I am usually drawn back to my favourite gardens at least once each year, timing my visit when they are at, or around, their peak of flowering. That can be a challenge. Seasons vary. Enlightened gardens work hard to make sure there is always something to tempt visitors during their open season, which makes ‘their peak’ relative, depending on which flower combinations delight you most.
I’m inclined to blame the tulips and spring bulbs for beguiling me in the past. Whether or not their rainbow glory can truly be faulted, I’ve always missed seeing the Dorothy Clive’s laburnum arch in full flower by just a few weeks or so (mere days in 2015). This year, as you see, I’ve been more fortunate.
The garden’s extensive collection of rhododendrons and azaleas together have a longer peak and were still looking fantastic in and around the Quarry Garden. I’m sorry to confess that at one point I snootily considered these flowers garish – too showy – and observed that the form of the plant can be rangy. It’s only by visiting the Dorothy Clive Garden that I have learned to cast my prejudice aside and wholeheartedly embrace the flow of their colour and variety. This trip I even caught myself trying to get an artistic photograph of a rangy one to capture the atmosphere it conveyed – a sure sign that the mighty has fallen.
This striped beauty seemed to underline my earlier faults, proving that rhodis can be as ethereally lovely as any plant you’ll find in a shady spot.
An owl by chainsaw artist, Angel Maltby, perched as watchfully as a sleeping owl can over a fairy door, the largest of several dotted around the garden. The garden encourages school visits: other details that might interest curious children include insect hotels that provide shelter for pollinators in the kitchen garden.
I’ve never had a problem admiring irises and these mauve ones were particularly striking. I’d like to say that the petals have a romantic covering of dew, but it was a dull day with the odd shower.
On the way up to the laburnum arch, I passed this magnolia flowering bountifully, the maroon colour on the outside of the petals contrasting beautifully with their lighter insides.
I’ve been wondering if roses are on course to flower earlier this year. Perhaps just a touch if the weather stays fine.
It is always lovely to see wildflowers incorporated so confidently in the planting: Silene dioica (red campion), Anthriscus sylvestris (cow parsley) and Myosotis scorpioides (forget-me-not) together creating a tapestry effect.
The garden is run as a charity, so if you get a chance to visit, you’ll be supporting a good cause. For details of events, opening hours and prices, check out the Dorothy Clive Garden’s website.