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Showing posts from June, 2012

Farewell June - the best of English and French gardens

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The weather has been terrible in June, but it's still been a wonderful month of garden visiting, albeit a little wet sometimes! My gallops have taken me to Cambridgeshire, Cumbria, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Lincolnshire and Worcestershire, as well as further afield to Scotland and France. From the private gardens at Upton Wold (open by appointment to visitors) to the amazing restoration project underway at Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire. I've seen castles in England, including Lowther and Grimsthorpe, chateaux in France (all to be reviewed soon), glorious cottage gardens, including Stone House Cottage and Brook Farm in Worcestershire, and visited Giverny, Claude Monet's former home in Normandy, that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. And my feet have travelled faster than my I've been able to review here on the blog. France is so easily accessible from England that the gardens of Normandy make a wonderful extension for south-coast garden visi…

French garden Hors d'Oeuvres for July!

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From chateaux to chic, I've spent the last couple of days in Normandy looking at glorious gardens, and here's some hors d'oeuvres for July ... a few glimpses of gardens to come in the next few weeks. It's been as wet here as back home, but the gardens in Northern France are thriving. The gardens here are very different from back home. Topiary abounds and most gardens are predominantly green. There are parterres you wouldn't believe, ancient abbeys filled with flowers and charming English style gardens, but all will be revealed next month as I walk you through some of the wonderful gardens I've visited in the last two days. It's still raining in Britain, just as it is here, but there's been a few rays of sunshine as I've walked through the gardens here. So fingers crossed for some sunshine next week for Hampton Court Flower Show, which starts on Tuesday. Two more gardens to visit tomorrow on the way home, and many wonderful pictures to share with my rea…

Easton Walled Gardens - Roosevelt's "Dream of Nirvana"

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You've got to hand it to Lady Ursula Cholmeley - she's got courage, stamina and a project in progress that would make most of us tremble at the knees - the restoration of Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire. Family home of the Cholmeleys since 1592, the house that used to stand on the site - Easton Hall - was pulled down in 1951. It was requisitioned at the start of World War II, but the soldiers stationed there caused so much damage to the property that restoration was not an option. Eye witness reports of their occupation tell of constant gunfire within the house and grenades being lobbed into the greenhouses! The 12-acre gardens were left untouched after the demolition and it was only in 1999 that a plan was hatched to revive them. Ursula has completely embraced the challenge of restoring this wonderful landscape and remains calm, serene and most importantly, hugely enthusiastic about her work. With vistas and architectural features like these, who wouldn't be daunted …

Upton Wold - a Cotswold garden with a difference

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We've all visited wonderful Cotswold gardens filled with flowers, which reflect the light from the golden houses they grace, but Upton Wold is quite different to all the other gardens I've seen in my travels. Created by Ian and Caroline Bond over the last 35 years, this garden is all about levels and vistas and undulating landscapes. From the moment you arrive, your eye is drawn in through the gate posts to the house within, but once you start wandering around, you realise this garden is something special. One of the few properties in "The Good Gardens Guide" to be awarded the coveted two-star rating, I assure you that it not only deserves it, but is also one to put on your Wish List. The landscape that faced the Bonds when they moved here was neglected and barren, so they called in Brenda Colvin and Hal Moggridge to help them create the skeleton of what's there now. Mrs Bond is a skilled plantswoman, while her husband has a passion for trees and they've worke…

Flower Power in Amsterdam - Hortus Botanicus and city flower market

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Earlier this week I wrote about Amsterdam's hidden canal gardens - open to the public on the third weekend in June every year - a great chance to visit the city,  and explore the green spaces behind the tall, thin houses along the canals. But if you're there for  this annual event, you should also visit Hortus Botanicus - the botanical garden at the heart of the city, which is home to more than 6,000 different plants.
Founded in 1682 for the city's apothecaries to grow their medicinal plants, the three-acre gardens have survived as a peaceful haven within this bustling city. Head for any one of the seven glasshouses and you'll be impressed. One spans three climates and features a roof-top walk, which makes for interesting viewing. There's also an orchid nursery and butterfly house. Outside there are numerous beds organised by geographical region and there's also a great cafe - noted for its cheesecake, which provides a good option for lunch if you're out sig…

Amsterdam's Open Garden Days - a great chance to see Holland's hidden canal gardens

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For a garden weekend with a real difference readers should head for Amsterdam to enjoy the Open Garden Day celebration that takes place on the third weekend in June each year. It’s a wonderful chance to stroll along the canals in the city and see gardens that aren't normally open to the public, plus many of the great museums that line the canals, together with private houses, art galleries and even the green spaces behind banks and hotels that are rarely on show. This year saw 29 gardens participating in the event, which took place over three days – Friday to Sunday and I’m proud to say that in just two days, I visited most of them! I was based at the only hotel participating in the scheme – the glorious Canal House on Keizersgracht – a beautifully restored property with a wonderful slick urban garden which is normally only enjoyed by hotel guests. But the weekend saw several thousand visitors flocking to sneak a peak at this secret garden which opened for the first time this year …

Open gardens and art trails in Sussex this weekend

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It's still raining here in Britain - but has been since various regional water boards announced  we were in drought and stopped us all from using our hosepipes. Gardeners across the country are delighted with the downpours (if their gardens aren't waterlogged or battered) and although our plots are looking very lush, most of us are beginning to wonder when we will next see the sunshine so we can actually sit out and enjoy them. But if the weather stays dry, there are several Sussex gardens and trails open this weekend that you might want to visit. Driftwood opens its doors to the public for the first time this year on Sunday (17th June) from 11.00-17.00. This is a gem of a garden in Seaford and although pint-sized, is packed with plants, giving a colour palette similar to Giverny, encapsulated in a postage stamp in terms of comparative size. There's hardly an inch of space where there isn't something growing and it's so beautifully planted you'll love your visit…

Lowther Castle - a place to use your imagination in the garden!

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Lowther Castle in Cumbria is a property worth watching, even though it's currently covered in scaffolding, following a rescue bid to stop it from tumbling down. This extra-ordinary building, constructed just over 200 years ago, is considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the country, but has fallen into complete disrepair and recently had to be rescued from collapse. It has been seat of the Lowther family and Earls of Lonsdale for 800 years, and once sat at the heart of an estate that spanned the countryside from East to West.  It's now at the centre of an ambitious scheme to turn it into a major tourist attraction for the region and funding has been secured from both the Northwest Development Agency and the Northwest European Regional Development Fund, to the tune of £9 million to date.  A major part of the restoration will involve the 130 acres of gardens that had become as ruined as the castle under the stewardship of the Lowther family p…

Enchanted garden away from the crowds - Plas Brondanw

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Mention Clough Williams-Ellis (later Sir) and most people immediately think of Portmeirion - the holiday village he designed, which became famous after the television series, "The Prisoner". It's now a well-known holiday resort on the Welsh coast with fine gardens, but there's little chance of getting away from the crowds here - it is after all, a place that people go to spend their hard-earned vacation time. But drive just a few miles inland to Llanfrothen and you'll find Plas Brondanw, which has all the Williams-Ellis hallmarks, without the tourists - an enchanted garden with magnificent views over Snowdonia.  The 17th century house that sits at the heart of the garden (above) was bequeathed to Clough Williams-Ellis in 1908 when he was just 19 years old. It had been abandoned by his family and he spent many years of his life struggling to pay the bills here whilst restoring the property. He also set to work creating a formal garden (when his finances permitted),…

Hidden treasure in Warwick - The Master's Garden at Lord Leycester Hospital

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The town of Warwick has a real surprise in its centre - ancient timber-frame buildings dating back to the 14th century, a beautiful chapel with stained-glass windows designed by William Morris and a secret and verdant landscape in an inner sanctum - the Master's Garden at Lord Leycester Hospital. This charming one-acre garden was almost lost to the nation at the end of the 20th century, but thanks to the tireless efforts of the then Master's wife, a garden historian called Susan Rhodes and a team of dedicated fundraisers, this little piece of history has been saved. The Lord Leycester Hospital dates back to 1571. It was founded by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, as a hospital and safe haven for elderly or disabled soldiers, with a resident Master in charge, hence the name of the garden. Today the tradition continues and there are places for eight ex-servicemen and their wives in this tranquil setting in the heart of England. It's these residents who man the gates of the h…

English gardener reigns supreme at Monet's Giverny - Gourmet Normandy Gardens II

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Claude Monet claimed he was "good for nothing except painting and gardening", but his reputation as one of the world's leading Impressionist painters and the garden he created during the last 50 years of his life at his home in Normandy, has put Giverny firmly on the  French gardening map. Today more than 600,000 visitors a year make the pilgrimage to Monet's former home, to see the garden that gave him inspiration for some of his best-known paintings. And for the last year, the Head Gardener there has been an Englishman - James Priest - a horticulturalist from Lancashire. Monet moved here in 1883 and remained here until the end of his life, drawing inspiration for his paintings from the garden that he created. Indeed, some of his best loved paintings are of the water lilies here at Giverny. But what's memorable about the property here is that it's actually two very different gardens, with formal flower beds below the artist's home - Clos Normand - and a s…