Me And My Home: Destination earth

Mary Wilson visits a TV gardener at his home near Cambridge to hear of the joys of home-grown greens and bask in glowing colours
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We moved to Cambridge in 1998 when I was supervising the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. We were quite happily renting a house which had a large garden but it was in an area of Cambridge that was to be demolished to make way for new housing, so we had to move.

We moved to Cambridge in 1998 when I was supervising the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. We were quite happily renting a house which had a large garden but it was in an area of Cambridge that was to be demolished to make way for new housing, so we had to move.

I wanted to buy something with more land and found the perfect cottage eight miles west of Cambridge in a small village. There are lots of beautiful villages with pretty thatched houses and cricket greens in the area, but this cottage just jumped out at us, we loved it. It had a nice big garden, but what I was particularly excited about was that it had some very good parsnips. They were outside the back door, nice and straight, which is a sign of a good soil. I had never lived in a house with a garden that had anything but builders' rubbish in it.

It's very charming, built in the 1650s in a T-shape. The old part is thatched, then there is a modern extension that has been built to blend in, with old tiles and a tall, pitched roof. I love steep roofs. The previous owners had renovated it very well - they had done a great job - so what we've done is to warm it up.

We used a lot of Farrow & Ball paints. In the lounge, we used Reading Room Red, which is like the rich, red sandstone you get in Devon and a similar colour, but in more glowing tones, in my office, which is in the old part of the house. There are lots of interior windows because of the T-shape, but the back faces south so it is very light.

We have also used soft off-white on the walls and have tried to link the rooms with carpets of similar hues as there are long views through the house. It is basically warm and cosy. I don't like places which look new and un-lived-in. I prefer them to look used and useful, to have character.

The corridor, which is divided between the new and the old, is in a soft sage green and then we have some more pink, cavey sort of tones in the old part. These colours work very well, because the walls are so wonky and uneven. I was brought up in Devon, so that is perhaps why I've chosen those colours. Upstairs we have three bedrooms. Eddie's is painted white because it's quite small and it brightens the room up and Henry's is in a vibrant blue.

I have recently put in a new kitchen. I'm not keen on fitted kitchens and as this room was the old kitchen shop, I wanted it to have the feeling of that with big wooden worktops with not much above. It has a lovely brick floor and an olde-worlde look. We've also put in a little larder.

I've also discovered that I adore cooking. Ever since the children were born - Henry is four and a half and Eddie is one and a half - I've realised that I was brought up with wonderful cooking smells. My father was a great cook, but I had forgotten until recently.

We practically eat all our own greens, particularly in the summer and we have two sinks - a Belfast sink in the utility room, where I can rinse off the cabbages and other veg, and another in the kitchen. What I cook is very led by what is growing at the time.

I have probably put most work into the garden. When we moved in, there was a concrete yard by the side of the house and a patio with a wall. We dug out the concrete and replaced it with tropical plants and bamboos as it is a wonderful sun trap. The rest of the garden is very big with double borders. It is like a cottage garden with roses and lots of flowers, but with a contemporary twist from grasses and dahlias to add movement. I've also put in a lot of lilies.

It then leads through to a square lawn up to a circular lawn with a summer house, which I finished last year, at the back. I get a lot of leftover materials from all the building I do for various programmes so I started to build the summerhouse and got more ambitious as I went along.

It's got gable-end circular windows and looks a little owl-like with circular windows either side of the little portico and a tall, pitched roof to match the cottage. The north side is hinged with counterweight balances and this comes down like a drawbridge to make a large deck.

I've also used lots of salvaged materials including windows and the latch which came from our demolished rented house. I have my rowing machine there and listen to football on Radio 5, which is a bit of a drone if you are not into football. It's also a great place for parties.

There used to be an orchard, but the trees were very old so we've planted some more apple and pear trees. I also made a tulip-top picket fence at the front of the house, which I think looks very pretty and I grow all the vegetables in my allotment down the road.

Toby Buckland presents 'Garden Challenge' and a new series, 'Weed It and Reap', both for UKTV. His new book, 'How to Make Your Garden Grow', is published by Cassell Illustrated, £16.99

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