During our tour of East Anglia, this garden was high on my Wish list to visit.
When Alan Gray and Graham Robeson first came to the old vicarage there was no garden whatsoever, it was a blank canvas. Every garden was designed entirely by them as were the various buildings, their sole aim has been to try and enhance the setting of their home. Alan occasionally writes for the RHS magazine and has his own YouTube channel. Throughout the garden there are many rare and unusual plants growing. They propagate from these in small numbers so that they may be purchased from the plant sales area. There is a converted barn for a tea room with a wonderful display of vintage garden tools on the walls. The garden lies 1½ miles from the North sea.
The pedestrian entrance court with its free draining gravely soil is planted each spring with a variety of succulents, with Aeonium ‘zwartkop’ and the slaty blue Cotyledon orbiculata taking centre stage.
The garden spans 32 acres, containing many garden rooms to discover and explore. Herbaceous borders, gravel gardens, sub-tropical gardens, a box parterre, sunken rose garden, Mediterranean garden, Walled garden, large woodland garden and a Desert Wash garden.
The Desert Wash.
This area of the garden is designed to resemble parts of Arizona where, it probably only rains, once or twice a year, but when it does rain it floods and great rushes of water channel through the landscape tossing rocks and stones around and leaving behind dry channels and islands where succulent plants flourish.
The real work in making this garden started one metre below the surface where they broke up the sub-soil and incorporated lots of gravel. Then they built layer upon layer of gravel and gravel mixed with soil, the aim being to keep this area very free draining especially during the winter.
Many of the plants grown here are able to tolerate some cold provided they remain dry at the root. Some four hundred tonnes of flint of various sizes have been used in the construction of this area.
They are always experimenting and pushing the boundaries with the planting. Besides the usual drought tolerant plants you will find Puyas, Bromeliads, Agaves and Aloes. Nothing is wrapped for winter protection, the excellent drainage prevents water lying around their roots.
Slide Show The Desert Wash.
Viewed through a porthole cut in the shelter belt is this much photographed borrowed view of Happisburgh lighthouse.
St Mary’s church at the end of the garden.
This is one area of the garden, there is so much more to see not least its magnificent Walled Garden which was built to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
In 1955 when Dr and Mrs Robinson came to Hyde Hall in 1955 there were only six trees on the top of a windswept hill and no garden. They donated the 42-acre garden, Hyde Hall, to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993. We visited there in August 2012 during our garden tour of Essex and East Anglia.
A dry garden was created in 2001 by Mathew Wilson, curator at the time, it aimed to show visitors how they can work with the environment and use drought-tolerant plants.
This path leads into the dry garden, described as one of the crowning achievements of Hyde Hall.
Work began in the winter of 2000, which ironically was one of their wettest winters. It is home to more than 400 different species of plant.
The garden has been built on a south-facing slope covering 0.4 acres, using Gabbro boulders and subsoil mounded over the rubble.
The topsoil was mixed with grit and sand to offer a free-draining environment for the plants.
On summer days, with the rolling hills in the backdrop, the garden looks rather like a Mediterranean outcrop, and it’s easy to forget that you are in the heart of Essex.
In spring, the garden shines with golden Euphorbia, conifers are included for winter interest and drought tolerance, while in summer it turns purple as Verbena bonariensis attracts hosts of butterflies and ornamental grasses towers high above the garden.
Such as the wonderful Stipa gigantea below. Alliums are planted for spring colour with Agapanthus, which you just see on the left for later in the year. Also on the left is Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ which provides colour over a long season.
Echinops ‘platinum blue’ and Verbascum olympicum enjoy these conditions.
Also, the beautiful Crinum Powelli is here with Eryngium planum.
From here you could look down onto the gravel or scree garden which had more recently been developed.
Some of the stars up close.
Hyde Hall is well worth a visit if you are in the area, this is only one of the many inspirational gardens within its boundary. Do you have any drought tolerant stars shining in your garden?
With the tentative easing of lock down restrictions our first garden visits have been to Spetchley Park Gardens with 30 acres to roam there is space for everyone.
Spetchley Park, Worcester has been privately owned for over 400 years, with a good garden history due to its connection with Miss Willmott. It also has tea rooms, a heritage centre and plant sales. http://www.spetchleygardens.co.uk
This gallery of pictures was taken during our visit in early May.
A video of the changing autumn colours in Our Garden@19 and some borrowed landscape. I filmed this over a two week period to record the changing colours. Please turn your sound on and select full screen to enjoy.
What is providing you with Autumn colour?
With the requirement in most countries to wear a face mask due to the Covid19 pandemic smiling at people is difficult. I have read that an eyebrow smile works, this Spike Millagan poem brought a smile to my eyebrows.
A favourite walk of ours even before lockdown was St. Wulstan’s Nature Reserve. Before it became a nature reserve, it had a fascinating history as a US army hospital, a TB hospital and a psychiatric hospital, it is managed by Worcestershire county council.
These pictures are from a visit in early July, the open areas around the shrubby were full of colour and insect life
Because of its sweet honey like scent ladies bedstraw was used for bedding
The sap from wild parsnip is toxic. Cultivated parsnip left in the garden for a second year has attractive flowers.
At the end of Matron’s Path, there was the Rowan covered in berries and the wild Clematis with its fluffy seed heads.
In a lane closer to home was this flower, it looks a little like an orchid. it is the Dyer’s Greenweed. historically used to create a yellow dye.
In August 2019 Irene and I were invited to a family event near Lincoln, this provided the perfect opportunity to visit a garden that has long been on my wish list ever since reading about their technique for growing Bearded Iris. Sadly when we visited the iris were over, however, as with all good gardens, there was much else to admire. We have many bearded Iris in the garden, several inherited from my Mother and Great Aunts’ gardens. Bearded iris have beautiful delicate, often fleeting flowers, due to our weather, which can make them even more precious.
Bearded Iris has fallen out of favour due largely to the traditional way of caring for them, with the need to lift and thin them, in the autumn, every three to four years. The “Doddington system” is a trouble-free way to divide them, requiring minimum attention. Some of their older iris have been in the same beds for over 30 years.
Their system is based on the fact that bearded iris set their flower initials in August and require the rhizomes to be warmed by the summer sun.
The iris are split every year after flowering in June, just as the new leaves start to grow. The iris are not lifted but split with a spade, leaving the healthy young rhizome with shoots, whilst removing the old rhizome. the aim is to leave 9-12″ between plants. Then you remove the early summer leaves and flower stems leaving the new late summer leaves. They topdress the bed with bone meal, I use rose fertiliser because foxes are attracted to bone meal. Large rhizomes can be divide with the spade with one part lifted to transplant, either to fill a gap, expand the bed or pot up to sell on open garden days.
I have been using this system since 2014, I was initially attracted because it entailed much less bending, having had a back problem for some years.
Bearded iris in Our Garden@19
Another interesting fact with Doddington is they contain the Bryan Dodsworth iris collection. He was the most celebrated C20 British breeder of Tall Bearded Iris and was awarded the Dykes Medal for new varieties 12 times.
“For many, the Gardens at Doddington are just as spectacular as the Hall itself. Remaining faithful to the original Elizabethan layout, mellow walls provide the framework for the formal East Front and West Gardens. Beyond the West Gardens begin the lovingly restored Wild Gardens. Over the generations, most recently by Antony and Victoria Jarvis and Claire and James Birch, the gardens at Doddington have been restored, cared for, nurtured and developed to their fullest potential.
THE EAST FRONT
The point at which the dramatic nature of the architecture of the Hall becomes apparent. A regular pattern of box edging and topiary follows the outer original Elizabethan walls, leaving the central view of the Hall from the Gate House uninterrupted. Standing guard in the forecourt are four topiary unicorns, representing the Jarvis family crest.
THE WEST GARDEN
Reorganised in 1900 with the help of experts from Kew, the West Garden is a riot of colour from April through to September. Wide borders filled with botanical surprises such as the naturalised Crown Imperials, elegant Edwardian Daffodils and a Handkerchief Tree frame a tapestry of box-edged parterres bursting with glorious Bearded Irises in late May/early June.
THE WILD GARDEN
A spectacular pageant of spring bulbs begins in early February with swathes of snowdrops and Crocus tommasinianus, continuing through March and early April with drifts of Lent Lilies and our unique collection of heritage daffodils, winter aconites and snake head fritillaries until May when our famous Irises steal the show in the West Garden. There are also winter-flowering and scented shrubs, Rhododendron, and an underlying structure is given by topiary and some wonderful trees – the ancient, contorted Sweet Chestnuts that overlook the croquet lawn are still productive.
Meandering paths lead you to our Temple of the Winds built by Antony Jarvis in memory of his parents, a turf maze that he made in the 1980s, and if you look hard you may find the ‘dinosaur’s egg’ (a large boulder that he put in the branches of a field maple tree to surprise the grandchildren).
A nature trail starting from just beyond the Temple at the end of the Garden follows a circular route back to the ‘ha ha’ at the end of the Yew avenue and provides a pleasant and interesting walk of about a mile. The route passes through woodlands, open parkland and a wetland meadow from where the clay was dug to make the bricks to build Doddington.
THE KITCHEN GARDEN
Thanks to a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the formerly neglected two-acre Walled Kitchen Garden was restored to its former glory in 2007. Just a stone’s throw from the Hall it now provides an abundance of fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs which take centre stage on the Café and Restaurant menus and are regularly for sale in our Farm Shop.
By implementing organic techniques including crop rotation, minimum tillage, biological controls, the use of green manures as well as no-dig beds, we are able to naturally maximise productivity and minimise pests so we have no need for chemical fertilisers, weed killers or pesticides.”
A photo garden tour.
A great name for an Iris!
If you have an opportunity I would recommend a visit to Doddington Hall, besides the hall and gardens, they have a cafe, restaurant, farm shop and several other shopping outlets, you can even get married there.
The churchyard at Birlingham, Nr Pershore in Worcestershire has long been a pilgrimage for snowdrop lovers in the area. Bulb Teas are held each Saturday and Sunday in February until Sunday 24th February in the Village Hall from 11.00am to 4.00 pm.
The Grade II listed church of St James with its 15C tower, which at one time contained a dovecote, sits in the middle of the village by a small green, with the old school, now a private house, and the village hall.
We visited on Sunday, in glorious sunshine, and with the snowdrops starting to go over, crocus and cyclamen were taking their place.
A Cherry tree just outside the church wall was in full flower with honey bees taking advantage of the sunshine to gather nectar.
A colony of bees have made their home in the tower…
In this hole under the old clock face.
The church was open and had been decorated with flower arrangements.
The teas and cakes were proving to be very popular on this beautiful afternoon in this charming Worcestershire village.
The end of the summer holiday saw us, with the grandchildren, visiting the Knapp and Paper-mill reserve of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. Link The reserve lies in the Teme valley and the Malvern Hills area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
After a picnic at the entrance to the site, where we were watched by a cheeky Robin, we set off to explore, our youngest granddaughter could remember visiting with her school, they do have an educational facility on site. You come first to the old orchard, where some of the trees were laden with apples, which I assume previously belonged to Knapp House…
You can venture down to the stream at several different places with a willow hide at one, placed specifically for viewing Kingfishers.
The Knapp weir was originally used to divert water to the watermill.
There are meadows…
…and steep wooded banks.
The hedgerows were bearing clusters of autumn fruit, which I am sure the bird life will appreciate later in the year.
The Elderberry has long been a favourite for making into wine. We made some many years ago, I have to record it was a nice but powerful drink.
The GuelderRose was looking spectacular, already developing its wonderful autumn leaf colour. The berries contain one seed which is distributed by the birds.
Wild Hops gracefully covered many of the hedgerows and trees. It is of course cultivated for the flavouring of beer. (There is an alcoholic theme developing here!) There are male and female hop plants, the female grows the flowers that we associate with beer brewing while the male has catkins. Worcestershire and Herefordshire was historically an important hop producing area along with Kent.
Also covering the trees and hedgerows was ‘Old Man’s Beard’, this is the country name given to the wild Clematis when it is covered with its whispery seed heads.
Standing on a small bridge over the steam the girls decided to play Pooh Sticks…
…The only problem was we could not tell which stick belonged to who, so they both claimed to have won!
The visit made a fitting end to the summer holidays, reminding us that autumn is on its way and like nature we should be filling the store cupboard. (Not least with wine to fight the winter chills!)
The National Botanic Garden of Wales is one of our favourite places to visit in Wales.
“It is a charity dedicated to the research and conservation of biodiversity, to sustainability, lifelong learning and the enjoyment of the visitor.”
The National Botanic Garden of Wales was opened to the public on the 24th May 2000. We first visited in 2005.
The double walled vegetable garden was not open then, you could however view it from a platform. It has now been rebuilt from a ruin.
Our next visit was in 2013.
The 220m long avenue which divides the Garden is known as the Broad-walk.
One of the longest herbaceous borders in Britain, from spring to winter, this Garden provides a colourful welcome.
It begins at the Gatehouse, passing this water sculpture called Scaladaqua Tonda.
I particularly love this rill, it runs the full length of the Broad Walk, vanishing into pools along the way, starting at this dragon topped mirror pool.
This feeds water down into The Rill,
a meandering stream that flows down the Broadwalk with a shape and course that is inspired by Carmarthenshire’s Towy Valley river.
It then disappears into the Circle of Decision, a fountain shaped like the cross section of an ammonite,
The great glasshouse.
Designed by Foster and Partners, is the largest structure of its kind in the world. The structure is (312 ft) long and (180 ft) wide, with a roof containing 785 panes of glass.
The plants are divided into sections from Chile, Western Australia, South Africa, California, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean.
The Japanese Garden.
Designed by professor Fukuhara for the 2001 Chelsea flower show, it won a gold medal and best in show, after which it was recreated here.
“It is named Sui Ou Tei, a reflection of the national flowers of Japan and Wales – the cherry tree and daffodil. It consists of three traditional Japanese gardens – the Stream and Lake Garden, the Gravel Garden and the Tea Garden. Filled with symbolism and guided by Zen philosophy, this is a lovely place to sit and contemplate.”
This is a place of learning, perched upon stilts this wooden building is full of microscopes and study aids, here schoolchildren can get the opportunity to explore the wonders of nature.
The Tropical House.
Situated in the Walled garden.
It was designed by the world-renowned Welsh architect John Belle, celebrated for his restoration of some of the most famous landmarks in the USA. It is home to tropical plants and a butterfly house.
The Double Walled Garden.
When it was built 200 years ago, the Double Walled Garden, at over three acres, could provide enough fresh fruit and vegetables for a household of 30 people, and employed 12 full- time gardeners.
The two walls, one brick, one stone, provided shelter from animals and the harsher elements, and created important microclimates where tender plants could grow. It is divided into four quadrants, each with its own distinctive pathway. Part of the vegetable garden is given over to local School Allotments, where the schools have built a plastic bottle greenhouse.
The Bee Garden.
You can end your exploration at the Stable Block, this houses the Seasons Restaurant, Gift Shop and Oriel Yr Ardd Gallery.
If you are planning to visit Wales during the year, we would recommend a visit to the Botanic Garden of Wales, there is much more to see than I have shown.
One of our favourite local places to visit is Croome Court (NT).
Ideally situated for a walk in the park land, visit to the house, church and end up with refreshments in the restaurant. During busy periods refreshments are served from a Tea Car and in a cafe in the Court.
“Croome Park was Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s first complete landscape design. He was brought to Croome in 1752 by George William Coventry, the 6th Earl of Coventry, who had just inherited Croome Court and its deer parks together with 15,000 acres of Worcestershire.
The new Earl was 28 years old and full of ideas on the new movement towards classicism in architecture and landscape design and probably saw the young Brown as a man whose aspirations matched his own. Together they set about transforming the 17th century house and its Dutch style parterre garden into an undulating rural idyll set about with trees and lakes and rolling away to the distant Malvern Hills. At the focal point of this scene sits the house, Croome Court, which was given a total face-lift that changed it into the Palladian style mansion that we see today
But there is a practical reason behind all this beauty – Croome Court sat on the edge of a bog. Brown, though, had an instinctive talent for understanding drainage and water management, so he created a lake and a mile and a half long serpentine river to draw away all the surplus water. His scheme worked and so the basis for the creation of what seems an entirely natural English landscape was set.”
From Friends of Croome website: http://www.friendsofcroomepark.org.uk
The Church, within the park is, St Mary Magdalene Church, Croome D’Abitot, which is a redundant Anglican church.
The original church at Croome was demolished by the 6th Earl of Coventry when he decided to replace his adjacent Jacobean house in the 1750s. His new house and park were designed and laid out by Capability Brown as was the church, set on a low hill nearby in Croome Park.
The Chinese bridge, originally designed by William Halfpenny in the 1740s for the 6th Earl of Coventry is in the popular Chinese style. The bridge spanned the river close to Croome Court and linked the house to the wider parkland. Sadly, the bridge is thought to have been lost to rot and decay only 100 years after it was built.
A new English Oak bridge was opened in 2017, identically built, using the original plans.
The Temple Green House.
The Chinese Bridge.
Cedar of Lebanon.
The London gate.
The Panorama with the Malvern Hills in the background.
The Ice House.
There was originally a deer park at Croome, they can occasionally be seen in the surrounding landscape. Today the wildlife is mainly squirrels and birds. Water fowl enjoy the river and there is a bird hide for visitors, looking out on to a collection of bird feeders.
If you are visiting Worcestershire, please add NT Croome Court to your itinerary.
The village of Pirton, Worcestershire, was originally part of the Croome Estate and is located one mile north of Croome Park (now owned by the National Trust). Pirton Court was historically the home of Viscount Deerhurst. The village church, St. Peters, containing elements dating back to the C12, with its unique black and white timber bell tower has recently been in need of substantial repairs to the bell tower, the clock and weather vane.
This small community has undertaken several imaginative fund-raising enterprises and since 2013 they have held a Christmas Tree Festival. These pictures are from our visit this year. ( The red glow in the pictures are from the over head heaters.)
There were 26 trees, each one decorated, by a family in the village, with a different theme, some for fun, others in memory of absent friends or family.
Please tap each picture for the title.
Stitching and Knitting.
Hoofing and Woodland
Pirton Court Farm.
All Keyed Up.
Twig and Co Garage Branches Everywhere.
Remembering James Rawles.
Out of the Blue.
Poppies and Poems
Pooches of Pirton.
Woodland Winter Wonderland.
Tree of the Rising Sun..
The windows and doors were also decorated.
Warming cups of tea and cake were for sale in a marquee alongside the church.