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.
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.
Who can fail to be charmed by the mysterious ‘door in the wall’ entrance to the garden which leads down an even more enticing stone corridor and through another door before embarking on a slightly hazardous stone path beside other houses before emerging in Jericho garden itself.
The south facing house is smothered in clematis and climbing roses with cottage-garden plants spilling across the path which leads down the narrow garden. A tiny hosta courtyard opposite the house was perfectly planted with a huge variety of shade-loving hostas beside which, the luscious ‘Buff Beauty’ and palest pink ‘Fantin-Latour’ roses jostled for attention.
A clipped arch through a hornbeam hedge gives a classic ‘Sackville-West’ view to a stone sundial. The garden is completely enclosed by walls and the narrow path winds beside water taking in roses galore where secret spaces open up to reveal a new part of the garden, including a tiny chamomile lawn.
Clipped box and overhanging shrubs enable the visitor to feel enclosed within this small garden and you almost forget there are other people enjoying this tucked away oasis.
In contrast, the approach to Titchmarsh House in the village of Titchmarsh was an expansive gravelled driveway bordered by generously planted purple and white beds. To the right of the house, a recently created magnolia arboretum looks to mature beautifully in the coming years and from here, the path winds around towards the rear through rhododendrons and roses towards the jewel in Titchmarsh House’s crown, the walled ornamental vegetable garden, dripping with climbing roses where vegetables are upstaged by peonies and lushly planted irises of all colours. Further reading on the garden has revealed that there are over 50 varieties of iris in the garden, which has evolved over 40+ years. Designed and enlarged by the owners, the influence of Sissinghurst and Hidcote has led to the mature garden that we find today.
The vegetable garden, also planted with ancient apple trees overlooks open fields with far reaching views. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the glorious irises!
The journey around the garden continues onto the rear lawn and on towards further hidden garden areas including a white garden and further brick paths spilling over with foliage.
Extending to over four acres, the gardens and grounds of Titchmarsh House look set to further improve and evolve, as the newer species of beech, rhododendron and magnolia mature and the floriforous vegetable garden continues to delight.
Garden visiting over, we made our way towards St Mary’s Church with the promise of a cream tea! A very efficient brother and sister took our order but sadly the teas did not materialise due to the sad fact that they were rushed off their feet with no helpers other than their mother. After a hungry 45 minute wait, help arrived in the form of (presumably) Dad who announced to the gathered hoards that due to no volunteers turning up they were overwhelmed with orders! With proceeds of the teas going to the friends of the school it is sad indeed that those who benefit from fundraisers such as this cannot spare an hour or two to raise much needed funds. We left hungry and hope that our donation encourages those who did not help out to lend a hand next time!