On a beautiful sunny September day, we joined the members of the West & Midlands Iris Group visiting the garden of The Old Rectory, Eastnor, Herefordshire.
In 1848 Sir George Gilbert Scott surveyed the Church at Eastnor and made plans to build a new rectory between 1849 and 1850 with a large and asymmetrical house.
Around this, today’s owners have created a garden of 3.5 acres on Herefordshire red clay, much improved by mulching over the 15 years they have been developing it.
We first visited the walled vegetable garden designed in the style of a potager garden with a mix of fruit, flowers and vegetables, some in raised beds. This area was full of colours from annuals and dahlias, a particular favourite.
Nectarines and peaches are fan trained on the back wall of this greenhouse.
Here fruit trees are grown as either step-overs or espaliers, large apples on the Reverend Wilkes tree particularly caught my eye.
Pots of the beautiful species Pelargonium sidoides decorated the steps…
…down to the traditional orchard edged with two serpentine herbaceous borders.
Then on to a second greenhouse, this one dedicated to growing a variety of peppers and tomatoes. Speckled Heart, a stripy heart-shaped tomato and a black Queen of the Night were two of the more unusual ones.
A bed alongside the greenhouse was filled with more dahlias,
From here you had an excellent view of the ‘piece de resistance’ of the garden, the Tulip bed.
This bed was designed and built only three years ago in the shape of a tulip. In its centre are two curved weathered oak benches partly hidden by a mass planting of, I think, Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’.
Two large beds surrounding this are colour themed with white at the far entrance and gradually becoming warmer towards the greenhouse. There is a video link at the end of this post featuring the Tulip Bed.
We next visited the new woodland area and then onto the croquet lawn past rose-covered obelisks. Yew hedges at either end circled a Lutyens-style bench with roses planted behind it and in urns on either side.
Landscaping and different garden ornaments have been used throughout to create interest.
Steps led you up to a terrace packed with planting creating different garden rooms to suit shady or sunny situations.
Ornamental gates lead down to a rose garden and onto a large pond where members were happy to sit and enjoy the setting. Paths cut through the long grass here led you down to the Church.
A truly magnificent garden.
Welcome refreshments were served in the coach house and monies collected will be donated to the Church for repairing the stained glass windows.
Please click on “Watch on YouTube” for the Tulip Shaped bed video:
With the heat wave currently restricting me to the shade of my office and cooling fan, I thought it provided an ideal opportunity to write about drought-tolerant gardens.
We spent a week in August 2012 visiting gardens in Essex and East Anglia, one of the driest areas of the UK.
The first one we visited was Beth Chatto’s, famous for its gravel garden.
Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden.
Beth Chatto was born in 1923 to enthusiastic gardening parents. After working as a teacher she married the late Andrew Chatto, his lifelong interest in the origins of plants influenced the development of the gardens and their use of plants to this day. Following Andrew’s retirement, they built their new home on wasteland that had been part of the Chatto fruit farm. The site presented many difficulties for starting a garden including low annual rainfall. It was to Andrew’s plant research that they turned.
Informed by his knowledge Beth selected plants for a series of gardens that could thrive under different conditions. Beth Chatto’s first book, “The Dry Garden”, was published in 1978.
The gardens began in 1960 and from an overgrown wasteland of brambles, parched gravel and boggy ditches it has been transformed, using plants adapted by nature to thrive in different conditions. Thus an inspirational, informal garden has developed.
A light and airy tearoom allows visitors to relax and take in their surroundings over homemade cake.
The world-famous gravel garden inspired by the low local rainfall, is full of drought-resistant plants from the Mediterranean. The site was originally the nursery car park.
It was first subsoiled to break up the pan. The soil is largely gravel and sand, mushroom compost was added to help plants become established.
This picture shows Agapanthus Evening Star & Verbena bonariensis with large-leaved Berginias, in the bed across the path. The Berginias are a favourite for edging borders, providing all-year-round interest with many developing a rich red tone in winter.
Self-seeders such as Fennel and Verbena thrive in these conditions……….
along with Stipa tennuissima and Verbascum.
A few conifers were included as accent plants, Beth wrote in her book, “they, surprisingly, survived due, I think, to mulching in the early days” here also Stipa gigantea and Euphobias.
Perovskia blue spire and Alliums are some of the plants that make up the planting palette of this garden.
The Mount Etna Broom in the centre, has grown to become a 15ft tree. Clean gravel is added to the paths from time to time to help conserve moisture and suppress germinating weeds.
Trees, such as Eucalyptus and shrubs were also chosen for their drought-tolerant qualities.
The Scree Garden.
Planted in 1999 in part of the old mediterranean garden, the Judas tree in the centre of the island was planted over 45 years ago and forms a focal point.
On the day we visited succulents and alpines were on display along with the washing
The accompanying plant nursery stocks over 2000 plants, all displayed by growing conditions. They do provide a mail order service.
If you are in the area I would recommend a visit, there is also a water garden, woodland and reservoir gardens. You can visit the restaurant, plant centre & gravel garden free of charge.
On June the 4th and 5th six gardens in the village of Hanley Swan opened in aid of the National Garden scheme.
Thank you to all the supporters who baked cakes, helped with serving the teas and selling plants in support of Saint Richards Hospice, especially the garden owners who put a lot of work in to ensure their gardens looked wonderful and not least of all the visitors without who we would not raise any money for the two charities.
Some pictures from our garden just before opening.
We also had a group visit from Evesham U3A on Wednesday.
Despite poor weather on Sunday we raised £1619 to share between the two charities.
Broughton Grange featured on the BBC Gardeners World this week, if you have not seen the programme I would recommend watching on catchup for an up to date view of this outstanding garden.
We visited in July 2016 when it was open for the National Garden Scheme. It was on my must see list having seen pictures in magazines and reading about Tom Stuart-Smith design of the walled garden. It did not disappoint, seeing it again on Gardeners World inspired me to post pictures from our visit.
This garden description below is from their NGS entry.
“Broughton, Banbury, Oxfordshire
An impressive 25 acres of gardens and light woodland in an attractive Oxfordshire setting. The centrepiece is a large terraced walled garden created by Tom Stuart-Smith in 2001. Vision has been used to blend the gardens into the countryside. Good early displays of bulbs followed by outstanding herbaceous planting in summer. Formal and informal areas combine to make this a special site including newly laid arboretum with many ongoing projects.”
The Walled Garden.
Arboretum, Topiary, Plant Sales and Teas.
The garden is open on certain days, please visit their website for more information: broughtongrange.com
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.
Having read some impressive reviews about the garden at Aston Pottery, Aston, Oxfordshire, we visited in August 2016.
On this occasion, they were open in aid of the National Gardens Scheme charity.
Created by the owners since 2009 and set around Aston Pottery’s Gift Shop and Cafe, borders flower from June until November.
In the spring 5000 tulips are planted in pots around the shop and cafe, these are then followed by lilies and agapanthus. They created a wonderful pot display when we visited.
60 hornbeams flank the 72-metre Hornbeam Walk, opened in 2012 by the local MP David Cameron, planted as a year-round garden with a summerhouse at the end, and a mix of perennials and annuals which are enjoyed by pollinators.
You then arrive at the 80-metre Hot Bank with kniphofia, alstroemeria, cannas, dahlias and salvias.
There are stunning Double Dahlia Borders 5m deep with over 600 dahlias and grasses edging the back.
New in 2015 was an 80m x 7m deep Annual Border full of over 5000 annuals grown from plug plants.
A traditional Perennial Border with over 50 different perennials offers a wonderful view from the country cafe.
The garden has featured in the Telegraph, Country Living, RHS The Garden and BBC Gardeners’ World. They have been producing pottery for over thirty years suppling Liberty’s of London.
When garden visiting begins again, this is a garden I would recommend, it is a stunning riot of colour. They are planning to open for the National Garden Scheme this year on the 21st and 22nd of August and are normally open seven days a week except over the Christmas period. The pottery shop and cafe make it ‘A Grand Day Out’.
I have created the video below from photographs I took during our visit, to remind us all of the joy of Garden Visiting!
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.
On Saturday the Black Pear Gardening Club visited Blackmore Grange, owned by Doug and Anne Robertson. A total of £206 was raised and donated to St. Richards Hospice, Worcester. The Hospice has recently launched a fundraising drive to support its £5.3m expansion plan. You can find out more via this Link
41 members visited on a beautifully sunny day (another one!), to enjoy the garden and tea and biscuits (of course). Anne also invited members to bring along a picnic to enjoy in the garden.
Anne, a knowledgeable plants women, has previously opened her garden for the NGS. This quote is from the 2011 NGS Yellow Book.
Blackmore Grange. “All year round two acre rural garden surrounds the family home. Packed with a large variety of plants, shrubs and trees. The swimming pool has been transformed into the stable garden, an outstanding area of traditional cottage-style planting. Also a mixed orchard, woodland walk, mixed planting beds and kitchen garden”. Described by Chris Beardshaw as “A natural garden full of interest and variety”.
One entrance to the garden is along this woodland path…
…where you arrive into one of many seating ares in the garden.
From here you have views across the sweeping lawn in front of the house towards two curved borders one edging the west facing terrace, the other viewed across the lawn…
These borders are packed with plants, amongst those enjoying the summer sun were fennel and lavender…
…and this beautiful dark blue agapanthus ‘Navy Blue’…
Following this path along side the border…
…past a thriving kniphoia…
…you enter the stable garden…
…where the teas were served.
The plants which caught everyones’ attention here were the dark red dahlias, ‘Chat Noir’, ‘Rip City’, ‘Sam Hopkins’ and with its dark foliage, ‘Kamar Choc’…
…a double Hollyhock…
and this delphinium ‘Faust’.
Verbena bonariensis, agapanthus and succulents growing in the gravel and broken pots.
Climbers including, ornamental vines, roses and clematis, cover the pergola and scrambled up through support plants.
This dahlia and hydrangea add a splash of light colour, providing a perfect contrast to the smoke bush, several of which were flowering in the garden.
Leaving the stable yard garden for the woodland walk, some of the roses were still flowering with their hips just beginning to develop their autumn scarlet colour.
A welcome bench in the shade…
Anne, on the right with club member Betty Mills.
It is important to read the plant label to ensure you have the correct name to go with the photo.
Turning back towards the house you see the mixed orchard, which is underplanted with spring bulbs and roses growing up into some of the more mature apple trees. In the centre of the lawn, is a magnificent tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera.
Near the house, down some steps, is Anne’s potting shed and the kitchen garden with its fruit cage full of ripening fruit…
…and at the rear, an impressive pot display of hostas, acers and seasonal bedding plants.
No one was in any hurry to leave, enjoying the weather and the setting in this “Natural garden full of interest and variety”.
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.
We enjoy visiting gardens, it usually features in any holiday plans, besides giving pleasure they provide material for the blog and my garden presentations. In March 2017 we visited Oxford University Botanic Gardens.
The river Cherwell runs along the one side.
Growing on the bank is this lovely multi stemed silver birch.
The garden was founded in 1621 making it the oldest Botanic Garden in Britain. It was originally founded to grow plants to support the teaching of medicine at the University, something that still continues today. Beneath the Parrotia Persica tree spring bulbs were in flower also in the distance a Cornus mas.
Almost everything growing here is classified whether it be by botanical family, geographical origin or by its use. The family borders are planted to demonstrate which plants are related to each other. This Salix ‘Britzensis’ is in one of those borders, we have this willow in our garden. It has also been planted along side the river at Upton upon Severn a town close to us, in the Mathew Wilson designed borders. It looks particularly good alongside a pool, reflecting in the water, providing brilliant winter colour, hence its name.
Within the wall borders they grow plants from different regions New Zealand, the Mediterranean and South Africa.
Going down to the Lower Garden, you pass the Rock Garden, first built in 1926.
Plants that changed the world feature in the four allotment style beds in the Lower Garden. This one, for some reason cought my eye!
The Lower Garden has been redeveloped since 2009 by Kim Wilkie Associates to more reflect its role as a Botanic Garden.
There has been a glass house here for over 300 years. today there are more than 700 square metres of glasshouses.
The Palm House.
This is home to mainly crop plants, such as Banana, Pineapple and the Pink Banana, Musa Velutina, a species of seeded banana.
The lily House.
Here their giant Victoria Water Lily, takes pride of place the leaves of which you can see in the front of this picture.
This is a tropical water lily, its date of origin is prior to 1856. It is described as highly viviparous, in that its seeds begin to develop before they detach from the plant.
The Arid House.
Is home to their collection of cacti and succulent.
Alongside the three main glasshouses are three smaller ones.
The Alpine House uses a traditional plunge sand bed to display the plants.
The Fern house is devoted to displaying the many different forms of this group. I do like the look of Staghorn ferns or Elkhorn ferns, there are 18 species in this family.
The Insectivorous House is home to the insect eating plants.
Throughout the glasshouses and the connecting passageways, there were many interesting plants, a few examples are in the slide show.
I hope you have enjoyed visiting the Oxford Botanic Gardens, if you have the chance to visit for real please do. There is also the Harcourt Arboretum.