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Showing posts from September, 2012

Goodbye sultry September - Autumn's on the way, so don't miss the great RHS garden freebie this coming Friday!

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We're always accused of talking about the weather here in England, but as we say goodbye to September, I'm sorry to say that the long-awaited Indian summer never arrived and there are many parts of the country that have suffered more torrential rain and floods. Our gardens are looking sad and jaded after a long summer of rain and the leaves are turning on the trees, so hopefully we'll be treated to some spectacular autumn colours next month. But mark this coming Friday in your diary, rain or shine, because the RHS is opening all four of its gardens around the country for free! But I was lucky enough to see the sun on several occasions, especially early in the month and used those bright days to visit some of the notable gardens here in England - Great Dixter, where Fergus Garrett puts on a fantastic show throughout the year, and where the Exotic Garden was looking particularly good (open until the end of October so still time to visit this year, if you want to catch the aut…

Kelmscott Manor - home of William Morris. A house and garden no Arts and Crafts aficionado can afford to miss!

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Kelmscott Manor in Gloucestershire was the country home of William Morris and no Arts & Crafts aficionado can afford to miss this one, even though most visitors come to see the house rather than the garden. Many people make a special pilgrimage to this property because of its connection with the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, and the garden has all the hallmarks - a vine-clad pergola, tiled summer house and stone-flagged pathways - but the magic is here, and it would be harder to find a more perfect country idyll - the very reason that Morris chose it. William Morris lived here from 1871 until his death in 1896 - he was a poet, calligrapher, printer, lecturer, writer, craftsman and above all a pattern designer - and when he first saw the property, he completely fell in love with it. Enclosed by high walls and divided by hedges, which was his ideal for a garden (see below), he wrote to his great friend Charley Faulkner in the May that he saw it, saying that he had found &q…

Houghton Hall, Norfolk - where flaming fountains and serpentine hedges abound!

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Houghton Hall in Norfolk is regarded as one of the finest Palladian houses in Britain. It also holds some surprises for garden visitors because the current Marquis of Cholmondeley has turned the five-acre walled garden into a showpiece that thrills visitors throughout the summer season. It features miles of immaculately-clipped serpentine hedging and a fountain that flames - no mean feat for a man who found gardening "boring" when he first arrived here in 1989! Although he was no stranger to gardening because he grew up at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire, where his mother has created another impressive landscape. The house has a long history and was built for the current Marquess' ancestor Sir Robert Walpole - Britain's first prime minister - and was also home to his grandmother, Sybil, who was a prominent society hostess. He grew up at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire, where his mother created another remarkable garden that opens to the public, so when he arrived at H…

Following in royal footsteps in the gardens at Sandringham House, Norfolk

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Sandringham House in West Norfolk, with its 60 acres of formal gardens and parkland, at the heart of a 20,000-acre estate, is not just a country retreat for the Queen and her family, but also opens to the public for seven months of the year, providing a royal landscape for all to enjoy. The formal garden to the north of the house was designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe; William Broderick Thomas created the sweeping lawns and lakes; and theWoodland Walk, famous for its rhododendron displays in May is the work of Sir Eric Savill, former head gardener at another much-loved royal landscape in Surrey – the Savill Garden.  The emphasis at Sandringham is on the landscape. It's a delightful place to walk and there are huge open spaces and many fine specimen trees; a charming formal garden designed specially for King George VI so he could see it from his rooms in the house; acres of impeccably kept lawn and a walled kitchen garden that provided all the vegetables for the royal kitchens in day…

Thursday taster ... Norfolk gardens

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I've just returned from two days in Norfolk visiting gardens and I've got many lovely treats in store for readers in the next few weeks - from the gardens of Sandringham (above), where the Queen spends as much time as she can, to the amazing acreage at East Ruston, where I was really impressed by the Exotic Garden (below). Norfolk has some really spectacular gardens. I've visited six this week and will be featuring most of them in the next fortnight. I was really wowed by Houghton Hall; spent many hours at Sandringham admiring the trees; fell in love with the moated gardens at Hindringham Hall, and enjoyed the variety at East Ruston Old Vicarage. Blessed with good, autumnal weather and the special light that comes with the equinox, I've got many new gardens to share with readers in the next few weeks. The Water Flame at Houghton Hall (above) is particularly impressive, as are the lakes and vistas at Sandringham; but so too are the moated gardens at Hindringham Hall (belo…

Rodmarton Manor - definitely the jewel in Britain's "Arts and Crafts" garden crown!

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Many English gardens are classified as "Arts and Crafts" style, but in reality, they're either poor copies, or capitalising on the popular style to attract visitors. But Rodmarton Manor, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire is the genuine article. Both house and garden were conceived and built at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement, using traditional methods, locally sourced materials and with skilled craftsmen working on site. Today the house remains in the ownership of family that built it and the gardens are open to the public throughout the summer months for all to enjoy.  The house was designed and built for Claud and Margaret Biddulph at the turn of the 20th century. They originally wanted a small country retreat and although work started in 1909, the outbreak of war meant that it was not finished until nearly 20 years later, and it grew into a substantial family home. The Biddulphs commissioned local architect Ernest Barnsley to design the house for them and he a…

Gardens for "Ladies who Lunch" - Gravetye Manor

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The children are back at school, the sun's shining and what better way to see a glorious garden than combining it with lunch with a girlfriend? England has more than its fair share of gardens with lunch attached and in the first of several features on hotels and restaurants that have wonderful gardens associated with them, I'm starting my journey at Gravetye Manor in Sussex. This is the former home of William Robinson, who championed naturalistic planting and had a profound influence on British gardening Head gardener, Tom Coward - who arrived here from Great Dixter two years ago, has breathed new life into this glorious garden and, after a long battle against the bindweed, the grounds at Gravetye are well on their way to recovery and I'm sure William Robinson would be in awe of his 21st century compatriot's work. The Flower Garden is a riot of colour throughout the seasons and with the Elizabethan manor house as a backdrop and a gourmet restaurant, lunch doesn't ge…

September Garden Highlights - Sissinghurst Castle

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Still looking good in September - after all the rain this summer - is Sissinghurst Castle, former home of Vita Sackville West and one of the most visited properties in Britain. Also one of the most photographed gardens in the UK, especially the tower above. Sissinghurst isn't actually a castle, but rather a manor house with a tall tower. But the "Castle" has stuck and Harold Nicholson and his wife Vita were more than happy to inhabit this particular home. And we all know the adage: "An Englishman's home is his castle"! Climb to the top of the tower on a clear September day and you'll have a better view of the garden than you'll ever get on the ground. Look out over the whole property from above and you'll see why Sissinghurst is famous for its garden "rooms". Famous for its cottage garden (below) and fine views over the surrounding Kent countryside, the house is still lived in part time by Vita Sackville West's grandson, who's ma…