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Showing posts from June, 2011

Star-studded footsteps in June - from wilderness to World Gardens

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June has been another thrilling garden-visit month and I've dropped in on 27 English gardens on my travels, including six wonderful new gardens in Herefordshire (to be reviewed in July); two charming Kent cottage gardens  - Smallhythe Place, former home of Ellen Terry and Old Buckhurst, a garden created out of a hilltop wilderness (also for review in July); and finally marvelled at the World Garden, created by Tom Hart-Dyke, modern-day plant hunter who spent six months in captivity in the South American jungle, after a plant-hunting expedition ended in disaster! I've seen Marilyn Monroe; met John Brookes; and walked in the footsteps ofChristopher Lloyd; sat in the garden where Virginia Woolf once sat and taken time to reflect on where to go next. I've encountered extraordinary gardens in Essex that I didn't know existed, including Green Island and Spencers; finally made it to Painswick Rococo in Gloucestershire (waiting for review); and managed to revisit some of my all…

Wordless Wednesday - Art in the garden at Sussex Prairies

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On show at Sussex Prairies now - just one of many wonderful exhibits! Open this weekend.
And the best news of all - open Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays throughout the summer!

Stunning open gardens without crowds to mark 30th anniversary of British designers!

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Open gardens have become very popular in England and Wales, due to the success of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), which now boasts a portfolio of more than 3,700 gardens. But in reality, while the cause is more than worthy - because entrance fees are distributed to the various cancer-related charities supported by the NGS - some of the gardens are disappointing. Readers will know what I think of over-ratedNGS gardens from previous posts! So imagine my delight when I encountered a new open-garden scheme last weekend, where the first garden I saw shot to the top of my "Best 10" this year! Ecclesden Manor in West Sussex is not just an astounding garden, but rarely opens its gates unless there's a worthy cause. It opens annually for the Lifeboat Charity (RNLI), to raise funds for the local lifeboat, but also opened for the first time this year for theSociety of Garden Designers to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Sadly, I'm late flagging up this event for 2011 because…

A plant feast to savour - The World Garden, Kent

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I've had a wonderful week visiting gardens in Hereford and Kent, but this one made a real impression when I saw the moongate on arrival. This was just a fantastic start and once I was through the circular gate (which has been here since the 19th century) I was amazed by what lay in front of me - plants from all over the planet, divided into geographical areas. This is The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle in Kent, and it's quite simply amazing! Created by Tom Hart-Dyke, plant hunter extraordinaire, and the man who was kidnapped on an orchid-hunting trip in Central America in 2000. He spent more than nine months in captivity before being released in time for Christmas. But since returning home he has created this  visionary international landscape within the walled garden of his parents' castle in Kent. Of course, it probably helps if you have some spare acreage within the grounds of a castle, but what this young man has created here is a tribute to his gardening talent. H…

Definitely worth travelling to see - the "other" Hampton Court in Herefordshire!

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Hampton Court in Herefordshire (not to be muddled with the palace in London) is complicated! It not only shares its name with another great garden in Britain, but also has a confusing history. There've been four major families involved in the estate since the 15th century; the castle has been totally rebuilt once, and restored several times since it first appeared. What you see there today is largely thanks to an American – Robert Van Kampen – who arrived in Herefordshire in 1994 and restored the castle to its former glory. The gardens and all buildings within them, were designed by Simon Dorrell, who was virtually unknown when he undertook this commission for the Van Kampens. But he is now well-established as one of the two designers associated with Bryan's Ground gardens on the Herefordshire border (I couldn't get there this week, but for an excellent review, click on the link) and for the gardens currently under restoration at Bruton Court near Leominster. Definitely a n…

Greys Court - off the beaten track in Oxfordshire

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Greys Court, near Henley-on-Thames, dates back to the 14th century, and much of the charm of the garden is the fortified tower ruins you see while walking round. But despite the property's long history, there are no records for the gardens or grounds prior to the arrival of the Brunner family in 1937. To them it was a family home, and Lady Brunner made the three-acre gardens what they are today during her 65-year reign at the property.  Although the Brunner's signed Greys Court over to the National Trust in 1969, Lady Brunner remained there until her death in 2003 and continued to play an active part in the maintenance of the garden. She was particularly fond of the White Garden, which she planted in the shadow of the ancient towers before the outbreak of WWII; and the Kitchen Garden, which was brought back into service to support the 'Dig for Victory' campaign, a war time effort to persuade civilians to use any spare land for vegetable growing to ward off food shorta…

Galloping Gardener's Pick of the Week © - Great Dixter, East Sussex

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There are so many fantastic English gardens in bloom right now, I've decided to highlight one (or possibly more) each week, so readers who are close enough can get there to visit just as soon as possible and enjoy what's blooming! Great Dixter is looking fantastic right now, and is open all weekend, so if you see a break in those storm clouds, get there quick! It doesn't matter how many gardens you've visited, because this garden can't fail to delight - former home of Christopher Lloyd, affectionately known to friends as Christo - it's one of the most enervating and uplifting you'll see! The planting is fantastic; the colours are wonderful; and it's guaranteed to lift your spirits after all the recent rain.     Looking at what was going on  in this amazing garden last weekend, one can't help but feel that new life is being breathed into the garden now that work is finished on the house, and you'll find several new touches, like the alligators i…

Marilyn Monroe arrives at Great Fosters! A Surrey garden rarely seen.

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It's not often that Marilyn Monroe arrives to grace your front lawn! But she's arrived at Great Fosters (above) in Surrey as part of the Sculpture Al Fresco exhibition there from now until the end of August. This is a great opportunity to see the garden at this luxury hotel in Surrey and admire the 14 sculptures on display. (I've been waiting for over a week for a sunny day to visit, so apologise if the pictures here fail to do justice to the garden and exhibition, which I viewed in between heavy rain showers!).
Great Fosters pioneered the concept of turning a country house into a hotel; has also maintained  its historic Grade II* listed gardens and is now stepping into the world of garden sculpture. Quite an accolade for a property that nearly got cut off from the outside world by the intrusion of the M25 when it was built. So you won't be surprised to hear this garden here has been on my Wish List for some time.
It's an interesting property - now a luxury hotel - b…

A garden delight at Gilbert White's House!

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The garden at Gilbert White's House is a real surprise - a hidden treasure that rarely appears in garden guides - nestled in the heart of a perfect English village in Hampshire. There are no formal gardens here, just a lovely English landscape that leaves a lasting impression once visited. This was Gilbert White's home, a man who's painstaking records, published as The Natural History of Selborne (1788) - is one of the most re-printed books in the English language.  Gilbert White was born in the village in 1720, and died in the house that bears his name 66 years later. The house is actually called The Wakes, but is simply referred to as Gilbert White's House today. Nestled in the heart of Jane Austin country in the village of Selborne - which looks just like an English village should, with its thatched cottages and narrow High Street - Gilbert White was a skilled gardener, who grew not just fruit, vegetables and flowers, but also a huge range of crops in the open fields…

When small is beautiful ... three cottage gardens to visit in a day

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If you fancy a day out touring small gardens, you'll be hard pressed to beat the three featured here today in Kent and East Sussex - all have an interesting history and famous former residents, and the gardens, maintained by the National Trust, are delightful. Start with Smallhythe Place in Kent, former home of actress, Ellen Terry, which is famous for its roses. There's even a yellow rose named after her, but sadly it wasn't in bloom when I visited, although notices at the door claimed that it would be "blooming soon".  Located in Kent, which is known as the Garden of England, this is a wonderful destination for foreign visitors, because you'll be treated to stunning countryside en route to Smallhythe and a classic timber-framed house on arrival, which looks as higgledy piggledy as a witch's cottage in a fairy tale! Add a garnish of roses on the front facade, and I suspect you've got your classic English cottage idyll here!  Lamb House in Rye, has t…