Casa Lago - a horticultural world tour in Whalley

PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 November 2017

Looking across the garden with black and gold stemmed bamboo

Looking across the garden with black and gold stemmed bamboo

Linda Viney

This remarkable garden can whisk you on a horticulture tour of the world. Linda Viney took a trip

Anyone thinking of a staycation in 2018 should head to a stunning garden in the Ribble Valley and embark on a horticultural world tour. Even the pets at Casa Lago in Whalley are exotic – chow chow dogs that originate in China.

Stephen and Carole Ann Powers have a sheltered sunny garden that has so many different areas containing a huge collection of specialist plants from the tropics to the Far East.

Entering the rear garden via the patio with its small seating area, you are led to a raised deck area which is surrounded by a glass balustrade. One of the first things to catch the eye was the collection of bonsai some of which are a remarkable 70 years old. These perfect tiny trees have always fascinated me and, although I’m assured the technique is relatively easy, I know I would never have the patience.

In stark contrast, a huge monkey puzzle tree stands proud and can be seen from all parts. Breaking up the rear wall of the house, potted plants are placed on a metal stand and ornate holders attached to the wall.

Monkey puzzle tree stands proudMonkey puzzle tree stands proud

Stephen and Carole Ann have a pond with koi carp, which seem to appear on the surface as soon as they detect people nearby. Sadly, they have to be protected with a net to stop herons making a meal of them. Another pond leads to a stream offering the sound of water as it gently flows down a small waterfall. Great care has been taken with the marginal planting round both areas.

Carole Ann has always been passionate about gardening and much has been learned through books and magazines, watching television programmes and talking to like-minded people. Gardens need structure and, apart from the monkey puzzle tree, height comes from the two bamboos, one with black stems the other with golden canes.

The tight-knit shapes of rounded box balls add formality to the swaying leaves of the bamboo which also offer sound as they swish from side to side. As it is a warm sheltered garden they even have a mimosa, not often seen this far north.

To the far end, a bamboo structure forms a frame for the raised decking and yet another seated area. This and an oak pergola were constructed by Stephen and now roses and clematis are gradually being trained upwards. He is also responsible for mowing the small lawn using a 1949 cylinder mower and scissors to ensure the edges are pristine. This sets off various areas and means the whole plot is carefully structured and organised.

Topiary balls with golden bambooTopiary balls with golden bamboo

There is a large collection of ferns and hostas including the variety ‘Praying Hands’ – one of my favourites. Grit is used to deter the slugs. A fairly recent addition has been a circle of black grass which to me mimics water. A mound of stones contains a collection of sarrancenias, a carnivorous plant feeding off insects. They are set in a bed of peat with a liner to ensure they stay very moist.

A collection of alpines is kept in a glass lean-to on the decking along with planted in troughs which of varying heights. Oak posts add visual interest. Some are planted within a gravelled area of the garden and sempervivums are placed in tufa, a variety of limestone which is getting increasingly difficult to find. Here you will find aeoniums which are tender and usually need to be brought in to overwinter.

Carole Ann moved here in 1990 and she gave up her career to be full time carer for her grandmother, who had raised her. In 2014 she passed away at the grand old age of 100. During this time she began creating the garden and when she met Stephen, a scientist, he also got hooked on horticulture and those chow chows. They have successfully managed to combine their styles which has made this garden a delight.

Carole Ann also had the opportunity to set up her business ‘The Pampered Pooch Dog Grooming Studio’ after taking exams to become fully qualified. Eventually, Stephen also gave up his job to help the business as it went from strength to strength. Clients and dogs immediately enter a tranquil haven as they journeyed to the studio at the far end of the garden and this is where I spotted the toy chows.

Chow Chow Tai Li, which means blue and beautifulChow Chow Tai Li, which means blue and beautiful

They are the brainchild of Carole Ann and, apart from them being sent out with their own birth certificates, they are well dressed for any occasion. She makes and designs their clothes, while hand-knitted ones are made and designed by local people with disabilities who can no longer work.

I felt I had travelled the globe in this delightful garden. Although fairly small, it is home to a rare collection of plants. w

To find our more about visiting Casa Lago or other open gardens go to Carole Ann and Stephen are assistant county organisers of the National Garden Scheme. They can be contacted on 01254 824 903 or by email at You can find out more about the soft toy chows at

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