Saturday, 29 August 2009

Devilish Devon - The glorious Garden House

The Garden House, near Plymouth is another magical property that's really worth making the effort to see if you're in the area and can easily be combined in a day with Coleton Fishacre (see my last entry). This is a garden for all seasons and it doesn't matter whether you visit in May to see the magnificence of spring with the wisteria in full bloom (above); summer, when every border is bursting with colour; or October to see the wonderful hues of autumn.

Although this garden is also tucked away down Devon's winding country lanes - in a village called Buckland Monachorum - it's better known than Coleton because it has received so much good publicity in recent years ... and deservedly so, because of its naturalistic planting.

The story here began in 1945 when a former Eton schoolmaster - Lionel Fortescue - moved to the 1920s vicarage that forms the central focus of much of the garden (see below) and began planting a walled garden around the ruins of the former 16th century vicarage. Fortescue was the son of a Newlyn school painter and he clearly had a good eye for colour, but he was also a passionate plant collector who travelled far and wide to find good specimens - the fruits of his labour are what make The Garden House so special today - with an excellent collection of azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias for spring colour, and acers that come into their own in the autumn. But equally magnificent is the location of the property, at the edge of Dartmoor, with its fine views over the surrounding countryside (above).

Fortescue worked closely for many years with his gardener, Keith Wiley, to create the spectacular walled garden that is such a prominent feature here. And although the former schoolteacher died in 1981, Wiley continued as head gardener until 2003, when he was succeeded by Matt Bishop. Since his arrival, he has breathed new life into the eight acres of land by adding a quarry garden and a South African garden, so that there are now spectacular displays of unusual flowers, in addition to the large tracts of meadow-planting and woodland walks.

Lionel Fortescue's former home forms a focal point in the garden
Development of this garden does not stop and each time I have visited, I have noticed that there is more work in progress, so I shall watch with interest to see what Matt Bishop does next. He is particularly interested in bulbs and although I have not visited The Garden House in winter, I hear that the snowdrops and early spring bulbs are spectacular, thanks to his expertise.

The only slight problem with this charming garden is that it has become so popular that you may get besieged by clucking coach parties. But, take heart because even the horrors of slow-ambling crowds cannot detract from its beauty!
The Garden House in autumn

20 comments:

  1. Truly magical...hope i get to see it someday :)
    http://theurbanbalcony.blogspot.com/

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  2. Hi Tiggerlot~~ The third photo looks like a Thomas Kincaid painting. Beautiful! What a fun place to visit.

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  3. Garden house looks amazing - beautiful design.
    Greetings,
    Ewa

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  4. wow just amazing. the first pic is wisteria?? marvelous.

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  5. It is wonderful when a garden continues on after it founder dies. Is it part of the National Trust? Or has the family continued the garden.
    I am sure that we all wonder what will happen to our garden when we die. You include so much blood, sweat and tears, that it is truly part of you. Organizations like the National Trust in England are doing a wonderful job in preserving these extraordinary gardens. But small ones like mine and others, will be mostly lost to time when we are.

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  6. I really like the Garden House, but don't think it is as good now as when Keith Wiley was head gardener - he a creative tour de force. His own garden, Wildside Nursery, is two minutes down the road from the Garden House and is well worth a visit.
    http://martyncox.biz/blog

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  7. How beautiful, and what an idyllic setting for such lovely gardens.

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  8. Hello there Tiggerlot !
    I have to agree with Grace .. it truly looks like Kincaid painting indeed .. magical and totally inviting : )
    I would love to see it in person !
    Joy

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  9. Oh Charlotte, the wisteria in the top photo is so beautiful. It creates a magical setting.

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  10. I've enjoyed revisiting Coleton Fishacre and The Garden House, two of the many gardens I visited during 1995, when I spent about 4 months touring the UK in a camper and studying gardens. I'm in the process of scanning the over 1800 slides I took and will still post some to my blog! Thanks for your lovely blog and congratulations on your Blotanical ranking. I'm still a novice when it comes to following blogs/bloglinks, but yours is one of the first I will formalise!

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  11. It is so tempting to get on an airplane and fly over from California to see this brilliant garden.

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  12. Wow - your photos are fantastic and the garden looks magical. Wisteria like that makes me weak in the knees. Someday I hope to visit this and other gardens abroad!

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  13. This place is serene and calm and beautiful. I'd like to stay here and relax for some time. A garden of my dreams that looks like scenes from a good book.

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  14. Love that wisteria! I like that this garden is still an ongoing project. Just beautiful.

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  15. Sounds lovely another one I missed then

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  16. Thanks for the nice comment on my blog - I look forward to getting some time and reading through your blog!

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  17. Your photos are indeed magical as I find myself wandering along the pathways and desiring to linger. Thank you for the follow and look forward to visiting again soon! Di

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  18. Indeed, a magical area. Glad I could visit via your photos. I love brushing up against the fairies.

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  19. "Clucking coach parties... " What a perfectly formed phrase.
    Great post, as always. Alice

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  20. What a delight, cluckers or no! I loved learning the history of the place too. It appears to be much loved.
    Frances

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