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Showing posts from September, 2011

Wonderful walks at Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey

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It's all change here in England this week! After a rather watery summer, when the promised days of sunshine faded into a memory, and temperatures made history because they were so low, we've finally been rewarded with our long-promised heatwave, and are breaking all the records for September! Yesterday, temperatures crept up to thirty degrees centigrade in southern England, and it felt like summer for the first time in weeks. So perhaps this year nature is giving us a reprieve before the snow comes, because forecasters say we'll be blanketed in the white stuff by the end of October! I've been amazed by how fast the trees are changing colour here in the south, and have spent the last week looking at gardens that normally peak in October. My quest for autumn colour finally took me to Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey - the 100-acre paradise created by Dr Wilfred Fox some 80 years ago. Fox was a medical doctor specialising in dermatology, but when he wasn't in his London…

Wordless Wednesday - Autumn Colours 1

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Great British castle gardens - Scotney in Kent

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What better garden to visit, than the grounds of a romantic castle on a glorious day? Scotney Castle in Kent, with its fine views over the Bewl Valley, is spectacular at any time of year, because of the undulating terrain dividing the main house from the medieval moated ruin at the bottom of the valley. Particularly memorable in spring time when the rhododendrons and azaleas make a sea of colour, but just as eye-catching at any other time of year and when the leaves begin to change colour. 
The moated house (above) proved to be too damp to live in, so in 1836, Scotney's owners invited William Sawrey Gilpin, nephew of Picturesque-style creator, William Gilpin, to their home, and work began on the new house up the hill, which opens to the public today. But it's the medieval property in the valley that causes visitors to gasp as they see it reflected in the circular moat, even though the walls were removed for effect by former owner Edward Hussey, who wanted to view a romantic lan…

Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden - NGS opening this weekend!

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Although autumn is definitely on the way and the leaves are changing colour here in southern England, there are still gardens worth visiting when the weather is kind - and if you want a day out with a difference this weekend, head for Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden in East Sussex which opens for the NGS on Saturday from 9.30 - 16.00. It's still filled with colour as autumn approaches and well worth a visit if you want to see a real slice of English garden paradise! Sarah Raven comes from a long line of gardeners and both the farm and the business she runs from Perch Hill, which is home to her "Cutting Garden" are a tribute to her inspirational approach to gardening, cooking and the use of flowers - both as decoration in the garden, and in the home. Daughter of the late John Raven, distinguished botanist and Faith, who created a magical garden at Docwra's Manor in Cambridgeshire, she has created her own little paradise in East Sussex. Hidden down a narrow country l…

Wordless Wednesday - Autumn Colours

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September Gardens III - As far as the eye can see in Sussex!

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There's no doubt about it ... autumn's in the air and when I went briefly to Nymans this afternoon, the acers were already turning orange and yellow. Of course, the wind, rain and unusually low temperatures we've experienced in the last few weeks, haven't helped, but it was the light that made me realise that autumn has come early this year. When you see flame-coloured leaves against a watery blue sky, you know winter's is on the way! Nymans is an impressive garden to visit at any time of year because of its hilltop position, great open vistas and wonderful views over the surrounding countryside. Former home of the Messel family, who were great plant collectors, this is a National Trust garden undergoing a lot of change at the moment, and it's well on the way to becoming a flagship property along with Sissinghurst and Hidcote Manor.  The main house was largely destroyed by fire in 1947 but makes an impressive backdrop for the ever-changing gardens around it. This…

September gardens II - Rudyard Kipling's Sussex

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Many great writers have lived in and loved Sussex, with its hilly landscape and glimpses of the sea, including Rudyard Kipling, who moved here in 1897 and stayed until he died. He lived first in Rottingdean, near Brighton, when he moved into his aunt's holiday home, just a stone's throw from the sea. It was here that he wrote many of his much-loved "Just So" stories. The family were so happy in the village, they finally rented a house for themselves -The Elms (above) on the edge of the village green - for the princely sum of three guineas a week (approx $1.60). The former walled garden adjoining Elms House became completely derelict during the latter half of the 20th century, and in 1980, had fallen prey to a potential housing development. But the local Rottingdean Preservation Society managed to raise the required £51,000 to purchase the land and since then the gardens - named after Kipling - have been restored and saved as a public space. There is even a bowling gre…

Memories of Cuba II - Las Terrazas, where Green is GREEN!

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A couple of hours drive west of Havana is a nature reserve called Las Terrazas, high in the Sierra del Rosario mountain range. It's a strange and somewhat haunting place, which although beautiful, seems to have a sense of sadness. It's hard to explain unless you've been there, but feels as though you've been left on a disused film set. All the props are there - stunning views, a forest canopy, sounds of birds and impressive plants and foliage - but somehow, the place lacks spirit and the actors went home long ago! This region was once one of the poorest in Cuba and deforestation was so severe that it threatened to impact on both the ecology and survival of the area. But in 1967 the Cuban government stepped in and orchestrated a massive project which led to the replanting of 10 million trees across a 5,000 acre area. They wanted to turn the area into an eco-tourism centre in the hills in the province of Pinar del Rio, where tourism was sustainable within an area of outst…

Charismatic gardens of Cuba 1 - Havana

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I can't write about English gardens this week because the weather is so appalling, it's virtually impossible to leave the house. We're currently experiencing monsoon style rain (which is good for the garden, but bad for the hair), gale force winds and unusually cold temperatures, which have forced me to turn on the central heating in the first week of September! So garden visiting is not on the agenda this week.
But seeing as I'm stuck in the house, I thought I'd reflect on where I was this time last year - Cuba. And although we had some of the most spectacular electric storms I'd ever seen in the evenings during our visit, the weather was, for the most part, idyllic compared to what we're suffering here in the UK right now. But even the fierce early evening thunder storms do little to dampen the spirit of the Cuban people and everywhere you go there are smiling faces, fantastic music and wonderful sights to see.   Cuba is still a no-go zone for American pass…

Gardens to see in September - Merriments, East Sussex

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With autumn in the air, and torrential downpours around the country, it's hard to find gardens to visit at this time of year that still look good. But Merriments at Hurst Green in East Sussex is the exception, and when I visited last week, I was really impressed by the wonderful collage of colour here, when other gardens are definitely past their prime. This four-acre garden is filled with ponds, pools, bridges and pergolas, set against a backdrop of boldly planted, colour-themed borders. And most impressive of all is the labelling, so if you see a plant you like, you have the opportunity to buy it in the well-stocked nursery at the end of your visit. Any budding plants person or novice gardener would be well advised to visit, to get good ideas for their own plot. Certainly a great place to go at any time of year, but looking particularly good at this time of year are the Gravel garden (above) and the water garden at the entrance (top and bottom), with its wide rills and dense plant…