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Showing posts from March, 2012

Daffodil heaven at Godinton House, Kent as NGS Yellow Book launches for 2012

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I don't know whether I'm seeing things, but it seems there are more daffodils this year than ever before! Parks and public spaces are full of them, as are the hedgerows, and nothing brings spring closer than seeing those yellow and white heads bobbing in the wind. But if you want a day out that will really make you see yellow, head for Godinton this weekend, which is open for the NGS on Sunday (2.00-5.30), and you'll be absolutely astounded! Today also marks the launch of the National Gardens Scheme "Yellow Book",  which lists the thousands of gardens around England that open for charity during 2012. There are more than 3,700 properties listed by county, and owners choose when to open to showcase their gardens at their best, with funds going to the charities that the NGS supports, including Macmillan, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Help the Hospices, Cross Roads Care, The Queen's Nursing Institute and Perennial. The garden at Godinton covers 12 acres, and at other ti…

Glorious spring gardens III - Vann, Surrey

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Always a joy to visit, whether it's spring or summer, Vann - the only property in England with a Gertrude Jekyll water garden - opened its doors this week for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS). This happens to be one of my favourite gardens, but I've never visited this early in the season before, and was delighted by what I saw today. Great drifts of hellebores, daffodils and fritillaries nodding their heads in a slight breeze in this unseasonally hot March weather. This is Gertrude Jekyll's only water garden, which she laid out and planted personally in 1911. It is a series of small ponds fed from the large pond at the top of the garden (above) criss-crossed with bridges and walkways. But it is the style that is truly Jekyllesque, with great drifts of plants as far as the eye can see, arranged in blocks of colour and texture.
Although it's a little early in the season to see the water garden at its blousy summer best, now is the time to see its structure and part of its…

Official start of Spring today!

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Spring has arrived - it's official! At 5.14 GMT this morning,  spring began in the northern hemisphere.  "You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep  spring from coming."  Puebla Neruda "A host of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze." William Wordsworth "Every spring is the only spring - a perpetual astonishment." Ellis Peters "Spring. An experience in immortality." Henry David Thoreau "Spring is when life's alive in everything." Christina Rosetti

Glorious spring gardens I - Borde Hill, West Sussex

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I featured Borde Hill earlier this month when writing about spring garden walks in Sussex and then realised that I hadn't visited for two years. So as Mother's Day dawned, I left everyone sleeping at home and headed off to see how the garden was looking early in the season. I'm glad I did, because the sun was shining and the garden was looking glorious - with a fantastic display of camellias, early-flowering rhododendrons and magnolias - and the promise of what's to come later in the season. The Tudor mansion (above) which lies at the heart of the estate, was built in 1598, and has, for the last  four generations been inhabited by the Clarke family. The garden dates back to the late early 19th century, when Colonel Stephenson Clarke (like many other local landowners) sponsored some of the Great Plant Hunters' expeditions to the Far East and South America in his search for rare and unusual plants to grace his estate. His efforts are reflected in the large number of C…

"Galloping Gardener Walks" © - Best of the Spring gardens in Sussex

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Spring is definitely in the air and gardens around the country are beginning to show signs of life! Most of us have already noticed daffodils and crocuses as we move around the country, and there are plenty of shoots on the trees too.Galloping Gardener Walks © is aimed at readers who want to visit more than one garden in a day and is featured under the "Days Out" section under the header. Each GGW features gardens within a specific geographical area, together with a map, so you can plan days out now that the weather is improving. Today focusses on West Sussex, which has more than its fair share of remarkable spring gardens, starting with Borde Hill Garden near Haywards Heath. This is a truly magnificent estate, with more than 200 acres of parkland and 17 acres of formal gardens divided into garden "rooms". It opened last week and its season starts with astounding displays of magnolias, azaleas and rhododendrons, followed by abundant spring flowers. Later in the seas…

Mother's Day treats at UK Gardens - Mum goes free!

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There's no doubt about it - spring is in the air and the daffodils are beginning to bloom around the country. The nights are still cold, but if you listen, you'll hear the birds singing and on sunny days, the countryside looks as though it's waking up after winter, with the last vestiges of snowdrops in the hedgerows and crocuses adding colour to the landscape. All sure signs that the cold weather is behind us at last! There's just a week to go and it's Mother's Day, so what better gift for families to give Mum than a visit to a British garden this year? The best news is that several around the country are offering free admission to mothers on Sunday, 18th March. National Trust properties offering free entry include Painshill Park in Surrey; Scotney Castle and Sheffield Park in East Sussex; and Mottistone Manor, Isle of Wight. All will be wearing their spring colours for this special day. Many of the Cornish gardens are already in bloom, with fine displays of cam…

Glimpse of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the Pink City's gardens!

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If you've seen the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, there are several particularly poignant moments during the movie - not least the scenes on the bus at the beginning, where the driver overtakes into oncoming traffic; the vibrant colours throughout; many chaotic traffic scenes; and tuk tuk rides - the inimitable form of three-wheeler Indian transport that carries a maximum of four tourists, but up to 20 locals!  Filmed mostly in Rajasthan's beloved "Pink City" - Jaipur - it is the story of a group of English pensioners seeking a new life overseas and their various escapades on arrival at a hotel that doesn't quite live up to the brochure description! How often has that happened to any of us who travel? Jaipur is certainly becoming one of India's most sophisticated cities and draws tourists like magnets to its attractions, which include Amber Fort, the City Palace complex and some wonderful gardens. En route to Amber there are three gardens, which afford tired trave…

Indian Odyssey 2: From Palaces to Poppies

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From palaces to poppies, Rajasthan has it all and whilst travelling with John Brookes in Rajasthan last month, we stayed at several of the first and saw acres of the second! Once we'd acclimatised to the unusually cold weather on arrival and shivered our way round Udaipur, we travelled south to Dungarpur, close to the Gujarat border.  This is a glorious, unspoiled area, with some of the best bird watching in India. The only place to stay is a palace on the shores of the lake in this thriving town, some two hours drive from Udaipur - the charming Udai Bilas Palace hotel run by the ruling family. The architecture will enchant and another major attraction is the Juna Mahal palace (below) with seven storeys of ecclectic architecture and art, rising high above the town. Don't miss this if you're in Dungarpur - buy tickets at the hotel and will be astounded by the intricacy of the decoration and the vibrant colour schemes within. But equally impressive is the decor at Udai Bilas,…

Indian Odyssey with John Brookes I

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On a freezing day in early February (just one day after most flights were cancelled from London Heathrow because of snow), I left for India with well-known British garden designer, John Brookes (above), in search of plants in Rajasthan. We travelled for 10 days together. We visited palaces and watched poojas; saw gardens and gurus; climbed temples and tourist spots; but the primary purpose of our voyage was to see what grows in Rajasthan.  John is no newcomer to the world of Mughal gardens and lived for many years in Iran, so one of the aims of our trip was to visit many of the little-known gardens of Rajasthan, to see how modern India has adapted to the world of gardening; what plants are growing and whether the gardens feature in tourist itineraries today. John will be recording his views on his own blog, and I shall also cover our travels here, but there is one aspect of our trip that will stay with us forever .... the huge number of steps we had to climb at every destination!  I dou…