Mary Berry speaking at the NGS annual conference
” The NGS is responsible for making garden visiting a national pastime” announced George Plumptre, executive director of The National Garden Scheme as he introduced the annual lecture at the Royal Geographical Society, London where a packed hall waited in anticipation of the evening’s speakers. In his introduction, Plumptre revealed that when the NGS first started in 1927 the only gardens open to the public were parks and when Hatfield House, the very first garden to open its gates to the public welcomed visitors in that year, a subsequent article revealed that ‘visitors could drive through the main gates in their motor-cars and walk freely around the grounds!’
The first speaker was President of the NGS, Mary Berry, a seasoned gardener who has opened her garden, Watercroft for the NGS for 25 years. Mary recounted the first year she opened her garden where she received “wonderful help from the county team”. Mary had excellent advice for the many garden owners at the lecture and helpfully gave tips on the most successful cakes to bake for teas. Lemon drizzle and fruity tray-bake were the most popular cakes and she strictly told the audience “don’t give too much choice”. Mary revealed that she had initially purchased 100 willow patterned cups and saucers for the teas which had come in very useful over the years. “Garden opening is a huge effort but very rewarding” she said. Continue reading
Visitors at the new glasshouse in the Global Growth vegetable garden
RHS Hyde Hall is situated in the flat Essex countryside near Chelmsford and conveniently only about a half hour drive from the M25. Previously owned and gardened by Dr and Mrs Robinson, the former farm did not originally lend itself to horticulture due to the exposed, windswept site, not to mention the heavy clay soil! To ensure a safe future for the garden, it was bequeathed to a Trust in 1976 and handed over to the RHS in 1993. Under the guidance of the RHS and with increasing visitor numbers in mind, the garden underwent a number of tranformations starting with a 10 million gallon reservoir to ensure the garden was water-efficient.
The Dry Garden
Hyde Hall is famed for its Dry Garden, designed by then-curator, Matthew Wilson in 2001 to promote mediterranean style planting which suits the clay soil and low average rainfall in the area. Continue reading
Brick wall and arch beside lillies and clematis in the Kitchen Garden
Morton Hall, near Inkberrow in Worcestershire is a private garden set on the edge of an embankment that gives spectacular views across the Vale of Evesham. The eight acres of gardens and grounds have been completely re-designed in the last 10 years by Charles Chesshire into a series of linked garden rooms that lead around the Georgian house. The approach to the house is typically grand, with a sweeping drive flanked by lawns. In Spring, the right hand side of the drive is a mass of bulbs including fritillary, narcissi, tulips, camassia and alliums. In the meadow, a stone Monopteros is positioned to catch the early rays of morning sun.
Starting at the rear of the house, the West Garden sweeps down to a ha-ha where sheep graze peacefully in the field overlooking the valley. A calming blue and white palatte includes lavender, white phlox, roses and white agapanthus spilling across the path. Continue reading
herbaceous borders at Nymans
Nymans, a National Trust property is set in the picturesque High Weald of Sussex and was originally a family home. Destroyed by fire in 1947, much of the house survives as a garden ruin although the remaining part which was re-built is open to the public. The former home of Lady Rosse who died in 1979, the open rooms serve partly as a gallery, displaying images from the great storm of 1987 which destroyed much of the estate. The remainder of the house is suspended in time, furnished and frozen as if still occupied by Lady Rosse herself which is strange, since as an influential voice on National Trust committees, she was quite adamantly against ‘the museumisation of Trust properties’.
The estate’s origins can be traced back to the late 1800s when German-born Ludwig Messel bought Nymans in order to make it a family home. Inspired by the wooded surroundings he created a garden with new plants collected from around the world including rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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
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.
Clematis adorns the walls of Jericho, Oundle
The narrow 100 metre long garden of Jericho belongs to Stephen and Pepita Aris and was initially planted over 50 years ago in the style of Vita Sackville-West. The long and fairly narrow garden is divided up into a series of garden rooms and secret spaces. Continue reading
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
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