Burford Festival Open Gardens, Burford, Oxfordshire

English Country Garden

English Country garden

The wonderful biennial Burford festival is a feast for the senses and runs for a surprising 10 days, inncorporating amongst other things talks and lectures, music, literature, film and of course gardens.  Over the opening weekend of this year’s festival, 25 private gardens were opened to the public, offering a glimpse through the garden gate of some of the secret gardens of Burford.

topiary in small garden with pots

topiary in small garden with pots

Being such a honeypot for visitors, Burford’s busy and thriving main street of shops (I recommend the Madhatter book shop; hats for sale amongst books with the bonus of engaging and lovely staff), cafes, restaurants and pubs belies the fact that just a few hundred yards away lie several surprising and well-tended gardens of all shapes and sizes.


Greyhounds Garden

Sadly with only a couple of hours to spare we were unable to visit even half of the gardens open but the ones we did see gave us a taste of Burford and we vowed to return next year.

stone wall with decorative head planted with lobelia surrounded by ivy and topiary

stone wall with decorative head planted with lobelia surrounded by ivy and topiary

Our garden visiting centred around Sheep Street where our first discovery was an absolute gem.  Annoyingly I have lost the ‘gardens map’ so am unable to give names of all the gardens and this one I shall have to refer to as Radford’s – after its owners.  Here behind a wooden gate lies a pocket-handkerchief plot packing maximum punch.  This small town garden centres around a simple central square of immaculate lawn flanked by billowing perennials such as delphiniums and peonies beyond which the hillside town gardens of Burford flow into the distance towards the River Windrush. High walls form two sides of the garden whilst the warm stone of the house wall forms the fourth side to this charming garden.  Box topiary and teracotta pots provide a formal element with more formality in the shape of an exquisitely trained Ribes speciosum forming neat squares against one of the stone walls beside a stone face sporting an attractive head of lobelia!

Ribes speciosum trained against a stone wall

Ribes speciosum trained against a stone wall

Across the road, the enchanting former inn, Greyhounds enticed the visitor into the garden through a coaching arch giving tempting views into the house and where a still-life pool had been created in a stone planter.

round stone bowl with water and decorative leaves

stone bowl with decorative leaves

A sloping path bordered by a wall on one side and a wide border bursting with plants and topiary on the other opens out onto a topiary framed lawn overlooked by an enchanting summerhouse which was more like a miniature house, being built of stone and furnished.

densely packed border with delphiniums

densely packed borders with delphiniums

Next door, another sloping garden was accessed through a narrow path where the most exquisite pale pink Albertine rose made a delicious still life beside an old painted cart-wheel.  Steps beside a rectangular pool with resident mallard duck led up the garden through a wild orchard towards a potager.

Climbing pink rose Albertine

climbing Albertine rose

The final garden we visited was Calendars, accessed from the rear. Because of the higgledy piggledy-ness of the town’s layout, a long path led down towards the garden, opening out in terraces.  A water rill surrounded by very upright clipped ash trees overlooked a peony-framed lawn which led down to a formal box parterre planted with roses and cosmos beside the wisteria-clad stone house.


lawn with central water rill

terraced garden with water rill

How tempting it was to peep through the windows of these beautiful houses (indeed I watched one visitor unashamedly walk into the kitchen of Calendars before quickly walking out again!)  Such is the nature of opening gardens to the public.

box parterre

box parterre

What a shame we did not have more time to explore the record number of gardens open this year.  I shall have to watch the website carefully so as not to miss the next Burford open gardens in 2019.  Perhaps attending a lecture or concert should be in order too!

trio of pots on a windowsill

trio of pots on a windowsill

5-10-5: Gina Price of Pettifers Garden

One of my favourite gardens! A delightful read.

Plinth et al.

I first met Gina after I saw her garden on the front cover of the 2007 Good Gardens Guide and then reached out to schedule a visit in person. On weekends when I wasn’t occupied with my postgraduate research, I would often drive out to visit historic houses, gardens, and nurseries. Nonetheless, a date and time are agreed upon and I tentatively knocked on the door upon which I had embarrassingly mistaken her husband James for a friend. The Prices ended up having a good laugh about the episode, and I ended up staying for much of the day, cementing my friendship with Gina. We’ve kept in touch over the years as the garden has evolved beautifully.

When you first started gardening, you mentioned how your influential friends were merciless in their critiques of your early garden. I can’t imagine that you didn’t feel slighted at that time although the memory of those times appear funny…

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East Clandon, Surrey – open gardens and more…



East Clandon open gardens

At the foot of the North Downs, between the National Trust owned properties Clandon Park and Hatchlands Park lies the quaint village of East Clandon.  Situated less than 5 miles from the busy Junction 10 of the M25 this tiny village of largely 16th and 17th century brick and timber houses boasts an active community.   Although its roads are used as a rat-run to the busy A3, the village has lost none of its charm and features a tithe barn mentioned in the Domesday book.  Despite the village’s diminutive size, it has an active and thriving village life with a pub, village hall and 12th century Church.


open gardens poster 

The first weekend in June saw the annual East Clandon in Bloom Festival, with not only open gardens but a flower festival and concert in the Church amongst other fund raising activities.  With 12 gardens to explore, the trail led around the village and down narrow lanes, taking in tiny courtyard gardens at the Tithe Barn to a miniature 1.5 acre vineyard at High Clandon. Continue reading

NGS festival weekend – two open gardens in Northamptonshire


irises galore at Titchmarsh House, Northamptonshire

The NGS celebrated their 90th birthday over the May bank holiday weekend and finding myself in Northamptonshire I was delighted to be able to visit two gardens open under the scheme.  The first, Jericho was a Jekyll inspired town garden in the centre of Oundle whilst in complete contrast, the expansive grounds of Titchmarsh House (see below) took a little longer to navigate.

Continue reading

Chelsea Flower Show 2017


The Silk Road Garden.  Chelsea, 2017

With last year’s Chelsea blog still in my drafts folder I am determined that this year I will actually post about my Chelsea findings.  With so many other writers and bloggers doing exactly the same thing  I thought that instead of writing about the general loveliness I would write about what I would like to know if I were unable to attend.

It’s exciting to read the Chelsea previews and see the artist’s impressions of the gardens but do they actually look like that?  Are the gardens innovative and exciting?  Or as some may suggest, are one or two of the offerings just a teeny bit ’emporor’s new clothes’ -ish?

Using one of my favourite garden magazines, The English Garden as my source, I went in search of the sketches they published in their May edition and tried to photograph from the same angle (not easy due to the volume of people).

Here’s what I found: Continue reading

Keukenhof Garden, Lisse, Holland

A return trip to the Keukenhof garden in Holland and what a spectacular place it is.  The brilliant thing about this garden is how competently it is run – from the regular busses from the airport and central Amsterdam to the friendliness of the staff to the cleanliness of the park, the Keukenhof is a fine example of Dutch efficiency.  Hardly surprising, since in 2016 it welcomed over a million visitors and judging by this year’s crowds, 2017 will probably beat that figure.



Each year the Keukenhof themes the planting and this year was all about Dutch design which they describe as ‘Dutch sobriety combined with innovative solutions’.  Hmm.  I noticed the Mondrian style bulb mosaic )sorry no photo) but especially loved the abundant planting throughout the park. Continue reading

Hammerwood House, West Sussex (NGS)


Hammerwood House, Iping, West Sussex

Searching for a garden to visit in the Sussex Weald last weekend, we noticed in the NGS yellow book (have you got your copy yet?) that Hammerwood House, near Midhurst was open.



The pinkest Azalea overlooks the sweeping lawns

The bucolic approach to the property took in rolling hills and tiny narrow lanes dotted with picturesque cottages.  The house lies on the outskirts of Iping village, so just as you think you must have passed it, suddenly there is the signpost; a relief not to have to find somewhere to turn round and resume your search.  Oddly there were no welcoming yellow NGS ‘garden open’ signs, but more of that later. Continue reading

Felley Priory


Immaculate formal gardens at Felley Priory


Felley Priory is one of North Nottinghamshire’s best kept secrets.  Amazingly only half a mile from the M1, the tranquil and immaculate 3 acre garden, set against rolling hills provides a pleasant year-round garden visit.

The carefully planted garden takes into consideration the history of this ancient priory and some of the rare and unusual plants can be purchased in the nursery next door.

Dating from the late 12th Century, the Priory formerly consisted of twelve canons following the Rule of St Augustine.  In the Dissolution in 1535, most of the Priory was destroyed although parts were used elsewhere in the construction of the house and garden. Now a family home, the house is a handsome stone property with formal terraced gardens. Continue reading

Orchids at Kew Gardens


Stunning peacock in the glasshouse

At Kew Gardens this month, visitors can enjoy the promise of Spring in the garden where snowdrops, helebores and aconites are making an appearance.  For more exotic blooms, head for the Princess of Wales glasshouse, where a taste of India awaits in the form of giant floral displays celebrating the culture and plant life of India. Continue reading