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Showing posts from July, 2012

Goodbye July - we saw the sunshine at last, but will it be the wettest on record?

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The sunshine finally arrived in July, but left just as quickly as it came! I went in search of new gardens in Cumbria and Yorkshire and found them, travelled briefly to France where I finally saw Le Bois des Moutiers and several gorgeous chateaux gardens, made it to Asthall Manor in Oxfordshire for the biennial sculpture exhibition, and of course, there was Hampton Court Flower Show. We will, no doubt, find out in the next couple of days whether this has been the wettest July on record, but I've certainly had more than my fair share of getting soaked while visiting gardens! The weather did stay relatively dry for my visit to Yorkshire earlier this month, where I managed to see at least eight new gardens, including York Gate, the garden run by Perennial, Parcevall Hall, with its magnificent terraces and a few others including Newby Hall (above), Sleightholme Dale (below) and Stillingfleet Lodge - all yet to be reviewed. The forecasters keep promising us better weather for August, but…

Moors Meadow - in touch with the wild in Herefordshire

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Walk around Moors Meadow in Herefordshire and you will soon realise this organic garden is quite different to any other you'll find in the area. It sits at the end of a long country farm track in rolling countryside between Tenbury and Bromyard, overlooking the Kyre valley below and was voted the "Most Romantic Garden" in Central England by BBC Gardener's World readers in 2010. Easy to see why when you get there, but you won't find it in any of the UK garden guides.  Owner Ros Bissell was born here after her parents moved here in 1955. Tom and Rosie Johnson bought the house and plot for just £400 and worked it as a smallholding and market garden. Ros was the last of seven children and returned to her home in 1999 and has cherished the garden ever since. There are many fine examples of her late husband's metalwork scattered throughout this plantsman's paradise. Head there for the first Sunday of August (Sunday 5th August this year) for the annual "Hot …

"Small is beautiful" - Stoneacre, Smallhythe and Monk's House

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If you want a day out to remember, with some interesting old houses, filled with history and  peppered with famous names, head for the three unique properties in Kent and East Sussex featured here and you'll also be able to enjoy their gardens - Stoneacre, Smallhythe and Monks House. You'll drive through some beautiful countryside and may even come home with some ideas for your garden at home. All three houses are under the umbrella of the National Trust and you can wander freely, inside and out.  Stoneacre was once home to Aymer Vallance - a typical late 19th century aesthete who was interested in the work of William Morris and Aubrey Beardsley and knew both of them well. He moved to this 15th century, half-timbered Yeoman's house near Maidstone in Kent when he was 58, and the following year he married for the first time. Together with his wife, Lucy, he restored the property and incorporated many Arts and Crafts features into it, including stained glass windows. In 1928 t…

Parcevall Hall - an Arts and Crafts garden with astounding views over Yorkshire Dales

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Sir William Milner was certainly a man of vision with an eye for a view! He bought Parcevall Hall in 1926 and turned the crumbling house into a wonderful home and created the only Arts and Crafts style garden that lies at the heart of a National Park. His godmother was Queen Mary - a regular visitor to his home in Yorkshire - and he spent a major part of his life turning the 25 acres around his house into a exceptional garden that has some of the finest terraces in England, and heart-stopping views over the Yorkshire Dales. Given the steep hillside location of the property, it certainly took a man with energy and vision to tackle the task of creating a garden here. But Sir William, a gentle 6'7" giant, who later became a founder member of the Northern Horticultural Society and pioneered the establishment of the Yorkshire RHS garden at Harlow Carr, was undaunted by the task. He first made the house habitable and then extended it, using local stone quarried from the surrounding …

A hidden Yorkshire garden treasure - York Gate, Leeds

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York Gate is one of the most delightful gardens I've visited yet in my travels, although it's difficult to find, has no parking to speak of and such restricted opening hours that you've got to be really determined to get there. Not a good way to start a review of a garden perhaps, but all these obstacles are easily overcome and if you make the effort you won't regret your visit to this magical one-acre garden at Adel, just outside Leeds. This tiny plot is guaranteed to capture your heart so don't be deterred by any of the above. There is parking near the adjacent church and the owners are planning to extend the opening hours in the not too distant future.
The garden is owned by Perennial - originally known as the Gardeners' Royal Benevolent Society - a charity that helps those in need from the horticultural profession, by providing advice and financial support to arborists, gardeners, plantsmen and others associated with gardening, who have fallen on hard times.…

Up and down Yorkshire dales .... gardens that made my heart leap!

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After four glorious days in Yorkshire, dodging the downpours, I'm going to bring you some real garden delights in the next few weeks. I've driven more than 1,000 miles looking at landscapes that made me realise how lucky I am to be alive. I've seen weather conditions that made me hold my breath, driven through floods, got stuck in mud and donned my wellington boots more times than I care to remember. Yorkshire has some really magnificent gardens and part of their charm is the surrounding landscape. Parcevall Hall looks out onto the world beyond, as does Sleightholme Dale Lodge. York Gate, just outside Leeds, is one of the world's great garden secrets - home to Perennial, the garden charity that helps horticulturists in need. Driving home today was something else. It took me nearly eight hours to drive 300 miles because the weather conditions were so appalling! The heavens opened on more than one occasion and I couldn't even see the car in front of me. But I clung to …

Last chance to visit Asthall Manor in Oxfordshire - Grade II listed garden "on form" again!

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It's not often that you can see a beautiful garden and enjoy a sculpture exhibition at the same time (although Sculpture Al Fresco has returned to Great Fosters this year), but if you can find the time this week, do try and get to Asthall Manor in Oxfordshire. This magnificent property is open daily until 15th July and you can wander through the garden with its wonderful views over the surrounding countryside and marvel at the large collection of stone sculpture on offer there - all part of the biennial "on form" exhibition. Asthall Manor is probably best known for its connection with the five Mitford sisters, who were raised here by their father Lord Redesdale in the 1920s. Nancy Mitford wrote about her  home in her novel, "The Pursuit of Heaven". The property has changed hands several times since then and today Asthall has a very different reputation from the roaring 20s. The current owner has restored both house and garden to their former glory and opens the …

Docwra's Manor and Crossing House - two glorious gardens near Cambridge

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Drive into the sleepy village of Shepreth, just eight miles outside Cambridge and you'll be amazed to find two astounding gardens at opposite ends of the same street. The first, Docwra's Manor, was created by well-known plantswoman, Faith Raven and her husband, John, a distinguished botanist and author of "The Botanist's Garden". The second - The Crossing House - is the work of Mr and Mrs Douglas Fuller, who started out as amateur gardeners, but often sought help from their knowledgeable neighbours down the road.  When the Ravens arrived here in 1954, there was no garden, but there were some fine trees and together the newleyweds created the plantsman's paradise that's open to the public today. The Crossing House, at the other end of the village, is a labyrinth of intricate planting right next to the railway line, which has evolved over the years, thanks to the gardening skills of the Fullers. Both gardens are delightful, but share many similar characteris…