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.