Devilish Devon with its garden secrets!
This has got to be one of the most stunning gardens that I have visited this year! It's a little out of the way, but for those of us who are staying at home in Britain for holidays this summer and visiting the West Country, it's a must.
Coleton Fishacre in Devon is to die for - one of the finest examples of a garden with "Arts and Crafts" elements that I've seen yet. It's also a long way off the beaten track, at the end of a promontory with the river dart to the west and the sea on the other side, so has not yet been ravaged by garden tourism - but this is part of its charm, even if the access roads are a little daunting. My advice is: go early in the day so you don't meet a coach coming the other way!
The house (above) was designed by Oswald Milne - a pupil of Edwin Lutyens - and is quite austere. It's well worth taking a tour of the interior to see some fine examples of "art deco" living, but be warned.... don't try and take photographs out of the windows, because the ladies that look after this house on behalf of The National Trust, will simply not allow it! I got into dreadful trouble with my camera and almost had it removed after quite some debate about whether or not I should be allowed to point my lens at the gardens from inside the property! Suffice to say that these ladies proved just too much for me and I put my camera away!
But you can photograph what you want outside and there's lots to immortalise on your memory card, like the extraordinary blooms above (if anybody knows what these are, please leave me a comment!).
Because Coleton is situated in a protected position near a river estuary it has its own micro-climate and you will find plants here that don't grow elsewhere in the UK, including proteas. There is also an unusual tree collection and you will encounter redwoods and swamp cypress, as well as a very tall tulip tree and a tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima).
I have to confess that I am not an expert on plants and I visit gardens to gauge the overall impression and atmosphere rather than the planting - but I am told this garden is a plantsman's paradise - and that people come from far and wide to see specimens that are not found anywhere else in this part of England.
However, I was aware that there were plants and flowers here that I had never seen anywhere else and I was particularly taken by the colour scheme and the way in which the borders were laid out around the house. Everywhere you look there are vibrant colours and another surprise!
Part of Coleton's charm is that it is so varied - there is a wonderful rill garden (below), filled to bursting with flowers, acres of woodland that wind down towards the sea and afford splendid views, and a stream that meanders through the valley. Every corner you turn gives a different vista, yet you feel as though you are hidden away from the rest of humanity in a secret garden!
There are many other gardens near here worth visiting, so if you have the time or inclination, do stay locally because this will allow you to visit some of the other properties that I will be featuring in the next few days - it's a magical part of England and you won't want to leave!