The RHS garden, Rosemoor is situated near Torrington in Devon and set in a deep wooded valley beside the river Torridge. Originally created as a private garden by Lady Anne Palmer (born in 1919) the garden was gifted to the RHS in 1988 and in 1990 it was opened to the public as a ‘garden for all seasons’.
The original 8 acre garden and arboretum, created by Lady Anne lie on one side of the busy A3124 whilst on the other side, former pasture land has been transformed into formal gardens, visitor centre and more.
A tunnel connecting the two gardens is an adventure in itself, a rocky gully with stream and waterfalls, planted with bamboo and ferns.
The original garden on the ‘house’ side of the main road comprises of several smaller garden ‘rooms’. Behind the house, the exotic garden is host to a number of tropical plants including banana and palm trees, the bright Hedychium (ginger lily), Canna lillies and many salvias. Although small, the exotic garden gives a lovely ‘jungly’ atmosphere with its overhanging branches and winding paths.
The stone garden, a hard-landscaped area and the inspiration of Lady Anne’s mother was built in 1932. With a Japanese influenced stone lantern and a lot of stone planters, it is a small space dominated by an oddly shaped pool (presumably built to accommodate the palm tree beside it). The pool has a sad little dribbly fountain, supposedly solar powered but the solar panel was found to be overhung by branches! A little summerhouse with steps leading up and away towards the woodland beyond is slightly more aesthetically pleasing. Interesting original photos of the stone garden show it to be rather different to how it is today.
Beyond the stone garden lies the croquet lawn, impossibly smooth turf banked with exotic plantings and further on, the arboretum originally planted by Lady Anne.
A favourite garden for me was the Mediterranean garden; a haven of fragrance reminiscent of summers spent in Greece. Pine and fennel contribute to the scent, whilst geraniums and agapanthus provide colour. Cretan style terracotta urns and pots add authenticity.
The main path twists past high rocks giving a grotto effect, with waterfalls and ferns and leads towards the tunnel beneath the road. Once through the tunnel the mood changes, with a mix of areas and gardens to explore. An apple orchard leads through to the potager, choc-full with seasonal produce.
A bog garden beside the lake and wild flower meadow lead on towards the formal long borders. Box topiary and yew hedge dividers contain summer flowering favourites supposedly planted in fluid colour blocks, flowing from cool blues to warm pinks and hot oranges. Some sections work better than others, particularly one block which featured a giant Hydrangea Annabelle which seemed to dominate and dwarf the rest of the bed!
There are two rose gardens at Rosemoor – the Queen Mother’s rose garden and the shrub rose garden, both gorgeously old-fashioned rose gardens, complete with pergolas and complimentary clematis.
For me the most exciting planting at Rosemoor was the ‘hot’ garden. Blazing late-summer colour, tightly planted resulting in drifts of firey flowers of varying heights. Different varieties and shades of orange Crocosima and Heleniums are complimented by rich purple Lobelia, daisy-like yellow Rudbeckia and ever reliable Solidago (Golden Rod). Another daisy-like flower, Monarda has shaggy flower heads in rich red and purple. A delightful pocket to discover!
Not only does Rosemoor have a visitor’s centre with shop and restaurant, it also has a marvellous learning centre with lecture rooms and beyond, vegetable plots for horticulture students to cultivate their own patch. If you happen to be in North Devon, Rosemoor is a super day out.