Archive for the ‘Gardens I’ve Visited’ Category

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012

The heat has sapped my energy so completely that all I can manage are a few photographs I took from our visit on Tuesday; hopefully they speak for themselves:

The Satoyama Life garden by the Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory

The Satoyama Life garden by the Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory

M&G Garden by Andy Sturgeon

M&G Garden by Andy Sturgeon

The lavender walk in Arne Maynard’s garden

Pleached copper beech walk in Arne Maynard’s garden

The L’Occitane Immortelle Garden by Peter Dowle

The Telegraph Garden by Sarah Price

Dappled evening light in Sarah Price’s garden

Joe Swift’s garden

London Plane tree in Joe Swift’s garden

Topiary in Cleve West’s garden

Planting detail in Cleve West’s garden

Water detail in Cleve West’s garden

And last but not least:

Corgies for the Golden Jubilee


The Generalife, Granada

Adjacent to the Alhambra is the Generalife, the summer palace of the Nasrid rulers of Al-Andalus with its splendid gardens, and this is the subject of part 3 of my Alhambra photo-series.

The Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Long Pond) at the Generalife

Fountains in the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Long Pond) at the Generalife

Flowers in the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Long Pond) at the Generalife

Archway carving at the Generalife

Gallery at the Generalife

Fountain and pool in Patio del Ciprés de la Sultana at the Generalife

Looking out from the Generalife towards the Alhambra

As with the Alhambra palaces, patience is key when visiting the Generalife; it seems near impossible to access it at a quite time so the best advice is to go in (you can only enter once by the way, multiple visits are not permitted) and to simply wait for breaks in the crowd.  In one of these rare moments you can then view and fully appreciate the gardens and buildings without trying to look over or around someone else.

My wife and I used the same trick in the palaces; simply hang back and let the flow of people pass you by.  It amazed my how quickly people moved through the palace complex; a click of the camera here and there and they were off to the next room leaving one to wonder how many visitors to the Alhambra actually see it, rather than just glance, point and shoot?

The palace rooms are places to linger, to allow oneself to be consumed by the detail and exquisiteness of the architecture and craftsmanship and to imagine them as they once were at their most opulent; to move through them in a manner that lacks in focus or concentration and as though one is in a great rush to reach the end is perverse: why bother going at all?

Before I finish I implore you to do one thing should you visit the palaces: sit on the floor and look around you.  You may get some odd looks but who really cares about that?  What you will also get, however, is a great perspective of the buildings; the Nasrid rulers would have filled the floors with cushions and sat on them and so you get to experience the rooms as they may have done, to a degree at least.

Wollerton Old Hall Garden

Yesterday Katherine and I visited Wollerton Old Hall Garden, a garden I had come across by chance whilst browsing the gardening sections of the various national newspapers.  Bunny Guinness, writing in the Telegraph, enthuses about the place so on visiting my parents in Manchester we made the stop at Wollerton in North Shropshire to judge for ourselves.

To begin with I would recommend that anyone with even the slightest interest in plants and gardens visits Wollerton; it is inspiring and stunning, the planting combinations are bold and vivacious, and the design works to break down what is a large space into numerous rooms and avenues along a linear plan running from the house and also parallel to it.

As can be seen in the pictures below the planting is done in substantial blocks with repetition popping up throughout the various beds giving a sense of continuity as one wanders around.  Much of the planting is given over to perennials, many of which are unusual varieties.  Salvias are found throughout the garden and there are 81 varitites (of which we bought 4 from the attached nursery).  Heleniums, Eupatorium, Monardas, Lysimachia, Phlox, Agastache, Achillea, Echinops, Actaea … the list goes on.

The 'main herbaceous border'

Detail of the'main herbaceous border'

There are also strong architechtural features throughout the garden which contrast well with the planting and add extra interest.

Architectural elemements in the Well Garden

A view across the Lanhydrock beds

Intense colour in the Lanhydrock beds

Masses of Monarda

The Rill garden is one of my favourite elements and in it we can see the influence of the Persian style (I say this because I have recently been reading Penelope Hobhouses ‘Persian Gardens’ and this part of Wollerton exhibits such elements and style that attune to that particular influence, consciously or otherwise).

The Rill Garden

Another view of the Rill Garden


So there it is, a fabulous garden that everyone should visit and from which all can take inspiration and pleasure … and buy plenty of plants in the process!

Christopher Lloyd’s Great Dixter

The first thing to say is that Great Dixter is today as much the work of Fergus Garrett as it is of Christopher Lloyd, but that it is still kept in the spirit and style of Lloyd and can never be detached from him or his memory.

So another day of our week long break was spent firstly taking in Great Dixter and then pottering around the small town of Rye.  Living as we do on the Kent and East Sussex border, both Great Dixter and Sissinghurst are visited annually, sometimes just the once but often on multiple occassions.  This was our first visit to Great Dixter this year and will probably be our only one as we are so busy keeping up with Katherine’s cutting garden, the garden generally, going off to sell Katherine’s arrangements and bouquets along with a selection of plants at farmers markets, and of course there is the small matter of our full time jobs, that free time is something of a rare luxury.



I liked the contrast in shape here between the topiary and the building


And how was Great Dixter I hear you ask? Delightful and different as always.  A riot of colour, form and texture that is enchanting.  Individually one looks at some of the plants and finds the colours a little on the gaudy side, but planted en masse and with plants that flower in every colour of rainbow the whole effect is seemless and transfixing; you can’t help but drink it in and revel in it and wish that you were brave enough to do the same thing in your own garden.  The star of the show on this occassion was the towering Verbascum olympicum which was everywhere, vast yellow spires gently rocking back and forth in the breeze.


Verbascum olympicum


Gnarly old apple tree with clematis


Meadow with a path to the nursery


A portion of the long border


Inside one of the old out buildings


Firey Heleniums work well with the Salvia and Bronze Fennel

The Secret Gardens of Sandwich, Kent

This time last year Katherine and I were on the island of Santorini, enjoying the rest and relaxation of  our honeymoon.  One year on and we were celebrating our first anniversary in Sandwich (one of the medieval Cinque Ports of Kent) staying at the wonderful Bell Hotel (fantastic food), not as glamorous I grant you, but a delightful little Kentish village basking in similar temperatures to that which we enjoyed in Santorini.

The higgledy rooftops of Sandwich; a view from the Bell Hotel

Whilst there we discovered ‘The Secret Gardens of Sandwich,’ a splendid walled garden covering some 3.5 acres.  The garden, originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and complemented by the planting of style of Gertrude Jekyll, has undergone extensive recovery and restoration having been left to nature for 25 years.

Long borders at the Secret Gardens of Sandwich

Lavender hedge at the Secret Gardens of Sandwich

A view of the Lutyens designed house at the Secret Gardens of Sandwich.

The planting was typical of and English country garden and there was an excellent little vegetable garden which really mixed up the planting of vegetable and flowering plants to great effect:

Mixed veg and flowering plants

We also visited the extant Roman fort at Richborough or Rutupiae, an impressive structure and higly evocative of our Roman past.  Whenever one visits such sites these days there are the inevitable information boards dotted about the place and one is usually offered an audio tour from which to glean facts and details; personally I shun these things to a large extent as I prefer to get the sense of the place and its surroundings rather than reduce it to facts and figures.  I’ll look at the architecture and try to fathom why this is this or that is that, touch the stone and feel the mass and bulk of the place.  Granted, a little knowledge is useful and I will scan the information boards briefly but I do tend to read up on a place before I go.  The fort, for example, once sat on the coast whereas now it is some miles inland and this knowledge helps one conjure a picture of  the bustling sea port that this place once was out on the fringes of the Roman Empire.

Ancient and modern; the walls of Rutupiae with the chimneys of Richborough Power Station in the distance

The most striking thing about the site is the contrast between the fort and the Richborough Power Station in the distance, which was decommissioned in 1996.  Oddly, despite the fact that the chimneys of the station would tower over the fort if they were side by side, I find the fort more solid, more permanent than the chimneys.  It leads one to wonder which structure will best survive the next 1000 years and more?

Poppies in a corn field at Rutupiae


I always come away from Sissinghurst with a deep sense of satisfaction and joy; both the garden and the surrounding landscape exude a magical quality, but they are also tangible links to the past and markers of how we envisage the future for both our old houses and estates and the countryside. 

The unseasonably warm weather of the past few weeks has encouraged much into life that might otherwise still be considering rousing from its winter sleep.  The Lime Walk, Hot harden, Woodland, and Orchard were all teeming with colour and vitality. 

My wife and I have been visiting Sissinghurst now for a number of years, usually two or three times from Spring to Autumn, and we never tire of it.  There is so much to capture the imagination whether it be on a grand scale when considering the overall design of the various parts of the garden, or in the detail of each flower and plant.

Below are just a few pictures of the many that we took.  If you want to see some more then pop over to my wife’s blog to see the pictures she has posted.

A magical view through the woodland

Looking across to the orchard

Plenty of colour in the Hot Garden

Magnolia against blossom


Snowdrops, Hellebores (I know, done to death but so nice), and other winter sights

Most blogs written by someone with the slightest interest in plants and gardening have probably mentioned Snowdrops and Hellebores over recent weeks so I hope this post doesn’t try your patience too much.  Chippenham Park Gardens in East Cambridgeshire has a wonderful carpet of snowdrops at this time of year, so much better than the odd clump that appears in my own garden.  Despite the dreariness of the day, we were able to enjoy this fascinating and delicate display, discovering in amongst the Snowdrops the odd Iris and Daffodil. 

A wonderful woodland scene


Amazing blue of the Iris reticulata


There was plenty of other interest in this woodland garden including dogwood in vivid red and yellow, witch hazel flowers (looking very much like grated lemon zest), crocuses and, last but not least, a whole array of vividly coloured Hellebores; all-in-all the perfect tonic for a grey day.

I love the subtle colour bleeding from the centre of this Hellebore

Great colour combination

I do hope that the repeat of Hellebores and Snowdrops hasn’t been too tiresome!
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