Shere Open Gardens, June 2016



flowerpot men in Shere

Bill and Ben adorn a front garden in Shere, Surrey

A village gardens open scheme is a great way to take in several gardens in one afternoon, whilst enjoying a glimpse into the backyards of houses not usually open to the public.

Shere, near Guildford in Surrey is far from your typical Surrey stereotypical dormitory, since much of the village is still owned by the local manor and despite infill development manages to retain a certain quaint charm without being too ‘chocolate-box’. Continue reading

Arundel Castle Gardens

Green oak arches overlooking Collector Earl's Garden, Arundel Castle

Green oak arches overlooking Collector Earl’s Garden, Arundel Castle

It is a common misconception that Arundel Castle is ‘just a castle’ with perhaps a private garden, hidden from the snooping eyes of the tourist.  In fact this couldn’t be further from the truth and Arundel Castle gardens should be on every garden visitor’s ‘bucket list’.

The extensive grounds are dominated by the Hogwarts-style castle and nearby Cathedral. With gothic pergolas cleverly mimicking the arched windows of the castle, the rose garden ticks all the boxes for rose-lovers. Laid out in a uniform of 4 squares intersected with paths the rose garden makes a perfect start to the visitor’s experience of the castle gardens.


Beside the Fitzalan chapel, the lightness of the walled ‘white garden’ is a great foil for the dark stone walls of the chapel beyond. Here, the globes of Alium ‘Mount Everest’ and ‘Mont Blanc’ tower over ‘Iceberg’ and ‘Winchester Cathedral’ roses with spires of foxgloves and delphiniums bursting skywards beside frothy cosmos. Continue reading

Hall Place and Gardens, Bexley, Kent

'King's Beast' topiary at Hall Place, Bexley, Kent

‘King’s Beast’ topiary at Hall Place, Bexley, Kent

Hall Place first came to my attention whilst searching for a garden to visit in the Sidcup area.  Oddly, their website, whilst promoting all manner of family days out and a brief history of the Tudor manor house, gives no information on the garden other than the carrot of a photograph depicting curiously shaped topiary.  This was enough to spark an interest so we popped in to see if the garden showed any more promise.

Managed by the Bexley Heritage Trust, the Tudor house, dating from 1540 is set amidst gardens betwixt a busy main road and the (slightly less busy) river Cray.  Open to the public for a donation, the majority of visitors were families with children letting off steam beside the water. Continue reading

Lowder Mill, Haslemere

Lowder Mill near Haslemere, Surrey, open under the NGS.

Lowder Mill near Haslemere, Surrey, open under the NGS.

Tucked away down a quiet single track lane, Lowder Mill lies against an ambient Surrey landscape of lush fields and rhododendron woods.

With the now redundant millpond forming a backdrop against the pale brick wisteria clad house, water is the main feature of this garden, flowing abundantly along streams througout the garden whilst beside the millpond, visitors enjoy afternoon tea and home-made cakes. Continue reading

Chilworth Manor, Surrey

Wisteria at Chilworth Manor, Surrey

Wisteria at Chilworth Manor, Surrey

Lady Heald (1904-2004), huge supporter and former Chairman of the NGS and resident at Chilworth Manor for more than 40 years used to preside over her open garden days when the genteel Surrey manor opened its garden gates to the public.

Happily, the new owners of this gorgeous slice of England are following suit and Chilworth Manor garden, now refreshed and invigorated, welcomes visitors under the NGS open gardens scheme.

wisteria and roses grace a wall at Chilworth Manor

wisteria and roses grace a wall at Chilworth Manor

Approached via a sweeping drive, imposing stone gateposts mark the entrance to this property which has been used as a film location on numerous occasions. Continue reading

Petersham Open Gardens

Monet style bridge

Monet style bridge in one of Petersham’s open gardens.

How many of us must have driven along the narrow road through Petersham, Surrey enroute to Richmond and admired the stately Georgian town houses and quaint cottages, wondering what lay behind them?  All was revealed on Sunday 22nd May when Petersham Village opened 12 of its private gardens to the public to raise funds for local charities.

Despite parking being a little tight, visitors flocked to the village by the Thames, eager to see this year’s private gardens open under this annual event.  Armed with a handy map which helpfully also noted refreshment stops, we set off to explore. Continue reading

Ulting Wick, Essex – terrific tulips and more

tulipa paul scherer in early morning frost

Frosty tulips at Ulting Wick

Ulting Wick in Essex has received its fair share of mentions in the press and on social media and has quite rightly been named by esteemed photographer Clive Nichols and The English Garden magazine as one of the top 7 must-see ‘paradise’ gardens in England.

Philippa Burrough and husband Bryan moved into the property 20 years ago and over this time the garden has been transformed from an insignificant patch into a remarkable garden with year round appeal.


Ulting Wick has become famed for spring colour and the tulip displays in particular have proved extremely popular, having been photographed by celebrated garden photographers and featured in the national press.

Each year Philippa plants around 6000 tulip bulbs, creating a show-stopping display around the garden.  Approached by a gravel drive featuring a clipped central holly tree, the low-lying white painted Essex farmhouse is set off to perfection with hot plantings of orange and yellow tulips, narcissi, hellebores and blue muscari, with the promise of alliums and bergenias to come. Continue reading

Tulips from Amsterdam! A chilly weekend in Holland


Tulip Fields

It has long been an ambition to visit the tulip fields of Holland and finally I am able to tick this off my ‘bucket list’.  Flying into Amsterdam airport the fields were spread out beneath us, great strips of colour giving an enticing view across the flat landscape, laced with waterways.




Keukenhof garden should be listed as the eighth wonder of the world with its seemingly endless dramatic planting.  With its roots in the 15th Century, Keukenhof was laid out as a landscape garden in 1857.  In 1949 some 20 Dutch bulb exporters came up with a plan to use the garden as a means to exhibit their bulbs, and the modern day Keukenhof was born.


rows of colour at Keukenhof!

Today millions of visitors flood through the gates from late March to May, admiring the 7 million bulbs that are planted each year to showcase what Holland has to offer. Continue reading

NGS spring gardens prove surprising

Many people might associate the NGS (National Gardens Scheme) with hazy summer days, overflowing borders and cream teas under a parasol on the lawn.  Not quite so, and the NGS, as well as raising millions of pounds for British care charities in fact promotes gardens open throughout the year.


With daffodils blooming everywhere, last Sunday showed promise with bright weather and the opportunity to see drifts of yellow in some private gardens.  Our first visit was to Dachs in West Sussex. Boasting over 200 species of daffodils and narcissi with bog garden, stream and themed beds and fuelled with the idea of home made teas, we set off with anticipation. Continue reading

Painshill landscape Garden


Painshill Park



Now here’s a garden that does exactly what it says on the tin (or so to speak).  Painshill Landscape Garden conjures up images of sweeping grass, water graced with bridges and overlooked by trees.  I am pleased to report that it is exactly that and more.

Inspired by renaissance art following several ‘grand tours’ across Europe, Charles Hamilton created the garden between 1738-1773, which makes it now possibly the oldest in the United Kingdom.


Designed to give vistas from all angles, this romantic garden was laid out with the intention of being viewed in a similar manner to how one would view a painting or a piece of art. Hamilton did this by cleverly creating remarkable views using the natural landscape incorporating man-made water in the form of lakes.  He then peppered his pleasure grounds with quirky follies and using a foresighted vision, trees that would mature to complete the scene with height and density. Continue reading