horticultural, as demonstrated by her book, The Tiny Garden. "You get people explaining in [the National Gardens Scheme's] The Yellow Book that theirs is a small garden, only quarter of an acre, as if that were really small," she laughs. "Having a really tiny garden is completely different."

McMorland Hunter set out to write a book about the most unpromising of outdoor spaces, with suggestions for side-alleys, staircases that lead to dustbins, and plots that spend all their time in the shade.

"I've always gardened," she says, with childlike enthusiasm. "When I was little, I think my parents decided I was cheap labour. We lived in the country, with acres of lawn, and when I was five or six I was given, of all things, a lawnmower. The awful thing was, I was actually pleased."

Today, McMorland Hunter's own tiny garden disobeys many of the standard rules about small spaces. Keep it formal, the convention goes. Restrict yourself to planting a few things, so you don't make it feel smaller by stuffing it with plants. Instead, she raises hundreds of annuals. "My friend has a conservatory and is good at starting them off, then I grow them on and plant them out in her garden and mine."

In summer her front garden is drifts of colour – cosmos, verbena and aquilegia – making a flowery screen that distracts prying eyes from looking in but lets the light shine in through a veil of blooms.

But it is her back garden that most epitomises her philosophy. "You have to work out why you actually want a garden. My garden is an outdoor dining-room, because that's top of my list of priorities – eating outside and having friends over." Indeed, on closer inspection, elegantly grouped into this tiny space are not one but two dining-table sets. "One for when you want to be in the sun, and one for privacy and shade on a hot summer's day."

On the cold day I visit, the view from the kitchen window is dominated by a potted witch hazel, "Rubin", covered in twisty, fiery-red flowers. "People say that you shouldn't grow witch hazel in a town garden, but I think I'll get a few years of joy out of this before it gets too big," McMorland Hunter explains. "You have to be practical when a garden is this small."

One of the best things about her book is the illustrations – a veritable sourcebook for any miniature garden. Trelliswork, mirrors and paint effects all appear, though her recommendations for planting up fire escapes might raise a few eyebrows among the health and safety conscious.

Even the deprived possessor of a single flowerbed is encouraged to stay positive: "You have an advantage over someone with room only for containers," she says; "just make sure the soil is top-quality." She is also a big fan of absolutely tiny lawns, although admits that's not standard advice, either. "It's just so lovely to be able to sit out on even a tiny patch of soft grass."

The biggest questions I want to put to my hostess are how she resists the urge to keep accumulating plants and how her garden has remained a usable space when she clearly loves plants so much? "It's a fine balance," she admits. "I have friends over for supper such a lot, so I have a permanent pile of jumpers in the kitchen [for visitors to wear outside] when it gets dark. They know to move past the plants gently." n

'The Tiny Garden' (Frances Lincoln, £12.99) is out now in paperback

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable