Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Spring is in the air - great British gardens open their doors around the country this weekend

With less than a week to go before the clocks change - they go forward an hour on 29 March - there are definite signs of spring in gardens everywhere. There are daffodils in flower all over the country, blossom blooming and trees and shrubs are showing signs of spring growth as more green shoots emerge into the sunlight each day. After the many months of winter, this is a wonderful time to go garden visiting and many great gardens open their doors this weekend.
Great Dixter opens this weekend with its Spring Plant Fair on 28 and 29 March
Great Dixter throws open its doors this weekend with its Spring Plant Fair on Saturday and Sunday (28 and 29 March, 11.00-16.00 both days). Always worth a visit, but plant lovers will find many special treats at the fair this weekend and, if the weather's good, you might want to drop in at Emmetts Garden or take a detour to Godinton House in Kent to see the magnificent displays of daffodils and other spring flowers in bloom.
Daffodils as far as the eye can see at the Valley Gardens
Closer to London head to Valley Gardens, part of the Royal Landscape, to witness daffodils as far as the eye can see (above), or plan a visit to the Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex where there is already plenty in bloom and some magnificent spring blossoms.
Blossom blooming at the Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex
Vann also opens its doors for the season this weekend for a week of spring joy, with the garden open every day from 29 March to 4 April (10.00-18.00) and after that you can still visit this lovely garden on any Wednesday until July.
You'll find incredible magnolia displays at Borde Hill in West Sussex in springtime
Heading towards the south coast you've got a trio of magnificent spring gardens - all visitable in a day and each unique in its own way - Borde Hill, High Beeches and Nymans The magnolias at the first two will bowl you over if you visit soon! But wherever you visit this spring, part of the joy is the fact that winter is finally behind us. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Wordless Wednesday - the Guggenheim Garden in Venice

What better to do on a rainy day in Venice than visit one of the few green spaces in this magical city at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection on the Grand Canal? And this is what you'll see ... 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

A winter walk at West Dean Gardens - snowdrops, aconites and a sea of crocuses

West Dean sits at the heart of the Sussex Downs amid acres of rolling countryside

Best seen in winter - the bare bones of the pergola
February is not an easy month to find gardens to visit and although many National Trust properties remain open throughout the winter months, offering wonderful opportunities to stride out across open countryside, it was a real joy to visit West Dean Gardens in Sussex this week, to see the structure of this stunning garden so early in the season. Of course the weather helped and I was lucky enough to have clear blue skies (with an ice-cold wind), but the early signs of spring warmed my heart and there were magnificent displays of snowdrops, aconites and best of all - an ocean of crocuses in the walled garden.
West Dean opened its doors again at the beginning of the month and is open daily in February from 10.30-16.00. Longer hours later in the season.
Snowdrop lovers won't be disappointed if they stride out here, and there are many other gardens with white gold currently in bloom - click here for details.
Other notable winter gardens in England can be found through this link. The daffodils are also beginning to show their heads in Southern England and the birds are beginning to sing in the mornings, so perhaps spring is not so far away.
February is a good month to see structural details at West Dean Gardens

West Dean's famed walled garden is immaculate and ready for spring

Don't miss the sea of crocuses on display in West Dean's walled garden ...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Alluring Orchids at Kew - catch them while you can!

Catch the "Alluring Orchids" display at Kew Gardens while you can. On until 8th March in the Princess Diana Conservatory, there are also three more late opening sessions on Thursdays (pre-booking necessary, see Kew website for details) and workshop and orchid nursery tours. You'll also have the chance to see early signs of spring in the rest of the gardens.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Beat the winter blues and catch the best orchids and snowdrops in Britain this February

Snowdrops at Welford Park, Berkshire © Charlotte Weychan
As we step into February the days are getting longer and there have been some wonderful frosty mornings. Check out any leading garden website and you'll see a wonderful array of glistening pictures as horticulture hacks around the country capture frozen plots and plants on camera. In the south of England we've escaped lightly this winter and although the temperatures have plunged and there have been dire warnings of snow and ice storms, the snowdrops are beginning to appear. For some of the best places to visit to see white gold, click here, but my favourite is Welford Park in Berkshire where you will witness spectacular displays of this hardy little plant from this week. For a comprehensive list of snowdrop gardens around the UK, visit Great British Gardens
'Alluring Orchids' opens at Kew on 7 February - every year the display (2014 seen here) is spectacular
But if snowdrops aren't your chosen spice, head for one of the two orchid exhibitions that are about to open in in Britain. Both Kew and the Cambridge University Botanic Garden offer spectacular displays in their glasshouses during February, opening on Saturday 7th. And there's also the Butterfly Exhibition at RHS Wisley, which runs until early March. This year the RHS is offering timed tickets for the first time to help with queues.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds - Book Review & Reader Offer

Garden visiting takes on a whole new dimension with “Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds” - published this month by Frances Lincoln. This book will whet your appetite for some exquisite private gardens that you will only ever be lucky enough to see if you can get there on the rare days they open for charity. But this is the joy of this book because it takes you behind the scenes and shares the history, planting and feel of each unique landscape through Victoria Summerley’s pen and Hugo Rittson-Thomas’ eyes. 

Victoria Summerley has a relaxed writing style and draws you into every garden in the book. She makes no secret of her desire to look over the garden fence and her love of the Cotswolds. Fellow garden writers and Facebook followers will know we are friends and I make no secret of my admiration for the way she has approached her content. She applauds not just the owners, but also the people who make these gardens work – the stewards who care for them with their extensive knowledge and the gardeners who work there full time.

Hugo Rittson Thomas takes excellent pictures and has graced readers with views of his own garden – Walcot House – although sadly this is one of just six that NEVER open to the public.  Readers will have to live vicariously through his pictures and dream about this garden, which has shades of chateau-style grandeur combined with elements from the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, thanks to its impressive “mound”.

I’ve visited five of  the featured gardens, Two are accessible to the public on a regular basis – Sezincote, near Moreton-in-Marsh, with its irresistible Moghul architecture, but so often overlooked by garden lovers en route to the big Cotswold crowd-pullers – and nearby Bourton House.  Asthall Manor, former home of the Mitford sisters, throws open its doors for a bi-annual sculpture exhibition; Colesbourne Park is about to unlock its gates for its world-renowned snowdrop displays; and Upton Wold is accessible to those who are prepared to join the elitist world of small, private garden tours. 

This is definitely a book to add to your garden library and UK readers can order it for the discounted price of £16.00 including P&P* (RRP £20), by telephoning 01903 828503 or by emailing mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quoting offer code APG281. *UK only - please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

It makes a good read, is well illustrated and leaves you feeling satisfied to have had an insight into the 20 unique properties within, even if you do have to accept that the chances of you gaining admittance to most of these plots requires incredible tenacity, or friends in the right places.