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Showing posts from January, 2015

Beat the winter blues and catch the best orchids and snowdrops in Britain this February

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As we step into February the days are getting longer and there have been some wonderful frosty mornings. Check out any leading garden website and you'll see a wonderful array of glistening pictures as horticulture hacks around the country capture frozen plots and plants on camera. In the south of England we've escaped lightly this winter and although the temperatures have plunged and there have been dire warnings of snow and ice storms, the snowdrops are beginning to appear. For some of the best places to visit to see white gold, click here, but my favourite is Welford Park in Berkshire where you will witness spectacular displays of this hardy little plant from this week. For a comprehensive list of snowdrop gardens around the UK, visit Great British Gardens
But if snowdrops aren't your chosen spice, head for one of the two orchid exhibitions that are about to open in in Britain. Both Kew and the Cambridge University Botanic Garden offer spectacular displays in their glas…

Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds - Book Review & Reader Offer

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Garden visiting takes on a whole new dimension with “Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds” - published this month by Frances Lincoln. This book will whet your appetite for some exquisite private gardens that you will only ever be lucky enough to see if you can get there on the rare days they open for charity. But this is the joy of this book because it takes you behind the scenes and shares the history, planting and feel of each unique landscape through Victoria Summerley’s pen and Hugo Rittson-Thomas’ eyes. 
Victoria Summerley has a relaxed writing style and draws you into every garden in the book. She makes no secret of her desire to look over the garden fence and her love of the Cotswolds.Fellow garden writers and Facebook followers will know we are friends and I make no secret of my admiration for the way she has approached her content. She applauds not just the owners, but also the people who make these gardens work – the stewards who care for them with their extensive knowledge and th…

A winter walk with John Brookes at Denmans and his thoughts on garden design

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What better way to spend a Sunday that with my dear friend John Brookes in the garden he has created over the last 30 years - Denmans - looking at what's already in bloom? John is remarkable - at 81 he is still designing gardens, both here and overseas, and apart from his own plot, near Chichester in Sussex, is best known for the Chicago Botanical Garden and numerous private gardens around the world. While we walked around his four-acre garden, which is already beginning to bloom, John talked to me about his design philosophy. 
While chatting to John about his design work, he explained: "First of all, for smaller gardens, I work with the proportions of the house and evolve a module or a grid using those proportions. Then I determine the kind of pattern the garden needs, asking if it's symmetrical or asymmetric and then I start thinking about the work of the 20th century Modernist painters and reflect on their patterning techniques."      John has become world-renowned…

Where plants of the world meet at England's heart - Biddulph Grange, Staffordshire

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Biddulph Grange in the heart of England is a fine example of Victorian exoticism. The 26-acre site features 18 acres of formal gardens surrounding an Italianate mansion. James Bateman and his wife Maria, both passionate and knowledgeable about plants, moved here in 1840 and built the extravagant house in place of a former vicarage. Bateman and his close friend Edward Cooke then spent many years creating the garden on the edge of wild moorland. But although the garden was famous in its day, its later use as a hospital led this much-admired garden into decline and it was only when it passed to the National Trust in 1988, that restoration work began. James Bateman was a wealthy local industrialist who thought nothing of spending a huge amount on his new home. But he was also a botanist and avid plant collector, so many of the plants and trees at Biddulph Grange were acquired from plant hunting expeditions to the Himalayas, which he sponsored.His garden grew as a result of his desire to sh…

"Wow" gardens of the world I - Lotusland near Santa Barbara, California

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In the first in a series of gardens that have really impressed me during the years I've been writing this blog, Lotusland in California ranks as one of the most memorable. Visitor numbers to this extraordinary 37-acre estate in Montecito - an exclusive residential district near Santa Barbara and a couple of hours drive north from Los Angeles - are strictly limited and you need to book well ahead to gain access. I was lucky enough to visit last summer. Sadly, the day did not look promising, with a heavy mist rolling in from the Pacific and a distinct chill in the air, but never be deceived by this coastal area of California because within an hour of arriving, the sun had burned off the low-lying cloud and I was able to enjoy this extraordinary garden in bright sunshine.
If you visit Lotusland, you’ll realise this is no ordinary garden, and understand that its eccentric and determined owner had extraordinary vision when planning and planting her home plot. Created by a flamboyant Pol…