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Showing posts from July, 2010

My best of the West (so far!) garden list!

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I was lunching with family and friends today and several said they read my blog because they like visiting gardens. Then I was asked what would go on my "Bucket List" in terms of gardens! An interesting question and one that's difficult to answer, because although there are many plots and spots I long to visit, most are so far from home that I'm unlikely to see them in the next 10 years! But as I leave for India, I thought I'd leave readers with the 10 best gardens I've seen yet this year, so if you're passing you can fit them in on your summer travels - who knows ... you may just be in the area and these are the ones not to miss! They're not in any order of preference, but all rank as favourites for me. Sussex Prairies(above) ranks as one of my favourite gardens in the world - it's incredibly close to home and there are times when I just can't resist dropping on in wonderful owners, Paul and Pauline McBride, just to take a look at what's i…

Saved by new owners and open to all again!

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When Bourton House in Gloucestershire changed hands earlier this year, there was some doubt about whether the glorious gardens surrounding the mansion would remain open to the public, but the new owners have decided to go on sharing their award-winning 10-acre garden with the public during the the summer season. It's lucky for us because this is an exceptional garden, which provides something quite different for seasoned gardened visitors, with its bold herbaceous borders and interesting knot garden. Large manor houses are nothing new in the Cotswolds and the original property here was built in 1598, but re-built at the beginning of the 18th century and given the huge, Georgian sash windows that overlook the gardens today.  Much of the land was sold to the neighbouring Sezincote estate in 1851 and today the property comprises just three acres of formal gardens and seven acres of pasture, but it's one to be added to any visiting list with its sweeping views, well-kept lawns and …

Great gardens for kids!

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The summer holidays are here and there are already many parents and grandparents wondering what to do with the kids in the six week break ahead of them! So I'm featuring a couple of gardens here that may appeal to families, with some tips for getting the best value out of them. Most of us are all too well aware that a day out with the kids is expensive, and by the time you've put the fuel in the car; the food in the kids and paid admission prices, a family of four is likely to get little change from £100 here in the UK! One of my favourites is the Rare Species Conservation Centre near Sandwich, which has an amazing collection of animals including snow leopards (above) and sun bears; fantastic rare birds, including a very bad-tempered toucan; rope gangways to entertain the kids while they're viewing the animals and it's close enough to the coast to fit in a visit to the beach if you're so inclined! Open every day from now until the end of August (10.00-18.00), ticket…

Bored with borders! You won't find any here!!

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Most gardens I've visited recently are about borders .... borders .... more borders and lovely as they look, I'm getting bored with borders! So imagine my joy when I visited one of my favourite gardens in the world yesterday - the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden - and didn't have to look at a single, perfectly-planted border. This is a glorious garden - a true touch of Jurassic Park in the middle of Surrey - with huge clumps of architectural plants including gunnera, bamboos and giant hogweed, which provide a wonderful setting for the sculptures on display there.  Brainchild of Hannah Peschar, who has lived here for nearly three decades, this amazing haven in the heart of Surrey's commuter belt is an idyllic setting. I was on my way home from yet another deeply mediocre NGS garden (more on that in another blog post later) and needed to lift my weary spirits, so what better venue than this? The sculpture exhibition changes as exhibits sell; the garden is magnificent; and…

Finally made it to Goodnestone Park!!

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Goodnestone Park in Kent has been on my "wish list" for more than two years ... it was one of the gardens I wanted to see before I even started blogging, but somehow circumstances conspired against me and it was only this week that I finally got there! Read any garden guide and Goodnestone will be there ... "1001 Gardens to see before you die", "The Good Gardens Guide" where it has a two-star ranking; and the newly published "Dream Gardens of England"(one to put on your Christmas list!).  So I arrived in the tiny village of Wingham in Kent last week wondering just what I was going to see at this Palladian-style mansion, which may have inspired Jane Austen to write 'Pride and Prejudice' after staying here in 1796. The setting is certainly idyllic, with a glorious Norman church overlooking the three interlinked walled gardens that are such a special feature of the property (above and below), but it is also the ambience that makes this place…

Glorious Godinton in Kent

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After weeks and weeks of glorious sunshine, England has reverted to rain (much needed around the country, but not ideal for garden visiting). This weather suits me fine because I'm currently doing a total immersion Hindi language course in preparation for my next India trip in a couple of weeks time.  This requires long periods of study and although I love the challenge, it's a bit like having a python in your mouth! There are days when I just scream with frustration as I struggle to learn a Sanskrit alphabet and a completely alien language, but I do know the Hindi words for "flower" and "rain", so a visit to a new garden seemed like a good idea yesterday. Godinton House near Ashford in Kent took my fancy, although Sezincote would have been more appropriate to my studies, and I set off to see one of the finest gardens I've seen yet this year - with roses that made me stop in my tracks because the scent was so glorious; an Italian garden (above and below)…

To the Manors Born - Mottistone and Snowshill

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England is well known for its glorious manor houses, and when they have gardens to go with them, they provide a little piece of heaven! Two that I've recently visited are Snowshill in Gloucestershire and Mottistone on the Isle of Wight - both under the stewardship of the National Trust - but quite unique in their own way, because you've got the added bonus of visiting an ancient house alongside a stunning garden! Mottistone is a lovely property, nestling in a valley on the south side of the Isle of Wight, with roses to die for and borders (below) that will lift your heart!  Former home of John Seely, a prominent architect  who was also the second Lord Mottistone, it passed into the care of the National Trust (NT) in 1963.  The Manor house is only open one day a year, but the garden is open to the public from March to October. You'll find wonderful stonework here (above) and a chance to soak up the glorious sunshine. As the NT's southernmost "dry" garden, Mottis…

Great Comp - another delight in "The Garden of England"

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When you arrive at Great Comp and start walking round the lovely gardens there, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you've stumbled across an ancient site where the owner has made the best of the land available around crumbling Gothic ruins to plant a magnificent garden. But the ruins were actually created over the years by late owner, Roderick Cameron and his wife and are a clever reconstruction of ironstone rubble found in the garden that they developed over the years they lived there. This is a really unusual garden with a fine collection of specimen trees, that not only survived the terrible drought of 1976, but also the Great Storm of 1987.  The Italian garden, which shelters many Mediterranean plants When the Camerons moved there in 1957 there was little to see and certainly no garden to speak of - just four acres of land that was hugely overgrown and much in need of attention. After 50 years of hard work and the acquisition of adjoining land, the result today is a stunn…

Glorious Cotswold Gardens - Cerney House and Misarden Park

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If you're going to appreciate the glorious gardens in the Cotswolds, you need several days to see them all - there are many to see; they're not close together; and whether by accident or intent, they rarely open to complement each other, so you need to plan your trip, arm yourself with a decent road map and pray for good weather! And then, there's the question of "single track roads"! This is a strange English phenomenon where the roads are only wide enough for one car, so when you meet someone coming the opposite way you need to back to a passing place!  Misarden Park, which is located between Cirencester and Cheltenham is a beautiful formal garden that makes you realise what life must be like when you don't have to do all the work in the garden for yourself - immaculately clipped hedges and glorious borders (above) that make gardening look easy! You enter the property through the walled garden which has double-mixed borders containing roses, shrubs, climbers…