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 density of them. But if white isn't your favourite, don't worry, there are many other plants and every border is bursting with them. And it is this sense of borders "bursting" that makes this garden so special.
If you want to see Glen Chantry, get there before it closes to the public for ever on August 15th, or the magic will be lost forever from inquisitive eyes like ours! Do check the link for opening times because this garden is only open two days a week.
Equally spectacular, but very different is the Beth Chatto Garden near Colchester. This seven-acre garden is a masterpiece and the owner is famous for her expertise in moisture-loving plants. You won't turn a single corner without being amazed by the sheer brilliance of the planting! And I had a special bonus here, because I was accompanied in part of my musings by the garden cat (see below in centre of picture) - a sleek and shining black beauty.
This is paradise! The moment you walk through the gates, you feel yourself becoming part of the landscape. There are ponds, grass walkways and spectacular floral displays. At the entrance there is a gravel garden, filled to capacity with sun-loving plants, but nothing will prepare you for the contrast of the water garden and shade areas that have made this one of the most-loved gardens in England.
I loved the hostas (left) - they looked good enough to eat - and marvelled at how they had remained in tact. My own experience of planting them has left me with slug-eaten specimens that break my heart.
There is so much to see in this garden and so much to admire that you could easily spend half a day here. You'll find yourself retracing your steps regularly to see the combination of plants in any given area and thinking how you could do this at home.
Not surprisingly, this garden can get very crowded, so plan your visit for the start or end of the day - I went an hour before closing and had the benefit of fewer people and gentler light to savour all that is here! And make sure that you have space in your car when you visit here, because if you're always on the lookout for new plants for your garden, you won't get away without buying. I left for home with some marvellous, healthy and incredibly good-value additions for my own humble garden that I shall be planting later today.