Showing posts from May, 2011

New life breathed into Gravetye Manor garden, with Tom Coward at the helm

Following in William Robinson's footsteps can't be easy, but if anyone is prepared to face the challenge it's Tom Coward, head gardener at the legendary Arts & Crafts gardener's home, Gravetye Manor in West Sussex. Now a luxury hotel and part of the Relaix & Chateau chain, Tom joined the team when the hotel was bought last year and his brief is to restore the garden to its former glory. And he looks set to succeed because, just like the finest wines on the hotel's wine list, he has an impeccable provenance, having spent three years working with Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter before coming here.
I first visited Gravetye Manor a year ago and although I loved the garden, it was painfully obvious that it had become tired and overgrown, due to years of neglect. Tom arrived in July last year and is the first to admit that his very first task was to wage war on the bindweed (Calystegia sepium) that had infested all the formal borders. Just nine months later, the ga…

Catch Toddington Manor while you can - a garden gem in Bedfordshire

Imagine finding a magical garden that leaves you surprised, astounded and really happy that you found it. That's what I felt when I visited Toddington Manor in Bedfordshire - a chance find that turned out to be one of the best I've seen in two years of garden visiting. But I'm afraid that's where the good news ends; the bad news is that unless you get there in the next few weeks, you won't be able to see this lovely garden, because it's closing it's garden gate at the end of June.
Within less than a mile of the M1 (and you can actually see the traffic on the highway from the garden), is a country haven of extraordinary beauty. Present owners, Sir Neville and Lady Bowman-Shaw moved to the property in 1979 and completely re-planned and replanted the garden. There has been a manor house on the site since 1560, although it was rebuilt in the 18th century. Part of the charm of the garden is that you get views of the house wherever you are and would easily be forg…

Enjoy the heady scent of British roses ... and two new rose gardens!

Roses are in bloom all over Britain! And what better chance to get out and visit rose gardens than over the Bank Holiday weekend, before the petals begin to drop, after this long spell of dry weather? This wonderful, scented flower has a long and colourful history and fossil evidence indicates that they are over 35 million years old. The cultivation of roses in gardens seems to date back 5,000 years to ancient China, where roses are depicted in early wall frescoes.  You'll find many gardens participating in the National Gardens Scheme that have magnificent roses, but the property that gets my vote for spectacular blooms is Town Place in Sussex (top), where the roses are so abundant and dazzling, they'll take your breath away. It's a stunning garden and opens for six days during June and July for the NGS, so if you get a chance, do visit. This years dates are 12, 16, 23 and 26 June, and 3,10 July, between 14.00 and 18.00. Visitors are also welcome by appointment.  National…

See some of the best roses in Britain at Mottisfont Abbey

Mottisfont Abbey's walled garden has been home to the National Collection of old-fashioned roses since the 1970's when world-famous rosarian Graham Stuart Thomas (who has a yellow David Austin rose named after him), re-designed the former kitchen garden at this former Augustinian abbey for the National Trust. Four decades later, the rose garden is one of the most famous in the world and draws visitors from far and wide to marvel at the wonderfully scented garden. Not surprising when you see what's here ... particularly at this time of year! The Abbey, which dates in part to the 13th century provides a striking backdrop to a 21-acre garden -designed in part by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe. It sits on the banks of one of the best fishing rivers in England - The Test. Norah Lindsay was also involved in the garden design here, with her geometric box parterre (above), which is planted with spring and summer bedding plants (although not on the day I visited!). Today it's the famous …

Wheelchair Garden Walks © Nyman's Garden, West Sussex

At the risk of being politically incorrect, I'm starting a new Galloping Gardener © section today, where I'll feature gardens that are wheelchair friendly! Since starting this blog nearly two years ago, I've visited well over 200 gardens, but never given a second thought to what it must be like to visit if you're not able to walk around them. My husband also loves to visit gardens and has been a long-suffering passenger on many of my garden forays, but because of a debilitating illness, he is now using a wheel chair for longer distances. Suffice to say that with me learning to push him, it's put a whole new aspect on garden visits!  Our first visit was to somewhere local - Nyman's Garden - which is just a short drive up the A23 from our home. We've been there many times before and knew there'd be plenty in bloom at this time of year, but we've never tried to navigate the grounds in a wheelchair, and with me as a novice driver, this promised to be qui…

Galloping Gardener Walks © - A day out in Cumbria - Levens and Holker Halls and Sizergh Castle

Cumbria has more than its fair share of beautiful, and unusual gardens - starting with one of the best topiary gardens in the world! But there are also two other remarkable properties within spitting distance that you should add to your list of "Must See Gardens" in this area of outstanding natural beauty - Holker Hall and Sizergh Castle. It may be a little ambitious trying to visit all three in a day, but you'll definitely cover them in two and the area is so rich in gardens that you'll be able to fit in others en route.

Start at Levens Hall(top), billed as one of the best topiary gardens in the world and deservedly so. You'll be amazed by the surreal and immaculately scissored shapes and the magnificent underplanting. Click the link to see more of this wonderful garden!
Then move on to Holker Hall with its 200 acres of landscaped gardens, complete with Italianate water cascade and fountain and the formal garden adjacent to the house. This is really a spring gard…

Sizergh Castle - a garden full of surprises!

Sizergh Castle is a real hidden gem in the heart of Cumbria - with a building that dates in part to the 14th century and glorious gardens - particularly the rock garden, added in the 1920s. Home to the Strickland family for more than 700 years, it now comes under the stewardship of the National Trust, but seems to attract relatively few visitors to the garden. Most come to see the castle, which is a pity, because the garden is exceptional and full of surprises. Sizergh is not helped by the paltry listing it gets from "The Good Gardens Guide", with nothing more than a six-line entry at the end of the Cumbria section! It certainly deserves a full entry and I would have thought a star would have been in order, especially if you're in the area visiting the other gardens like Levens Halland Holker Hall, which both get two-star gradings and are within spitting distance.
The garden here is divided into distinct parts, with the Rock Garden at one end of the property and the Dutch …

Gresgarth Hall - Lennox-Boyd directs a plant ensemble in Lancashire!

Gresgarth Hall - the Lancashire garden created by internationally-renowned garden designer and former Chelsea Gold medal winner - Arabella Lennox-Boyd - opens to the public once a month from April to October and, as I happened to be in the area earlier this month, I couldn't resist taking a look, especially as it was so close to Levens Hall, with its fantastic topiary garden. One of the most striking features about this garden is its verdant and luxurious feel - everywhere you look there is greenery. This garden showcases Arabella's talents, helped by a wonderful location on the banks of a tributary of the River Lune. The result is a perfectly manicured landscape, with a series of different areas, created to divide the 12 cultivated acres into a series of garden stage sets - any one of which would provide a perfect garden design for those of us with smaller plots! As you'd expect, with so few chances to see the garden here, it gets pretty crowded on the days it's open, …

Subtle spring shades at Holker Hall, Cumbria

Holker Hall (pronounced Hooker) in Cumbria is quite a find, although essentially a spring garden. The house overlooks hundreds of acres of rolling landscaped parkland, while the 23-acres of formal gardens adjacent to the 16th century hall have been largely re-designed by current owners, Lord and Lady Cavendish, who arrived here early in the 1970s. The re-design means that visitors are caught up in an eye-catching colour display the moment they enter the gardens and must go further afield to discover the woodland areas, which have their own subtle and distinct charm. You enter the gardens through a courtyard and arrive in the Elliptical Garden adjacent to the house - this is a formal garden with flower beds enclosed by yew and box hedges, best seen in springtime when the tulips and alliums are in bloom. It is divided into four colour-coded beds and the effect in early spring is stunning. But this is quite labour intensive for the gardens, who must change the bedding plants to keep the d…