Category: Great Gardens


Our second trip to a notable Lake District house and garden was Sizergh Castle, an imposing house standing proud at the gateway to the Lake District. Still lived in by the Strickland family, Sizergh has many tales to tell and certainly feels lived in, with centuries-old portraits and fine furniture sitting alongside modern family photographs. The exceptional wood panelling culminates in the Inlaid Chamber, returned here in 1999 from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

‘A true patchwork of styles, taking a stroll through the House will lead you from the base of the medieval solar tower, through the Elizabethan interiors, into the French regency-styled Drawing Room and beyond. Cherished family photos sit alongside precious antiques, linking the past with the present day. In a house full of contrasts, fine craftsmanship can be seen throughout, from the impressive collection of Gillows furniture, to the stunning Italian-designed ceilings. They all have stories to tell, not least of all the splendid Victorian dining table, which awaits your uncovering of its tales and secrets. From the Battle of Agincourt, to the fight for Malta during the Second World War, the Strickland’s involvement in over 700 years of national history can be uncovered first-hand at Sizergh. ‘

The 647-hectare (1,600-acre) estate includes limestone pasture, orchards and semi-natural woodland. Its rich and beautiful garden includes a pond, lake, a national collection of hardy ferns and a superb limestone rock garden.

Unfortunately an urgent medical need meant my visit was shortened, so some areas of the gardens I will need to return to. But I managed to meet the Head Gardener and compliment her on the quality of the planting in the herbaceous borders (with some clever twiggy supports) and the ‘square foot gardening’ in the kitchen garden. I also loved the Stumpery which shows off the ferns to great effect.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

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A week in the Lake District is always a treat, especially if you have some fine weather. On a recent trip we had a rather mixed bag, meteorologically speaking, but we had great company ( a group of ex college friends) and plenty of places to visit as well as some fell walking. Our first really wet day we spent exploring Keswick and especially the famous Derwent Pencil Museum (the home of ‘Lakeland Pencils’). At first glance this seems like a rather modest museum, but upon closer inspection- and there was plenty of that- I found it delightful. The wall-size information panels and engaging videos; especially the one telling the story of the Keswick Pencil company’s involvement in a project to create a pencil that  could be used by war time airmen not only to plot their route, but to escape enemy hands should they be shot down- it concealed a small, fine silk map of Europe and a minute compass.

Our way home took in the splendid former home of the poet Wordsworth, Rydal Mount alongside Grasmere. Though the rain continued off and on, we had an interesting look round this humble home with many interesting exhibits on the famous poet and his family. The gardens, cascading down the hill towards the lake, were also wonderful, even in damp weather. A flowing plan of mixed borders and woodland gardens seemed just right for this spot.

Further information:

Derwent Pencil Museum

Rydal Mount

Old School Gardener

Our second recent Devon garden trip was to the beautifully located Overbecks- a house full of curiosity and a garden of sub tropical exoticism. The house itself is perhaps nothing special , but it contains a panoply of collected items and interesting artefacts accumulated by the original owner, a German inventor called Otto Beck. A room of dolls houses (witha lowered door opening to make the point that this is a room for youngsters), and dispays of bird eggs, stuffed anumials rocks and so on, make this a house of wonder.

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The gardens- another example of a Devon valley being used to great effect in creating a sub tropical microclimate- is wonderful, with a winding path taking you around the wide range of interesting plants , and the occasional view across Salcombe Bay. It was a sunny day and we had a delicious meal on the terrace.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

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On a recent trip to Devon we revisited a couple of favourite National Trust properties on the south coast. The first, Coleton Fishacre, is an arts and crafts house and garden originally owned by the D’Oyly Cart family of ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’ musical fame. The house, built in the 1920’s, is furnished in period style and provided an interesting example of a homely scale house, in contrast to so many huge ‘vanity projects’ of the pre First World War age.

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But even more impressive is the garden with its typical valley microclimate providing the opportunity to grow some rather exotic species. I was especially impressed with the borders near to house with the array of Echiums in full flower and a splendid alpine raised bed. The wider estate is a rich mix of trees and shrubs with some wonderful views towards the sea. Well worth a visit.

Further information: National Trust website

 

The Old Vicarage Garden at East Ruston is a particular favourite of mine, and one I take students to as it beautifully demonstrates a lot of key design principles and ideas. It also has a wonderful vibrancy and variety, including a dry river bed garden and other areas designed with a particular style. The owners are very knowledgeable plantsmen and come up with some delightful combinations.

It also has a very strong structure, largely created by the lines of hedging that the owners have planted as shelter belts; given it’s proximity to the North Sea coast. Though the overall style is ‘modern arts and crafts’, in keeping with the house, the hedges create a series of garden rooms with their own micro climates and connecting pathways, where a range of different garden styles have been successfully introduced. It’s located between North Walsham and Stalham in Norfolk, and well worth a half day if not a full day visit. I hope you enjoy the pics I took on a recent visit with our friends Jen and Dave…

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Further information: East Ruston website

Old School Gardener

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We were very lucky to have a morning to spare before travelling home from seeing friends in Cheshire, recently. Tatton Park was a half hour drive away, so we headed off. I was eager to see this garden which is a prominent National Trust property (though run by the local Council) and features in the annual round of RHS Flower Shows. I wasn’t disappointed…

Our friends took us straight to the most talked about area here, the Japanese Garden. WOW! It was a delight, especially as the various Maples were newly in leaf. The sun was out and the garden, with its changing levels, water and Japanese feature buildings and monuments, was breathtaking.

After this we had an hour to get round as much of the rest of this beautifully kept estate, including fernery and palm houses, bothy, walled garden, tower garden and wider woodland areas with some superb early Rhododendrons. You could easily spend a day or two here exploring the wider parkland as well as the 50 acres of richly varied gardens…enjoy the pics!

Further information:

National Trust website

Tatton Park website

Old School Gardener

Travelling back from our recent trip to Hull, we stopped off at a National Trust property in Derbyshire, the north midlands- Hardwick Hall. The Hall itself wasn’t open on our visit, but promises to be a fascinating example of high 18th century bling, so a return visit is in store….meanwhile how about the gardens?

After a pleasant lunch, sitting outside in the sunshine, we made our way around the rather splendid house (picking up a brief history from a very helpful guide) and explored the interesting entrance gardens and walled gardens that sit alongside the impressive pile.

The gardens are kept in good condition, as you might expect, and provide a wonderful opportunity to diversify and create areas of interest in what might otherwise seem to be an underdeveloped layout. Certainly the mixed herbaceous borders surrounding the House looked to be firing up for a wonderful summer show, but I was left thinking that more could be made of the walled garden….maybe I’ve been spoiled by my experience of regenerating the Walled Garden at Blickling! However, it was a very pleasant walk and I was very impressed with the various neat and interesting ways of interpreting the gardens and what’s currently of interest…something Blickling could do more of…

We didn’t have time to explore the wider estate, but it would seem to be packed with interesting walks (including a sculpture walk), complete with roaming herds of deer and other animals.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

 

On our way ‘up t’ ‘ull’ (Up to Hull) recently we stopped off at a Lincolnshire Garden that was most impressive, Gunby Hall. This National Trust house was an interesting tour, but the most impressive feature is undoubtedly the gardens.

The time was right for a wonderful woodland display of Wood Anenomes and spring bulbs, complemented bya walk lined with flowering cherries. And the Walled Garden (where I stopped to talk to the Senior Gardener) and orchard are a delight. Enjoy the picture parade…

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

We took a mother’s Day trip out to this super National Trust Hall and Farm in Cambridgeshire. I loved the parterre with it’s combinations of Box and Euonymous and the Folly tower with some wonderful skeletal trees…

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wp_20161126_11_43_39_proI mentioned that I’d attended the 10th anniversary celebration of Norfolk Master Composters last week at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Norwich.  Apart from the tour of the Cathedral roof and tower we were treated to a tour of the Cathedral Garden by head gardener Zanna.

Zanna, formerly a horticultural lecturer at nearby Easton College, is a volunteer and works with a group of others to develop and maintain this quiet space ‘wrapped in the arms’ of the cathedral. Over the last few years she’s led the design and development of a series of spaces where people can relax, contemplate the world and get stuck into food growing alongside ornamental gardening. Inspired by the former Priest here, who wanted the garden to be free of any religious iconography, Zanna has stayed true to that vision and despite pressure, has managed with her fellow volunteers,  to create a special, ‘neutral’ place.

I especially liked the recently completed retaining  wall on top of which sits a wonderful lead urn that has been turned into a water feature. This was created around the same time as the cathedral (i.e. towards the end of the 19th century) and features Ibex and Mouflon heads in relief as well as fruit and flowers. This is lit from underneath and because of its elevated position is a real eye catcher. Nearby a stone seat has been created as a ‘wedding seat’ for those all important photo opportunities.

Another nice features are a wire net figure set under an ancient Cherry Tree (she’s called ‘Nettie’!) with surrounding planting and stumps that help to soften the bare walls of the cathedral Narthex. And there’s wildlife area where children in particular can learn about different plants, birds and insects.

And tucked away and a tribute to Zanna’s recycling and upcycling skills, is a food production area featuring low raised beds, composting area and fruit garden. And an interesting feature is the large underground reservoir that provides the garden’s water … this created from former underground cells in Norwich Gaol, which stood here before the cathedral was built.

This is a special place for the volunteers who work here and it provides a calm space in which to get in touch with self and nature…a true place of spirit one might say!

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