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Showing posts from April, 2013

"Bloomsbury Set" gardens blooming in East Sussex - Monks House and Charleston

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For a memorable day out in East Sussex, visit the gardens of the well-known Bloomsbury Set sisters, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell - who resided at Monk's House (above) and  Charleston (below), just a stone's throw (approximately half an hour's drive from each other) and both set in beautiful countryside. The good news is that Monks House (previously open for just two afternoons a week) has extended opening hours - daily from 13.00-17.30 except Monday and Tuesday and entry is free to National Trust members. Nearby Charleston was the one-time home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who were part of the Bohemian circle of writers and artists, collectively known as the Bloomsbury Group. It's a pretty farmhouse (above) sheltering beneath the South Downs and there are regular tours of the property for those interested in Vanessa's paintings. There is also a charming walled garden filled to bursting with densely-packed flower beds and a riot of colour. Now run by the Cha…

Great Dixter to Dungeness in a day - sublime to surreal!

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Great Dixter has featured many times on my blog over the years, but my visit yesterday was particularly special because I went with friend and fellow blogger, Ronnie of Hurtled to 60 and Now Beyond, for whom I have the greatest admiration. Ronnie recounts her personal story on her blog about her fight against bowel cancer and although much of her life is currently taken up with her battle against "Eric", which you can read about for yourself, we have promised each other that we will visit gardens together whenever we can this summer.  Ronnie had never been to Great Dixter before, and I had promised to surprise her with a visit to somewhere new. As luck (and endless perusal of the weather forecast) would have it, the day dawned bright and clear, which is a remarkably rare occurrence in England this spring. Great Dixter was looking good, despite the lack of sunshine so far this year and although the garden is running well behind on terms of what's in bloom, my fellow blogge…

Wordless Wednesday - Magnificent magnolias in bloom ... spring is here at last!

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Spectacular spring gardens - Sir Harold Hillier, Hampshire

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Spring is definitely in the air today so get out and visit a garden!  Why not head for Sir Harold Hillier's former home in Hampshire - a glorious 180-acre garden, just outside Romsey? And although this famous plantsman, who trained with his father as a nurseryman, is more commonly associated with the chain of Hillier nurseries around the country that carry his name, the garden and arboretum he created during his life is worth more than a passing visit because it has something to see throughout the seasons, and now is the time to see glorious displays of early flowering spring blossoms and great drifts of daffodils. This garden is a credit to Hampshire County Council, which has run the garden since it was given to them by Hillier in 1977. It is immaculately maintained and constantly evolving. At the moment the Centenary Border - which provides a blaze of colour in the summer months - is being replanted. But there are so many different spring flowers in bloom elsewhere in the garden …

Iconic British gardens - Beth Chatto Gardens, Essex

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A bitterly-cold and showery April day is not the best day to visit gardens, but even this early in the season, when spring is running a little late, the Beth Chatto Gardens are looking stunning - filled with promise for the new season! Seven acres of joy, created out of a once-neglected hollow between two farms, where Beth Chatto has worked wonders. This is a unique place, created by the woman who has given the garden its name (it was originally called White Barn House when it first opened in 1973) and she has now become internationally renowned because of her plant philosophy and best-selling books. Beth Chatto, plantswoman extraordinaire, started creating this garden in 1960 with her husband. There was nothing here at all when she arrived here more than 50 years ago, but Beth and her husband Andrew set to work to turn this into the paradise that survives today - seven acres of joy, created out of a neglected hollow that was boggy in parts and arid as a desert elsewhere. Together they…

Dancing with daffodils as weather finally turns warmer - where to see best daff displays in southern England

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After one of the worst winters on record in half a century (1963 was the last time that we had so much snow and such consistently low temperatures in the UK) it's not surprising that spring is dragging its heels and the bulbs we so look forward to here in April are slow to bloom. But finally .... they are beginning to appear and if you choose your destination carefully, you'll be rewarded with wonderful spring daffodil displays. Kent is a good place to start if you're in search of spring colour. Godinton House has one of the best daffodil displays I've seen yet (top), but there are many other gardens coming into bloom right now, including Doddington Place, renowned for its tulip displays and Sissinghurst (below), where you'll be rewarded with views over the surrounding countryside from the top of the tower. Closer to London, there's Emmetts with its fine views over the Weald and oceans of spring bulbs and Hever Castle which is always worth visiting in springtime…