Cothay Manor’s Courtyard Garden

Topiary, tree fern and summer flowers in Cothay Manor's courtyard garden

Flowers spilled from a stone planter in the courtyard

One of the nicest things about blogging is the ability to share a peek into a magical place. I’d not be surprised to hear that even some of the people who have visited Cothay Manor have left without experiencing the courtyard garden. I happened upon it as if by mistake on my second or third circuit of the garden. It seemed such an intimate space that I asked the lady quietly gardening there whether visitors were welcome.

Path through topiary, rock stack, seating to Cothay Manor

Accessories included pieces of stone balanced on a wooden pillar

She assured me I was welcome and we talked a little about roses. The walls of the manor are clothed with roses and other vines, including Rosa mutabilis trained as a magnificent climber which I had not seen done before. We’d missed seeing most of the roses in full flower, but there was plenty more to admire. Continue reading

Pictures Of Hestercombe Gardens In Taunton, Somerset

Pink shrub roses around Hestercombe's Arts and Crafts garden

Pink shrub roses at Hestercombe

Hestercombe’s celebrated Arts and Crafts style garden is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of garden design who finds themselves with time to spare in Somerset. 

White standard roses at Hestercombe Garden

White standard roses (tree roses) grow in square holes in the lawn

The estate dates back at least to the 11th c. and has been furnished with a 16th c. manor house, and an 18th c. pleasure garden of woods, follies, pools and cascades running through hills and valleys, but the Edwardian garden is its crowning glory.

Of course, the true test of an English garden is whether its constituent parts have atmospheric names. Daisy Steps, Chinese Seat, Great Plat, Valley of Cascades, Gothic Alcove, Temple Arbour, Witch House, Mausoleum and Grey Walk all attest to Hestercombe Garden’s greatness.  Continue reading

Arley Hall’s Double Herbaceous Borders In Their Summer Glory

Arley Hall's double herbaceous borders in full bloom

View of the double borders in summer with The Alcove (left) and the entrance (right)

The grand sweep of the double herbaceous borders at Arley Hall Gardens has been delighting gardeners for about two centuries: this is one of the oldest examples of its type to be seen anywhere in the world. Exuberant summer perennials fill long, parallel borders, the garden’s brick wall and formal topiary hedging providing a traditional backdrop.

When you first walk in through the huge, decorative gates in summer and turn to see the flower borders stretching out before you, behind you, to either side, it’s hard to know where to look first. Continue reading

RHS Rosemoor Garden’s Rose Festival: Heaven on Earth

RHS Rosemoor's shrub rose garden in full bloom

Rosemoor during the Festival of Roses, 2019

I can’t tell you how many years I’ve wanted to visit Rosemoor when the roses are in bloom, but I can show you why. People had told me there was a nice rose garden there, but I’d been withholding judgement on whether it was a truly great one until I could see it for myself.

Pink shrub rose with lychnis coronaria and penstemon

Shrub roses growing with lychnis coronaria and penstemon

I’ve long been aware that not all rose gardens truly delight me. It seems I have a demanding wants list: relatively few rose gardens can tick off everything I look for. Continue reading

The Dorothy Clive Garden in Laburnum Arch Season

Metal arch supporting racemes of yellow laburnum flowers

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. Continue reading

Six on Saturday From Arley Hall Gardens

Cluster of white and yellow flowers above botched leaves

Erythronium ‘White Beauty’

1 – This drift of Erythronium ‘White Beauty’ is calling out for a collective noun. An exhortation of trout lilies? (as these seem to be encouraging me to get out into the sunshine and stop writing) or perhaps we need a water connection – a splash of trout lilies? The marbled foliage is enough to send me into raptures, as some of you may remember, so you can imagine my satisfaction when they are all topped with flowers.

Plant with white-edged leaves and white four petalled flowers

White honesty (Lunaria annua var. albiflora ‘Alba Variegata’)

2 – Honesty is at its prime in my neighbourhood. It’s one of my favourite biennials, my fascination dating back to childhood when I loved to wonder over its flat, translucent seed disks. Lunaria annua var. albiflora ‘Alba Variegata’ with the white edging on its heart shaped leaves is an unusual form. Continue reading

Howick Hall’s Sensory Garden

A bench in an abundant flower garden

A bench tempts the visitor to linger and enjoy a visual feast of flowers

What makes a sensory garden different to any other garden? We can expect the boundaries to be pushed. Take Howick Hall’s new sensory garden, for example. Starting, as in any garden, with the soothing power of green, harmonious and contrasting textures and colours are layered on to stimulate us.

Silvery heart-shaped leaves, grasses and hydrangeas

Silver brunnera leaves with dwarf hydrangea and golden Japanese hakone

We respond with an instinctive head-turn as we half-spot a flash of wings between rustling leaves. Our thumbs and forefingers are stained and scented from crushing a rosemary leaf, just one of many fragrant plants around us. We tune in to sounds – water splashing, birdsong and the blunt music of windchimes.  Continue reading

Heleniums at Bluebell Cottage Gardens

Orange and yellow daisy flowers

We’d been meaning to visit Bluebell Cottage for a while and weren’t disappointed. There were some signs of flowers going to seed earlier than usual due to the long hot and dry spell, but the overall effect was glorious and the pollinators were having a field day – literally. I can hardly believe I managed to take this picture of the garden without a butterfly or bee in the foreground (there is a blurry bee a few rows back).  Continue reading

Two Styles Of English Garden: Cottage and Formal

Yellow, apricot and blue cottage garden

If every garden (and every human) was the same, the world would be a pitiful place. These very different gardens seem to suit their respective home perfectly. Viewed together, each accentuates the other’s beauty.

The first, a private cottage garden in the grounds of Dorothy Clive Gardens, is super colourful, flower-filled and just a little laissez-faire. Flowers in shades of apricot, yellow and blue gaily tumble over each other above the unifying green, partly obscuring the view from the home and creating a feeling of privacy.

Formal garden with topiary cones

The second garden, Levels Hall in The Lake District, is grand, formal and manicured. Mullioned windows of a centuries-old stately home overlook topiary cones, tall yew hedges and garden benches. A stone urn acts as a centrepiece above a circle of bedding plants. Gravel makes the area pleasant for visitors to stroll through and continues along the same neutral vein as the benches and stone building. Our eyes, naturally alert to colour and variation, find interest in the different greens while noting the feeling of harmony and restraint.   Continue reading

Pebble Mosaic Garden Paving At Gresgarth Hall, Lancashire

Part of the joy of visiting Gresgarth Hall Garden is the chance to admire so many well-sourced, premium quality garden accessories – all the bits and bats as we say up North. Each thoughtful touch beautifully enhances the space, from the frog decorated tap (faucet), to garden benches, gates, cloches, terracotta planters, greenhouses – even the plant labels. The lady of the house, Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd, includes five gold medal-winning Chelsea Flower Show gardens amongst her credits as a landscape designer. So the stone mosaic walkways in Gresgarth’s Zodiac Garden are par for the course: superb modern interpretations of an ancient art.

Pebble paving design: lion and sun motif

The Zodiac Garden’s hand-made pebble mosaic pathway features astrological signs (in this case, Leo) representing family members.

Knowing that pebble floor designs of ancient Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia still exist today makes me wonder how many centuries these designs will live on the garden pathway.  Continue reading

A Visit To Harlow Carr Garden In Winter

Colourful Winter Garden

In January, dogwood steals the show in Harlow Carr’s Winter Walk

We set off for Harrogate on a whim, inspired by the weather forecast, and booked into a hotel within walking distance from the RHS’s most northerly garden, Harlow Carr, a favourite haunt. The idea was to wake up next morning to find an artistic covering of snow or a hard frost – the added winter garden ingredients only nature can provide.

The forecast had been an exaggeration but, luckily, it turns out that a winter wonderland doesn’t need snow: it can cloak itself just as wonderfully in reds, oranges, browns and greens.

Snowdrops in a winter garden with a sprinkling of snow

Early bulbs are starting to appear, including these snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’).

We were too early to see the thousands of snowdrops, cyclamen, irises and eranthis hyemalis that will be at their peak in February and March. A small number of the advance guard could be spotted in flower in the woods, along the Winter Walk or sheltered in the glasshouse, giving a hint of the pleasure to come. But if you find yourself wondering whether a winter garden really has anything much of interest to offer in January, other than peace, you’ll find plant after plant lining up as if to say: ‘You misjudged me. You doubted there would be colour.’

Continue reading