Category: West Country Gardens


On our way home from a recent trip to Devon, we diverted to one of my all time favourite gardens; Hestercombe, just outside Taunton, Somerset.

I remember coming here many years ago, when the local Fire Service were headquatered in the house and the work to restore this classic Lutyen’s – Jekyll garden design was just getting underway. Even then the strong structural elements- though in a poor state of repair-  shone through. Since then, several decades later, the Charitable Trust that owns the place has done a marvellous job in restoring not only the gardens but much of the surrounding parkland too, so that you can wander through a very interesting ‘designed landscape’ reflecting earlier design styles harking back to the’ landscape garden’ school.

The main garden is what you come here for.  Sunken and surrounded by a series of strong pergolas and with two stone rills descending either side, it is a joy to behold. We were fortunate in arriving early in the day and had this wonderful place of quiet and reflection virtually to ourselves.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The restoration story is a fascinating one, including a quest to find a series of plants that were in the original Jekyll planting plans but which were no longer readily available. This is most notable for a number of gladioli varieties, one of which was discovered by accident as one of the historians associated with the garden was giving a talk..only to be approached by someone who thought he had one of the missing gladdy’s! Since then this rare plant has been nurtured and propagated to get to the necessary scale for mass planting…and the display of gladioli is certainly impressive..

This is a real story of horticultural dedication; a trait seen in abundance all around the gardens. The house, though perhaps less of a priority, is gradually being brought into beneficial use, but it does require some renovation. We finished off our tour with a rather nice lunch in a very classy restaurant overlooking the gardens.

Old School Gardener

Frther information: Hestercombe Gardens website

Save

Advertisements

I’ve loved Castle Drogo in Devon for many years. A classic Lutyen’s design, the house is as imposing (forbidding?) as the entrance suggests. The gardens are relatively modest for somewhere so grand, I guess partly because of the site perched on a granite outcrop overlooking Drewsteington and Dartmoor beyond.

Our recent visit coincided with a long standing and major renovation project on the house; basically re-roofing to stop water penetration. The story goes that Lutyens used a relatively untested asphalt covered flat roof system when the place was built, and over time this has broken up and so water is getting in where it shouldn’t. It’s a multi million pound project and we were able to climb an external stairway (my other half very warily), to see the work underway, beneath a huge ‘tent’ that encases the whole of the roof and must make for a resonably comfortable work space, notwithstanding the site’s exposed position.  We had a very interesting guide to the works, which are imposing some limits on the areas of the house open to the public, but heh ho, never mind. There was a rather interesting ‘installation’ of many many different kids of clock in one of the rooms!

We concluded our visit with a stroll through the split level gardens,a nice mixture of herbaceous perennials giving a late summer boost of colour and some grasses just coming into their own.

Old School Gardener

Further information: Castle Drogo- National Trust website.

Save

Save

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Save

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

 

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

 

My wife and I had Sunday lunch at a pub (‘The Trout and Tipple’) in Tavistock, Devon a couple of months ago. It was hot and sunny, so we decided to sit outside in a secluded courtyard…with its own magnificent Gunnera plant providing us with some welcome shade.I was amazed by the close up of the leaf structure, which resembles an aerial shot of an urban landscape…

WP_20160529_13_04_36_Pro WP_20160529_13_55_16_Pro

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

‘… 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

 

WP_20150619_09_17_49_ProA few months back I posted some pictures of a rather lovely Devon Wall near my Mother-in-Law’s home. I was there again recently and discovered the owner of the wall is doing some further work to extend his creation, taking out some old Ivy stumps, installing another stretch of close board fence on top, and most importantly putting in some more lovely plants…

Old School Gardener

IMG_8624The second and final stop on our trip home from Devon recently, was Montacute House, Somerset. Surrounded by beautiful, formally laid out gardens, the warm, honey-coloured stone of the house glowed in the spring sunshine. There was a splendid display of tulips and wallflowers and a magnificent ‘cloud’ yew hedge reminiscent of those at Blickling House, near our home in Norfolk. We were fortunate to meet  a gardener in the ”orangery’, which, she explained, was not really in the best spot for this and had in the past been more of a shady water feature, with its tufa – clad grotto. This and it’s surrounds are gradually being replanted with ferns and other suitable species. Pots of standard Bay trees line the terrace outside where once orange and lemon trees would have been placed in summer.

‘Montacute is a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design. With its towering walls of glass, glow of ham stone, and its surrounding gardens it is a place of beauty and wonder.

Sir Edward Phelips, was the visionary force and money behind the creation of this masterpiece, which was completed in 1601. Built by skilled craftsman using local ham stone under the instruction of William Arnold, master mason, the house was a statement of wealth, ambition and showmanship.

Come face to face with the past in the Long Gallery, which is the longest of its kind in England. The gallery houses over 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.

Beautiful gardens surround Montacute, constantly changing, filling the house with scent in summer and providing an atmospheric backdrop for a winter walk…’

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

IMG_8605On the way home from our recent break in Devon, we took the opportunity to visit a couple of National Trust houses and gardens just off the A303, a road that’s conveniently ‘lined’ with some great gardens. First stop was Barrington Court, Somerset.

A large walled garden was lined with displays of wallflowers and tulips which were  wonderfully vibrant. Much of the rest of this area was bare earth- or so I thought until I noticed it  had been covered with landscape/weedproof fabric and then mulched with compost- one of the gardeners explained how they create planting holes through these layers and so restrict the amount of time they weed- a very useful idea that looks attractive as well as being practical.

I was also glad to see the ‘bones’ of the other gardens (it was rather too early to see the borders in all their glory). To my surprise I also found a Melianthus major in flower! I was told how the gardeners usually give this a protective winter mulch and cover and in the season to follow it puts on lots of leaf growth but no flowers- it must be due to the mild winter that this glorious plant (which smells like peanut butter when you brush the foliage), had managed to put on an early spring show. Having just pruned mine at home to the ground I’m wondering if I would have been better leaving it alone! We shall see if it manages to complete its growth cycle this summer.

‘Discover the haunting echoes of the past at Barrington Court, a Tudor manor house free from collections and furniture. Explore using your imagination and your senses to discover a house full of memories, where light fills the rooms and you feel you can almost touch the past.

The property was saved from ruin and restored by the Lyle family in 1920s, when the court house resembled a barn rather than the proud manor house that it is. Close your eyes and you’ll almost be able to hear the sounds and see the sights of the glamorous parties held in the great hall during Barrington’s hey day. On the first floor listen out for the voices resonating from the past, of the young evacuees who called Barrington home during the Second World War.

 Stroll through the Gertrude Jekyll inspired gardens, which with their focus on plant varieties and colours are a delight for all the senses. Be spurred on in your own garden or allotment by the stone-walled kitchen garden that produces a variety of delicious fruit and vegetables. Don’t just take our word for it, why not stop off in the Strode House Restaurant to taste these home-grown delights.’

Oh, and yes, we had a lovely lunch in the afore said restaurant….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Further information; National Trust website

Old School Gardener

 

The Interpretation Game

Cultural Heritage and the Digital Economy

pbmGarden

Sense of place, purpose, rejuvenation and joy

SISSINGHURST GARDEN

Notes from the Gardeners...

Deep Green Permaculture

Connecting People to Nature, Empowering People to Live Sustainably

BloominBootiful

A girl and her garden :)

gwenniesworld

ABOUT MY GARDEN, MY TRAVELS AND ART

Salt of Portugal

all that is glorious about Portugal

The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl

Cooking, gardening, fishing, living, laughing.

aristonorganic

"The Best of the Best"

PetalPushin

Thoughts from a professional Petal Pusher

Free Spirit Publishing Blog

An idea exchange for kids' education

GarryRogers Nature Conservation

Wild Plants & Animals Advocate

Focused Moments

Photography by RACHAEL TALIBART

Lightning Droplets

Little flecks of inspiration and creativity

crabandfish garden

This WordPress.com site is our garden, cats, chickens and travel musings

breathofgreenair

mindfulness, relaxation, thought provoking images and poems

Vastrap Farm

My new life as a farm wife

C.B. Wentworth

Just following my muse . . .

%d bloggers like this: