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Showing posts from June, 2009

Special Sussex gardens!

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When summer finally arrives in Britain, as it has done in the last week, there can be few places more glorious than the English garden! Sussex is particularly well-endowed with exceptional gardens and it is easy to visit two or three in a day.  I visited two of my favourites this week - Great Dixter (above) and Pashley Manor, which make a wonderful combination for a day out because they are so strikingly different, but easily accessible to each other.
Great Dixter will be a familiar name to many, because the house, which dates in part to the 15th century, was extended in 1910 by the famous architect Edward Lutyens, who also created the original garden.  The magnificent planting that visitors witness today is the legacy of the well-known gardening writer, Christopher Lloyd, who was born at the house and lived there for 84 years. Great Dixter is notable for its fabulous borders, meadow-style planting and strident colours. The house is also open to the public and from inside, there are lov…

Two of the best!

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Wonderful weather last week and I was visiting gardens in Essex - I saw so many lovely places that I can't fit them all in here, but I'll start with two really well-known ones and feature the rest next time it rains! First stop for me was Glen Chantry near Chelmsford.  I've been trying to get to this garden for several years and it was at the top of my list because the charming owners are retiring at the end of this season, so curious visitors will no longer be able to marvel at what this couple have achieved in their 30+ years of gardening (and more than 20 years of opening their masterpiece to people like me!).
Glen Chantry is absolutely stunning and as a gardener myself, I felt truly humbled by the glorious borders, the range of plants and obvious love and care that has gone into planning and maintaining this majestic garden.  I know that my garden will never look like this!  Particularly stunning at this time of year is the profusion of white flowers (above) and the den…

Cornish gardens and cream teas!

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You'll be nothing short of amazed when you see what grows in Cornish gardens and now is the perfect time to visit, before the schools break up. There are three truly wonderful properties on a peninsular near Falmouth - Carwinion, Glendurgan and Trebah - that you can visit in a day (although you'll probably need two!). But what is amazing about all three is the size and scale of the plants that grow there.

Trebah (right) has the tallest Chusan palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) in the country, together with many other exotic specimens reminiscent of a Jurassic Park film set. It extends to about 25 acres and you can meander through the garden's ravines down to the Helford River, checking out the vast gunnera plantation (above) en route.  This garden always has something to see, starting with swathes of bluebells in spring; huge banks of rhododendrons a little later; and then come the hydrangeas.  But whatever time of year you visit, you will be stunned by the scale of this garden …

Secret gardens in Sarasota

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Today I visited two charming gardens in Sarasota and close enough together that you could visit them both in a morning....if the heat didn't get to you first! The first is the Sarasota Garden Club, nestling right behind one of the major hotels in the city and, I suspect often overlooked by visitors, even though it is quite charming.

This small garden (left) is run entirely by volunteers and is a non-profit organisation that offers talks and education programmes to both members and the community at large. Friday is a particularly good day to visit because you'll always find members at work in the garden and they're happy to talk to you and answer any questions.
Particularly noteworthy is the butterfly garden here, which has been planted with species that appeal to butterflies and hummingbirds - you can access this at any time of day and you will be rewarded with many butterfly sightings.

If you have kids, don't miss the Jungle Gardens (right). These are are another great …

Orchids and epiphytes galore!

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Florida's Gulf Coast certainly has some beautiful gardens and I'm going to feature some that I've visited in the next few days.  It is incredibly hot here in Florida (around 90F!) and that plays havoc with the light when I'm taking photographs.
Today I went to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota. It's location is perfect, overlooking the bay, and for anyone interested in orchids, this is a must.  The garden covers some nine acres and is a fine showcase for bromeliads and epiphytes (plants that live on other plants). And with the latter, you have to make sure that you keep looking up!

The plants in the Tropical Display House (some shown here) are fantastic! I have to confess that I don't know a lot about orchids so to me they are just extraordinary plants which make wonderful photographs, but judging from the exclamations coming from visitors all around me, this collection is impressive. All I know is that I spent so long looking at them that I nearly g…

A rare English treat!

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There are several gardens in England that I have always wanted to see, but public access to them is virtually impossible - they include Sir Roy Strong's garden - the Laskett, in Herefordshire - and Highgrove, belonging to Prince Charles.  The first I have been lucky enough to see and I thought I'd feature it before leaving to explore gardens in Florida. The second remains on my wish list.
The Laskett is a remarkable garden, which reflects the charming eccentricity of its owner, Sir Roy Strong and his late wife, Dr Julia Trevelyan Oman.  There was no garden at all when they bought the house back in the 1970's and they spent many years together making it what it is today - a unique and theatrical garden, which demonstrates the personality of its makers.  
Even the house (left) which is built in an unremarkable style, has been made to look interesting, thanks to the artistic talents of Sir Roy and his late wife.  They have made a feature of the blue trelliswork that supports th…

Two secret gardens in Hampshire

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Today I visited two truly wonderful and different gardens in Hampshire, but they shared a remarkable sense of tranquility.  The first, Apple Court, near Lymington (above) was one that I have been trying to get to for several months now, while the second was one that a friend told me about - the gardens at the Hospital of St Cross in Winchester - where there was a festival of flowers.  Both were very special.
Apple Court has been designed as a series of interlocking garden rooms, where the planting reflects the need to deflect the strong winds that come off the sea, which is less than a mile away.  This is home to a National Collection* of hostas and hemerocallis.  Quite how they keep the slugs away from the hostas was a mystery to me until I met the owner's daughter, who explained the magic properties of copper when it comes to slugs, but I am sure that most of you reading this already know that trick.  I have always shied away from hostas because of the way they disappear in front …

Marvellous Marle

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Marle Place near Tonbridge in Kent is one of my favourite English gardens because it's stunningly beautiful, very low key and full of surprises.  You don't get many clucking coach loads here and even if you were to be unlucky enough to arrive on a crowded day, there's plenty of space.  
It's actually a series of garden rooms and you feel as though you're walking through a storybook, where each garden space is like a painting - not surprising really since the lady behind it - Lindel Williams - is a talented painter and this reflects in her garden design. 
Right at the entrance, there's a charming water garden; then a cosy lawned area adjacent to the house and a meadow brimming with allium and iris; then the two pond areas where you can sit and reflect; and a wonderful arboretum walk, where you can admire the sculptures.  And if this isn't enough to whet your appetite, there's the kitchen garden and the orchid house. 
But what really strikes you about Marle …