Stockton Bury Gardens – A New Season


Yesterday I made my first visit of the year to Stockton Bury Gardens near Leominster in Herefordshire.  Stockton Bury is one of my favourite gardens.  I know there are some who are sniffy about its design and say its “ones of those plantsmen’s gardens” etc etc but I love it.  I feel relaxed and comfortable here.  When I have one of those days when I need to do something, go somewhere and I can’t settle this is where I go.  The 45 minute drive is across the beautiful Herefordshire countryside and helps me leave all my troubles behind and its like visiting an old friend.  I always learn something or discover a new plant and always come home with a plant or two which I have never grown before.  I always come away feeling recharged and enthused.


Yesterday was their first open day of the season and it felt rather strange to be, temporarily, the first visitor to the garden of the year.  The large monkey puzzle tree, the largest I have seen, resides on the formal lawn in front of the house.  From here you progress through a small shady ornamental area to the vegetable and fruit area which has a small display greenhouse.  Every visit find myself following the same route around the garden and for some reason I always feel compelled to make my way to the Dell (I’m not sure that is its proper name) at the far end of the garden (top picture).  I find the yellow skunk cabbages (Lysichiton americanus) quite compelling – its maybe the vibrant yellow or just their ephemeral nature but they cheer me as do the Fritillaria meleagris and a visit in a month or so the gunnera will be putting in its prehistoric appearance.


Being the first of April it is not surprising that the borders are bare in places but everything was so neat and tidy and it was quite clear that Stockton Bury is in a more sheltered location than my garden on the side of the Malverns as the peonies were a good two weeks ahead of mine.  It is easy to visit a garden in the height of summer when the borders are groaning with flowering perennials all looking vibrant and floriferous but I find visiting gardens at this time of year very informative.  You get to see the structure of the garden and for me structure is important to make the perennials look good and it’s where I could improve my garden.


The garden can be quite shady and the soil is prone to dampness which is evident from the moss in the borders, something I struggle with in parts of my garden.  The larger garden areas as you come back from the Dell are composed of island beds which have developed over the years and have an interesting selection of shrubs, trees and tree peonies. Over the last few years I have learnt about shrubs from visiting this garden and you can always rely on the owner to be around to answer questions and give you tips and advice and maybe some seeds.


This visit I learnt that I should introduce some spring ‘ground cover’ such as cardmine to add colour and interest to the borders before the summer perennials put in an appearance.  I said in my last End of Month post that I wanted to add spring colour to the woodland border with early bulbs and hellebores but I also think that adding Lathyrus vernus, Cardmine quinquefolia and more Anemones will create a pretty under-storey in the borders.


This is the last area of the garden as you head back to the cider mill entrance.  It is a self-contained garden within the garden and I enjoy the curvaceous borders which give a real sense of journey and discovery especially as the borders fill out during the year.  At the far end is the dove-cote and a view over the orchards which are often home to the farm’s sheep.


And there are other inhabitants of the garden, not many, but very elegant and fun.  I must ask Tamsin where these chickens come from as they really do appeal to me.

Not bad I think for the first day of April and having purchased a season ticket I will be going back on a regular basis during the year to learn, recharge and enjoy.



30 Comments Add yours

  1. Yvonne Ryan says:

    What are the pottery cloch thingeeys? Nice sructure in the garden.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Yvonne
      They are for forcing rhubarb

  2. Klarinet says:

    Nice place, thank you!

  3. Yvonne Ryan says:

    We don’t seem to use them here. My rhubarb growing well after 3 moves. Has a fish underneath – one my dog managed to dig up when Cherry layered them with new soil in built up veg garden. I think I have seen them on English TV programmes and friend from Yorkshire has spoken about them. Have a relaxing Easter break! Expecting more lovely weather. Just looking at the nearly full moon – lovely and a very starry night.

  4. It does look lovely. I can’t see why a “plantsman’s garden” should be the target of sniffiness. Some people will be sniffy about anything!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Arh Rachel you would be surprised how sniffy some people can be. I think how a garden makes you feel is more important than design

    2. I completely agree that how a garden makes you feel is much more important than its design, even though I am a garden designer!

  5. love the chooks !!! and the rest ofcourse

  6. Your pictures make me so ready for spring to truly arrive in my garden, Helen. Here it’s extremely late and Stockton Bury’s tidiness makes me itch to get out and clean up. Love the last area of the garden with the curvy borders. Also, I have a collection of garden roosters and hens and would love one of those! P. x

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Pam
      I like curvy borders too, makes a change to all the straight lines you get at the moment here in UK

  7. Is that the garden that features in The English Garden magazine ?..belongs to Tamsin Westthorpe’s Uncle?..certainly looks like a fabulous garden. Talking Cardamines, I was tempted at our Country Market today by Cardamine heptaphylla ‘Guincho Form’ which is white. I’m a sucker for white flowers and really should know better as I have never been able to keep cardamines in the past.It was reasonably priced too,a good 2 litre pot full for only £3.75…how could I resist the challenge!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Sue
      Yes it’s the garden that features in The English Garden, I always smile when I see pictures of the garden in the magazine
      I didn’t think cardimine was difficult to establish but I haven’t tried yet

  8. Anna says:

    Have vowed that this is one garden that we must get to this year. I would love to know where I’m going wrong with my cardamine pratensis as it has made a good clump since planting but it is very shy when it comes to flowering. I grow laythyrus versus too Helen which I’m pleased to say isn’t so shy. Those chickens look infinitely desirable.

  9. Cathy says:

    Thank you for this early visit, Helen – good to see the bones. I was the first visitor at Barnsdale once and I could briefly pretend it was my own garden! What a good idea to have a season ticket.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Cathy
      I had a season ticket last year but plan to use it more this year

  10. Brian Skeys says:

    We visited Stockton Bury for the first time last year Helen. It went straight on to my list of favourite gardens.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Brian
      I have loved it for a number of years, such a lovely place and the cafe is nice too

  11. rusty duck says:

    Love the ‘Dell’. This is one of the things I regret about gardening on a hill, it is very difficult to find a suitable location for a pond.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      I had a pond it was at the top of the slope as there was a large hoe from a conifer we had removed but it was a ridiculous place for a pond and didn’t work

  12. Helen, you probably won’t have a problem establishing cardamine in your garden.I don’t think it liked the position that I chose for it (maybe too warm)and I probably didn’t do enough research on it’s likes and dislikes.This time I am going to try very hard to get conditions right .

  13. threadspider says:

    I love Stockton Bury too-it’s not far from me here- but other half is less keen so we visit less than I would like. Good to see how splendid it is looking after the winter’s clear up. Thank you for the tour.

  14. If you want to add anemones for early spring colour, A. blanda is a good one. Although there are many varieties, the bog standard blues and whites self sow moderately so you will gradually get more and more. And A. nemerosa is our native woodland anemone.
    The garden designer Gertrude Jekyll would plant bergenias at important corners to give structure.

  15. Chloris says:

    I have never been here but it certainly looks well worth a visit. Great to have a season ticket, I like revisiting gardens at different times of the year.

  16. pianolearner says:

    we have yet to go, although it’s not too far from us.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      You could easily combine with a visit to Hampton Court Gardens in herefordshire

    2. pianolearner says:

      Yes good point. I’m a great fan of Hampton Court. I love their wisteria walk, although I heard that they didn’t use the produce from the kitchen garden (just for show), I really hope that’s not the case as it’s a great part of the garden.

    3. Helen Johnstone says:

      My understanding is that the cafe uses the produce from the veg garden

    4. pianolearner says:

      Cool, that’s good to see. 🙂

  17. Diana Studer says:

    something I miss is that tracery of bare branches against the sky.
    I have a Prunus nigra on my list. I aim at indigenous, but that doesn’t offer me deciduous choices.
    Looking forward to regular visits to Kirstenbosch, once building is behind us, and we start our new chapter with enthusiasm!

  18. Matt @ Garden59 says:

    What a lovely look back at the year, especially when it’s currently so hard to believe it’ll ever be dry and sunny again!

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