Marwood Hill - wonderful vistas, a myriad of colour and first signs of what you'll see there this autumn (above) as the leaves begin to turn. This is a another Devon garden you shouldn't miss. Home to the national astilbe collection (which I was too late to see), 22 champion trees and a wisteria pergola that I have to see next spring, this is a magical garden with unforgettable colours and views at this time of year.
When Dr Jimmy Smart arrived here in 1949, there wasn't a garden and he knew nothing about gardening! There was just a neglected hillside which he took in hand. But for the anaesthetist, this wonderful 20-acre plot became a passion and he famously described gardening as:
"a disease, at times infectious, and certainly, as far as I am
concerned, quite incurable"
and it took him some 20 years to sow the seeds for the stunning site that is Marwood today. In 1972, Malcolm Pharoah arrived from Wisley to help and when Smart retired a year later, they worked together to turn Marwood into the glorious garden that it is today - a little piece of paradise in North Devon.
The joy of Marwood is that you approach the garden at the top of the hill and wander through the upper garden, where there are double borders, which house another National collection - Tulbaghias - native to South Africa, but which thrive here in the well-drained soil and sunshine. There is also a scree garden and wall terracing, before you emerge and see the lakes in the valley (above).
The three small lakes are fed by a stream and are filled with fish and wildfowl, and are the perfect haven for the Bog Garden and the wonderful Japanese irises (Iris ensenata) that flower here in the spring. There are also a host of architectural plants, hostas and ornamental grasses adjacent to the three lakes, which make them a watery wonder with the vivid colours and bold shapes reflected in the water. But the sheltered position of Marwood Hill and the sloping valleys make it a haven for the trees, which are undoubtedly the finest feature of this garden, particularly now, as the colours begin to turn.
Marwood Hill is open from March to the end of October daily, so you still have time to get there to see the wonderful colours. It is easily combined with a visit to Docton Mill, if you want to see two very different gardens in a day. And of course, if you're in the area, you've also got RHS Rosemoor nearby - another stunning garden and flagship of the RHS in the west.