Showing posts from July, 2011

Goodbye July - Visits to both Hampton Courts and much more

It's the end of July and hard to believe that we're moving fast towards autumn. But it's been a great month for visiting gardens, new people and new places, starting with Hampton Court flower show. Lots to see there and some really interesting concepts like the "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" garden (above). I saw several gardens for the first time this month and was lucky enough to spend a few days in Herefordshire, where I visited Hampton Court, Hergest Croft,How Caple Court, Westonbury Water Mill GardensandLittle Malvern Court in nearby Worcestershire. All well worth visiting! Then there were visits to Painswick Rococo - the only garden of its kind in Europe - and Restoration House in Kent. Other highlights this month included my visit to Driftwood - one of the most interesting small gardens I've ever encountered; the opening of Sussex Prairies' new Art in the Garden exhibition; and my glorious new sculpture in my garden by Robin Johnson of Driftline (b…

Funky Friday - Art in the Garden at Sussex Prairies

Regular readers know that Sussex Prairies is one of my favourite gardens and that owners Paul and Pauline McBride are designing the garden at Disha Hospital in India. This weekend sees the opening of their "Art in the Garden" exhibition, and here's a selection of some of the exhibits on view.

Open the first weekend of every month, plus Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from now until October, this is a garden to visit if you can! I haven't seen all the exhibits yet, but will be there tomorrow for a sneak preview and promise to post more pictures next week. And for all of you who've commented on the header ... yes, it's Sussex Prairies!

Secret gardens of Kent - Rochester's Restoration House

Restoration House in Rochester is one of Kent's best-kept garden secrets! It was built in 1587 - a handsome brick house at the heart of this thriving cathedral city - and it's said that Charles II stayed here on 28th May 1660 at his Restoration. Hence the name. But for garden lovers this is a hidden gem waiting to be explored, along with the rest of the city. Privately owned and maintained, the garden has been open to the public since 2000 and extends to just under an acre. Restoration House is famous not just for its Royalist connections, but was also immortalised by Charles Dickens in "Great Expectations" as the Satis House where Miss Havisham lived. Little history is known about the garden, but it is the current owners who have done most of the work here. They arrived in 1994 and have created not just the magical garden at the rear of the house, but have also rescued  an adjacent plot from the clutches of property developers and are planning to extend the garden. At…

Secret Somerset Gardens I - Lytes Cary Manor

Somerset has some spectacular garden secrets lurking in between the folds of its hilly terrain, including Lytes Cary Manor - within easy reach of the main road to Devon and Cornwall -  and an ideal pitstop it for garden lovers who need a break from the road. This is the former home of medieval herbalist Henry Lytes is all too often overlooked as visitors rush to better known properties nearby including Montacute, Tintinhull and Barrington Court, but it's a hidden jewel! This four-acre property is a spectacular example of an Arts & Crafts style garden saved from ruin in the last 100 years and restored to its former glory. It's an architectural gem too with its 14th century chapel, and well-restored15th century Great Hall and was once home to the medieval apothecary, Henry Lyte, who compiled "Lytes Herbal" in the 16th century. But it has not always been as glorious as it is today because it fell into ruin in the 19th century and if it hadn't been for Sir Walter …

Painswick Rococo - a garden with attitude in Gloucestershire!

I'm sure the owners of Painswick Rococo Garden get tired of seeing this view, but it's such a hallmark of this unusual property, I doubt anyone leaves without taking a snap of the "Excedra" (above). Like the rest of the gardens here, this structure is surrounded in mystery. Nobody knows who designed Painswick; why the strange structures integral to its reputation are here; or indeed how it survived the many years of neglect before it was rediscovered and work began on its restoration in 1984. There's more conjecture than fact about the history of Painswick. The original garden was created in the 1740s by the man who owned the property - Benjamin Hyett - but nobody knows who designed it. And, as the only surviving Rococo garden in Britain, there's no other property to compare it with. But a vital part of its survival is a painting of the garden, dated 1748 by local artist, Thomas Robins - which has been invaluable in its restoration. There are no other records …

Little Malvern Court - catch it if you can this week!

Little Malvern Court - a former Benedictine monastery - perched on a hillside overlooking the Malvern Hills, has a wonderfully romantic garden surrounding a house that positively creaks with history! Parts of the 10-acre plot were redesigned by Arabella Lennox-Boyd of Gresgarth Hall in 1982, and further work was carried out by Michael Balston, who was involved in the redesign of the Gardens of the Rose, which I hope to visit this week. The house has been home to the Berington family by descent since the dissolution of the monasteries in England in 1539. But it is the recent inhabitants who have taken on the restoration of the property and it was Tom and Olguita Berington who moved here in the 1950s from St Louis, Missouri, who brought in garden designers and restored the fabric of the ancient parts of the property.  The result is a fascinating house, which opens to the public for a short season in the spring and early summer and a garden that has been "decorated" close to the …

Silent Saturday - have you ever really stopped to look at nature?


Hever Castle statuary gets a facelift ... and the roses are blooming!

There's nothing better than the heady scent of roses, and the rose garden at Hever Castle in Kent is looking quite spectacular right now, as are all the newly-restored statues in the Italian garden. This is a good garden to visit at any time during open season (March to October), but particularly handsome now as Stage I of the statuary restoration programme has been completed and the gardens are in full bloom.  The moated Tudor castle was once home to William Waldorf Astor, and the recent statue restoration work was carried out by a specialist team who came from his other great home, Cliveden in Buckinghamshire. Hever Castle was also the childhood home of one of Henry VIII's many wives - Anne Boleyn. Astor purchased it in 1903 and spent considerable money and effort restoring the property, renovating the gardens and adding a 38-acre lake. Once work at the castle was complete, he gave Cliveden to his son and new wife as a wedding present.
The pergola runs one full side of the Ita…