How to make a living off your garden: ‘I was literally putting down roots’

Making your living off your garden is a dream for many of us — but it needn't be a dream, as Anna Tyzack found when she spoke to some people who are already doing it.

In the first piece, Anna spoke to flower grower Rachel Siegfried, while in the second she turned her attention to fruit and vegetable grower Jane Scotter. Next up was Viscountess Cowdray, aka Marina Cowdray, while in this final article it’s the turn of artist Kate Corbett Winder.

Kate Corbett Winder, artist, Powys

Kate Corbett Winder is both an artist-gardener and a gardener-artist, dividing her days equally between the borders of Vaynor Park, her home near Welshpool, and her studio above a former stable block.

‘The balance somehow works,’ she acknowledges. ‘If I’m painting, it’s good to have a pause and do some weeding. After a few hours, I go back to the studio and see the work with fresh eyes.’

Mrs Corbett Winder plants in the way she paints, playing with colour, texture and shape. ‘I experimented with coral and scarlet geums this spring, introducing some dark heuchera and grey artemisia to break up the colour. I’ve also been creating a woodland bank using drifts of ferns, honesty, foxgloves, camassias and species tulips.’

It was moving from London to rural Wales as a newlywed that caused Mrs Corbett Winder to fall in love with gardening. ‘An inspiring neighbour showed me how to lay out my first garden — I was literally putting down roots,’ she recalls.

A decade later, when she moved to Vaynor Park, the 15th-century estate belonging to the family of her husband, William, Mrs Corbett Winder was looking forward to making her mark on an established garden.

Kate Corbett Winder at work in her studio

Kate Corbett Winder at work in her studio.

On a holiday to Tresco in the Scilly Isles when her three children were still small, she began sketching in pastel and sold a few pictures in the local gallery. Over the next few years, she began to take painting more seriously — her first solo show was in 2009, at the Sladmore gallery, a series of poetic Welsh landscapes.

Her daughter Willow Crossley, a florist, always urged her to paint the garden, but she shied away from it as a subject until last year, when she had a burst of inspiration.

Mrs Corbett Winder’s new garden paintings are her boldest yet: bright clashes in the borders push her to experiment more in paint, she says, and the plant combinations inform her palette. Moreover, the tall vertical stems of foxgloves and alliums and the angular, horizontal branches of rhododendrons, robinias and Wellingtonias divide up the canvas with uprights.

The garden is at its best in early July, but she keeps working in it until November, when the last dahlia has succumbed to frost. ‘Moving into winter, when the

garden is less obvious, I’ll probably paint the landscape again,’ Mrs Corbett Winder reflects, ‘although I’ve learnt it’s never good to have a fixed plan — in both painting and gardening.’