Thursday, 18 November 2010

Best "C" gardens in California, the Cotswolds and Cuba

Looking back at the year, I realise that I've covered an astounding number of miles in my quest for glorious gardens! Earlier this year when England was covered in snow, I was lucky enough to be in California looking at West Coast gardens. One in particular sticks in my mind - the garden at Carmel Mission (above), founded in 1770 by Father Juniper Serra, who's buried there. It's a delightful garden filled with flowers, fountains and statues and presided over by a basilica. I visited on a cloudless day in February, and it will certainly stick in my mind because of the striking planting and swathes of colour.
I spent the summer months at home. Gloucestershire is a far cry from California, but has some of the finest gardens in Britain, including the magnificent 3.5 acre walled garden at Cerney House (above) with its riotous borders and lovely vistas over the surrounding countryside. You can really get away from the crowds here and admire rural England in a Cotswold setting - definitely one of the best gardens I saw in the area and well worth making a detour for! Ideally placed if you're visiting beautiful "B" gardens too, with Barnsley House and Buscot Park just a stone's throw away.
Colesbourne Park (above) has also been on my wish list for several years and when I visited this year for the first time I was lucky enough to be shown the gardens by Garden Adviser, John Grimshaw, who writes his own blog. It's part of a glorious 2,500 acre estate, famous for its snowdrops - former home of celebrated Victorian plantsman, Henry John Elwes - who planted many of the magnificent trees that are there today. John is extremely knowledgeable and I'm sure that Elwes would be delighted he's restoring the garden to its former glory! I certainly have to visit when the snowdrops are in bloom as I hear it's one of the best displays in Britain with more than 200 varieties.
Charleston, former home of Vanessa Bell of Bloomsbury Set fame is virtually on my doorstep, so I was delighted to make a special visit there with fellow garden writer and blogger Alice Joyce when she visited England this spring. It's a charming, ebullient garden and for those interested in the Bloomsbury Set, the tour of the house is a must. You can easily combine this with a visit to Monk's House, where Vanessa's well-known sister, Virginia Woolf, resided - just a short distance away outside Lewes.
But for me, the highlight of my year was my visit to Cuba in September. It is one of the most magical places I've ever been. The scenery is astounding, the people are charming and there is so much to see that two weeks wasn't enough to scratch the surface! I was lucky enough to visit the Botanical Garden outside Havana, the wonderful gardens at Cienfuegos (above) and then travel on to the Vinales region. I hope all my American readers will soon be able to visit this wonderful place - it's just too good to miss and only a stone's throw from your shores! And, talking of the US, I leave for there tomorrow, so will be back writing about American gardens next week.


  1. Hello Charlotte, interesting blog, thanks. I'm recording the restoration of the walled garden at Holkham Hall in Norfolk as part of my artist residency. If you'd like to take a look the blog is http:/

  2. All sound wonderful...Have a safe trip!

  3. There are some real beauties in the c gardens. The bucolic feel of Colesbourne Park in your image makes me want to live there.

  4. you throughly confused me with the cotswolds reference. I thought for a mo you meant Chastleton! Charleston is open sundays, I got mugged by a robin who was after my Ham & Cheese Sandwich and sat on my tea pot!!!!

    btw totally agree with you about Buscot.

  5. Thanks for a peak at these special gardens. I have always dreamed of a tour of the gardens of Britain; it would definitely be my dream vacation. I can't imagine being able to travel all over visiting fabulous gardens -is it the perfect life?

  6. How wonderful for you to be able to see all these gardens. Hmm. You might have me chasing the opportunity to see gardens instead of just chasing plants. In any case, either of the aforementioned are easier than chasing down a galloping gardener, right? -- Bom / Plant Chaser