Category: Great Gardens


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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wp_20161130_13_30_12_proWhilst in Devon recently we paid a visit to Cotehele House, just over the border in Cornwall. This is a favourite place; granite walls set in an ancient landscape of trees covered in lichen and a terraced garden that looks over the Tamar valley to Calstock and beyond.

The day was sunny after a frosty start and we took a stroll around the wintered grounds where the sounds of gushing water and the smell of wood smoke blended together as the low sun cast fingers of shadow.

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I ventured up the nearby Prospect Tower which was built in the 17th century but whose origins are obscure. After a dark, winding stair climb I emerged into the sun and some wonderful views.

We made our way into the house to find the famous Cotehele Christmas Garland

‘Every November gardeners and volunteers… create a 60ft long Christmas garland using thousands of flowers grown on the estate. The giant swag … hangs in the Great Hall throughout the festive season.

Preparations for the garland begin months earlier in February when the flower seeds are sown. The first flowers are ready for picking from late April and are then dried in the loft over the summer and autumn before the garland is put together over two weeks in November.

Tens of thousands of flowers go into the garland each year. ‘Ideally we’d like 30,000 but some years we get as low as 20,000,’ explains head gardener Dave Bouch. ‘How many we get is completely down to the summer – we need sunny days and low rainfall – that’s the joy of gardening…..’

‘Each year the garland is different, depending on which of the specially grown flowers have done well,’ adds Dave. The garland often includes ornamental grasses, everlasting sand flower, straw flower, paper daisy, paper rose, statice and garden thrift.

Creating the garland is a task which involves team work and Cotehele’s gardeners and volunteers use scaffolding to add flowers into the growing festive display.’ (courtesy National Trust)

This year marks 60 years since the first garland was created…a real example of ‘modern heritage making’…. When the residents of Cotehele first hung a modest, floral, Christmas display in the Tudor Hall six decades ago, little did they know how their simple decoration would turn into the magnificent garland it is today. To make it an extra special celebration, this year the gardeners grew flowers specifically to give it a ‘diamond’ anniversary look:

  • 31,200: number of flowers in the garland

  • 7,920: number of flowers in the swag around the door

  • 120: number of kilograms the garland weighs

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

 

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On a recent trip to see our friends Dave and Jen in Sussex we stopped off to visit Standen House and Gardens, near to East Grinstead.

This ‘Arts and Crafts’ family home has a lovely range of interiors, dressed for a weekend stay in 1925, so you can imagine you are a guest of the Beale family. There is excellent attention to detail in the furnishing of the rooms. James and Margaret Beale chose an idyllic location with views across the Sussex countryside for their rural retreat. Designed by Philip Webb, the house is one of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts workmanship, with Morris & Co. interiors creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

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After a stimulating tour of the house we enjoyed a light lunch before venturing out into the gardens. A major restoration of the 5-hectare (12-acre) hillside garden showcases year-round seasonal highlights and an award-winning plant collection. On our visit the autumnal colours of the many Acers was a highlight. On the wider estate, footpaths lead out into the woodlands, Ashdown Forest and wider High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

WP_20160530_13_41_55_ProOn our last Devon trip we spent a day at Antony House, Torpoint.  This 18th century mansion tells the story of a family caught up in the English civil war, a place which is still home to the Carew- Poles.

Before entering the house it was great to visit a small exhibition of some interesting artefacts, including one of Humphry Repton’s original ‘Red Books’, where he set out his assessment and vision of the gardens including some beautiful, if soemtimes fantastical, ‘before and after’ watercolour illustrations.

‘A house of silver grey stone, Antony is a beguiling mixture of the formal and informal. It’s believed to be one of the finest surviving Queen Anne buildings in the West Country.

View the outstanding collection of portraits, including works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and a famous painting of Charles I during his trial. There are also fine examples of period furniture, textiles and tapestries.

Breathe in the sweeping views as you explore the landscape garden, which includes a formal garden with topiary, modern sculptures and the National Collection of Daylilies.

The Woodland Garden, owned and run by the Carew Pole Garden Trust, also has outstanding rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and camellias.

The magic of Antony was captured by director Tim Burton, as a film location for his blockbuster, Alice in Wonderland.’

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The gardens and grounds are exceptional. The tree collection is especially interesting and I was pleased (and inspired) by their tree trail which gives few bits of information alongside each specimen – and there are plenty of these, many at or beyond maturity. The walks around the woodland garden are peaceful, with a selection of viewing and sitting points overlooking the nearby channel, and, when we visited, a superb collection of Rhododendrons and Azaleas in flower. I also loved the pond and some playful timber seats, which contrast with some very old wooden seats in the more formal garden spaces.

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As you may have read earlier this week, in my post about my latest session at Blickling, I’ve made progress in getting a similar tree trail project going there, so am very thankful for the detailed information Antony provided on how they put theirs together.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

WP_20160619_15_40_15_ProBack in June, we took the opportunity of a visit to this garden as it was open under the National Gardens Scheme. Located near to Fakenham, in north Norfolk it is a large garden (10 acres) with a lake, mature yew hedging and a sunken garden originally laid out by Gertrude Jeykll.

There’s also a swimming pool garden, shrub borders, a lovely kitchen garden with herbaceous borders, fruit cage, cutting garden and bog garden. A relative of one of the former staff at the Hall lives in an adjoining country cottage which has a delightful old-fashioned cottage garden packed full of wonderful plants and very productive on the food front too.

I loved the display of Candelabra Primroses by the Lake- something I hope to emulate as I have a lot of seedlings growing on at Old School Garden.I hope that you enjoy the gallery of pictures.  

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Old School Gardener

WP_20160525_12_17_11_ProOn a recent trip to Devon, we stopped off en route to visit this Neo Gothic ‘pile’ in Somerset, former home of the Gibbs family, who made a ‘pile’ of their own, trading in a rather large ‘pile’ of Guano, or South American bird excrement, favoured for its value as a fertiliser in 19th century Britain.

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Making our way from the impressively equipped visitor reception and restaurant we passed by a delightful formal parterre garden set some way away from the house, and then toured this amazing mansion, with its glorious colourful decor and richly carved woodwork. Much of the house is in need of renovation, but the National Trust has made great progress in restoring some of the most important rooms.

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‘… An ordinary man with an extraordinary fortune, a man of vast riches but simple pleasures. Antony was the second generation of the Gibbs family to live at Tyntesfield. He epitomised the Victorian age, fascinated by art, technology and travel….After buying Tyntes Place for his growing family in 1843, William Gibbs went about making it his own. He remodelled the exterior of the simple regency house into the Gothic extravaganza we see today….Four generations of family life, a love of beautiful things and the accumulation of useful bits and bobs made Tyntesfield a treasure trove of objects. Almost  60,000 objects have been catalogued including everything from priceless paintings and ornate furnishings to ice skates and picnic sets. It is the largest recorded collection owned by the National Trust and tells the story of a wealthy family’s life over four generations….’

From here we made our way through some lovely formal gardens near to the house and then to the Walled Garden, where some gardener must have been a little the worst for wear when he/she planted the lettuces…

WP_20160525_13_32_54_ProSeriously, this series of wobbly lines was done as a bit of light relief in what might otherwise be the normal regimented lines of fruit and veg; I loved it.

And the rest of the garden was interesting, too, though I thought it lacked some variations in height to give it structure.nearby was a rather nice play area with lots of carved and country-themed play features; I especially liked the large slug (which doubles as a nice seat).

There was also a stall selling fresh veg and bulbs so I spent a little on buying some orange Tulips for next year…now where have I put them?

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

 

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