Showing posts from February, 2013

Late winter treats - the best of British gardens in March

March is the month that gardens begin to wake from their winter reverie and owners start opening their gates to the public again. Plan your visits carefully and you'll be treated to great drifts of daffodils around the country, plus remnants of the snowdrop crop, hellebores and the first magnolias blooming. And, if you're really quick, you'll be able to catch the amazing snowdrops at Welford Park or the orchid exhibition at Kew Gardens, but hurry, because both shows are over on 4th March. Houghton Lodge in Hampshire (top) has a enviable hillside position with views over the River Test and is a great garden to wander around in the early spring sunshine. (Open daily from 1 March, 10.00-17.00). It's just a stone's throw from Heale House Garden, with its wonderful early spring bulb displays, and you might be lucky enough to catch a few lingering snowdrops there too. (Open Wednesday - Sunday, 10.00-17.00). If you're looking for another early spring garden, head for Mo…

Put a spring in your step with Cornish gardens - where magnolias are already blooming!

With less than a week until the end of February, there seems to be no end in sight to this miserable weather, and apart from the snowdrops and a few camellias, there's little in bloom right now in most parts of Britain. But it's a very different story further west and I've been following the Cornish gardens story on Twitter to put a little spring into my step, because a group of gardens in southwest are tweeting about their magnolia blooms as they come into flower @Gr8Gardens. Caerhays Castle has much to commend it - location, history and a glorious selection of early spring blooms. The early 19th century castle is surrounded by 60 acres of woodland garden with fine views over the sea and many rare species brought home from Chinese plant-hunting expeditions. Famous worldwide for its early season displays of camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons and home to the Williamsii camellia, which was propagated here. Open daily until 16th June (10.00-17.00) - well worth making a spe…

Orchid Extravaganza at London's Kew Gardens

It doesn't actually get much better than this if you're in search of some spectacular orchid displays to chase away the winter blues! The Orchid exhibition in the Princess of Wales Conservatory at London's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has has really eye-catching arrangements on offer this year - on show until 3rd March. I'll let the pictures tell the story ...

For other spectacular February displays, head off to see the snowdrops at selected gardens around the country, but if you're London based, make sure you go to Welford Park outside Newbury - you'll be simply amazed by the sea of bobbing white heads in the beech woods! Also open until 3rd March, Wednesday-Sunday.

In search of snowdrops - where to find the best in Britain!

I don't normally search for snowdrops, but this year's an exception. Perhaps it's been the lack of sunshine this winter, or the endless rain and dire threats of snow, but yesterday, when the sun finally shone, I went in search of galanthus and found some wonderful scenes in the South of England at Welford Park near Newbury and Heale House in Wiltshire. Driving through the dappled sunlight was a real treat after so many months of winter misery and the snowdrop scenes on arrival were certainly worth making the effort to see. An internet search for "Best snowdrop gardens in Britain" will highlight listings by newspapers, magazines and gardening sites that direct you to well-known galanthus gardens around the country. The National Trust publishes a list of its top recommendations, which include Anglesey Abbey, Dunham Massey, Nymans, Kingston Lacy and Ickworth; the NGS is also busy promoting the early opening gardens which offer good white gold displays, while Great Br…

Monty Don's French Gardens - Chateau du Champ de Bataille, Normandy

It takes determination to move 4 million cubic metres of earth to recreate a garden! But that's what Jacques Garcia did when he started work on the gardens at Chateau du Champ de Bataille in Normandy in 1993. Monty Don visited this property in the first of his new three-part television series "French Gardens", which aired on BBC2 last Friday night (1st February), with him exploring "Gardens of Power and Passion" in and around Paris, concentrating primarily on the gardens of the great and the grand and with particular emphasis on those designed by Andre Le Notre, who was the son of Louis XVIII's gardener at les Tuileries. This former masterpiece set in over 90 acres has been restored by well-known French interior designer, Jacques Garcia, at a cost of millions of Euros (although he wouldn't reveal to TV viewers exactly how many!) and is now open for business. Visitors can enjoy just the gardens, or go for the grand tour (priced at 24 Euros) which includes…