A Country Gardeners Day Out


Stockton Bury is one of my favourite local gardens so the idea of a visit which also combined a country gardeners market with a range of local nurseries was an opportunity impossible to resist.  Luckily for all concerned the heavy and relentless rain we had yesterday was not present and in the morning the sun shone adding to the jolliness of the event.


I realise now that I don’t have any photos of the actual market with nurseries.  I was so busy buying plants that I didn’t think to take photographs until I was walking around the garden.  The market was set up in the courtyard just beyond the main house above.  Although much smaller than some fairs I have been to the quality of the plants for sale was excellent and wide-ranging and there was a really friendly atmosphere.  It was really nice to bump into lots of people I know whether they were nursery men (or should I say ladies) or other visitors.  I really like buying plants this way as you often come across plants you wouldn’t find anywhere else and you can get lots of helpful advice.


Despite the lack of people in my pictures there were quite a few looking around the garden and it seemed that many had never visited before which was excellent for the garden as hopefully they will visit again. I don’t think I have visited at this time of year before, I seem to always visit earlier in the year so I was quite surprised to see the borders so full and the plants so tall – silly I know.


The pond at the far end of the garden had almost disappeared from view behind the foliage of the Gunnera and Lysichiton americanus. You can see how much by clicking on this link to my post about an April visit.   This is one of my favourite areas of the garden as I have a weakness for gunnera and also other moisture loving plants, maybe because I can’t grow them myself.


The tree peonies which I have admired in previous years were going over and the roses were beginning to take the starring role.  I do like the vertical accents of the columns although this is maybe a little grand for my small garden!


One of the things I always notice in this garden is the part the trees play. They add a nice canopy but without plunging the garden into deep shade. In some ways it is a good ploy to give you a range of environments from bright and open to more shady borders and this in turn extends the range of plants you can grow – always a good thing in my view.


Finally my favourite – the bee boles.  I would love one of these if I had a bigger garden.  There is something quite romantic about them, maybe it’s because they hark back to how things used to be which always seems to be attractive, although I am sure the reality would be very different.

And yes I did buy plants, have I ever managed to resist.  I bought a Salvia amistad, a white siberian iris, Lathyrus rotundifolius, Bomarea salsilla, Liriope muscari okina and Dactylorhiza praetermissa.  Some of my purchases were bought for specific locations but I must admit to some whims so I spent time this afternoon wandering around the garden pondering where I could shoe-horn then in.

All in all a great day, and there was cake too.  I will definitely go again next year.

Stocktonbury Gardens


Stocktonbury Gardens near Leominster in Herefordshire is a garden I have visited a number of times over recent years but I have never visited this early in the year and I wanted to see the Skunk Cabbages.  I don’t know why it’s just one of those curiosities I have had for a while.  Having seen Tamsin tweet they were opening last week I decided to seize the day and put a note in the diary for Sunday.  Unsurprisingly the weather was not kind and heavy rain was forecast.  The trouble is I am one of those people who sometimes finds it hard to know what to do with themselves when a plan isn’t coming together so off I went.  It’s only a 45 minutes drive from me across towards the Black Mountains of Wales and to be honest a drive across country was good for clearing an overcrowded mind.


Once the rain had eased, a bit, I donned my boots and waterproof and borrowed an umbrella from the owner.  There is something quite nice about visiting a garden in the rain, however perverse that may seem.  I only met one other visitor although I saw a number entering the cafe which has a good reputation.  We smiled and agreed that visiting in the rain was rather good and went our separate ways.  The Skunk Cabbages are at the far end of the garden in The Dingle and were rather wonderful.  I like the luminous yellow of the flowers.  In this area the ground is quite damp and the fritillaries were positively romping away.  They made my three look quite pathetic.


Stocktonbury Gardens is what I would call a working garden.  Whilst it opens on an almost daily basis to the public in season it is actively gardened by the owners and there is a very productive vegetable and fruit production area.  I can say it is productive as I have seen it groaning with produce at other times of the year.


2014_04060092Whilst I like the clean lines of this row of fruit trees which draws the eye from the main garden towards the Dingle I found myself increasingly bored with such formality; at least there was no box edging.  I know that it isn’t everyone’s taste but I enjoy the more higgeldy approach this garden has in some of the garden rooms.  As a gardener I can relate to this style.  I want to accommodate the plants I love in my garden and I need the space to work for me, the paths tend to follow my natural route across the garden which takes into account the gradient.  I want to maximise planting space which isn’t always possible when a formal or inherently preconceived design is imposed on a space.


I would admit though that some of the curves in the borders are quite extreme but then I know from visiting in the summer than when the plants grow up the strong and tight curves cause the view to be obstructed so why not – it’s a nice counterpoint to the formality of other areas.  What I was more interested in was the planting in the borders and the textures achieved with the various foliage even when little is flowering.  This is something I am trying achieve in my garden and I find it easier to understand when I can see a good example.  I am thinking that I might try to return this year on a regular basis to see how the border actually develops in one season.  I have said this before possibly about Stockton Bury or possibly Bryan’s Ground but I am going to try harder this year.


As with any good garden I came away with a number of ideas to try at home.  I saw lots of Lathyrus in the borders and although I have two plants I think I need to add more as it provides such a nice hit of colour at this time of year  and the leaves are a nice contrast to some of the larger geranium leaves.  Oh and the other reason I like this garden is because they have moss in the borders so obviously the ground is as damp as mine can be and it is reassuring to see what does well in these conditions.


It is interesting that you can continue to discover things in a garden you have visited a number of times. I had never noticed the bee boles before.  They are located near the house and I hadn’t explored in this area before not being sure whether it was private or not.  However the brilliant colours of the Anemone pavonina featured in yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday post lured me over and I discovered what I think is called the Spring Garden.  I have a small Spring Garden which is also close to  the house so it was interesting to see a similar approach and what was included.  I need to add more primroses to mine and maybe even try some fritillaries.


As you can see this garden has changing levels just like mine and I think this is another reason why I relate to it.  However, as I have said before, some gardens, for me, just have some kind of spirit about them.  I think it is because they are gardened by their owners, rather than by a committee or a head gardener and team.  The passion and enthusiasm for plants is contagious and very evident at Stocktonbury Gardens, which is why I enjoy visiting it so much.


Romance and Elegance

Some times you hear about a garden and how wonderful it is and when you visit you wonder if you are in the right place.  However, today was not one of those days.  Today the location was completely stunning and the planting was romantic and floriferous.

Birtsmorton Court, near Malvern, is a medieval moated grange.  It is one of only 10 moated houses in private ownership in the country and unusually Birtsmorton actually has a double moat.  On the other side of the house there is another square moat around an island where the livestock were driven to stay overnight. You can read up on the history of the Court via this link.  However an interesting smidge of information is that it was a member of the Nanfan family who owned the house in the Elizabethan times who introduced Henry VIII to Thomas Wolsey who was to go on to become Cardinal Wolsey.  Apparently Thomas Wolsey used to sleep under the large yew tree whilst he was a chaplain at the church adjacent to the house.

Whilst the location of the house is stunning the formal garden itself is quite wonderful.  You are presented with a large grid of yew topiary, all immaculately trimmed.  You wall along one side and you have glimpses of something magical through the gaps between the yew columns. But no you mustn’t be tempted in, instead you resist and walk around the around of the topiary square where you discover bountiful herbaceous borders between the yew and the old brick wall.

The borders are full of peonies.  I don’t think I have seen so many peonies in one garden and a wonderful selection of pinks, whites and reds.  Roses are in plentiful supply as well.  All this romantic planting is for a particular purpose since the house is a wedding venue and you can imagine how wonderful your wedding photographs would be taken in such a romantic and historic setting.

Now you can peer through the yew topiary and you find an entrance to the White Garden.  I’m not that keen on single colour gardens but this one was quite exceptional – even the butterflies were white!!  As you can imagine this is very much intended as a venue for photo opportunities or even on a beautiful summers day the actual wedding ceremony.

I was particularly taken with the standard white wisteria.  It just shows that you don’t need to train them up the side of a house.  Another idea to ponder.  In fact I heard quite a few people at different points in the garden obviously inspired with various ideas particularly the various trained trees.

Once you have absorbed your formal gardens you can wander out towards the countryside along the stream which I think you will agree is just as romantic appearing as the White Garden.

And I leave you with a final view of the house.

Sadly the gardens are only open one day a year for the National Garden Scheme and I think that the only other way you can visit them is if you attend a wedding or an event held at the venue.  This is sad as I think the house and garden should be better known but then again it is always nice to visit somewhere that isn’t overly visited and not too crowded.


English Country Garden – Aulden Farm

I go through periods of wanting to stay at home, potter in the garden and avoid the whole world.  However, I then bounce to the other extreme and am itching to get out and about, visit gardens etc.  I have always been a person of extremes.  Anyway, this weekend I had my out and about persona on and decided that I needed to visit some gardens and that I fancied some private gardens opening under the NGS.

Whilst I live in Worcestershire I have visited the majority of the NGS gardens in the county and to be honest I prefer going out to Herefordshire and towards the Welsh borders.  I love the scenery in that part of the world and I have noticed that when I go out for the day I generally end up on the road to Leominster.  Anyway, a scout through the NGS book showed that two gardens I had wanted to visit were open and they were within a mile of each other – result.  I decided to invite my Mum along as we needed to spend some time together and I have been very bad in that respect recently.

I did warn Mum that we might get lost as the directions seemed to me to be Ok if you knew the area and I don’t have or want a SatNav.  We had a backup plan of a known garden to visit which did cake if it all went wrong.  I needn’t have worried we found the gardens without getting lost.  I shall start backwards as I liked the second garden best – Aulden Farm.  The first section of the garden was right up my street – a woodland garden with lots of wonderful spring flowers.  I love Honesty and this part of the garden had wonderful drifts of both purple and the white variegated varieties.  This was particularly interesting as I have both in my garden and I want them to self sow but I wondered if they would cross-pollinate and I would end up with more purple than white but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

The middle part of the garden was dominated by a stream and pond.  Sadly the water level was quite  low which isn’t surprising given the lack of rain we have had over the winter.  The signs about slippery bridges seemed somewhat redundant.  As with many gardens at this time of the year most of the garden was just gearing up for the summer so lots of emerging shoots and neat mounds of perennials.

I was particularly taken with the plant above.  We thought it might be fennel but I’m not sure so if you know do let me know as I definitely want to grow some.

Needless to say we forced ourselves to have the obligatory tea and cake – rich ginger cake with icing but it is all for charity.  We also had to force ourselves to buy some plants.  This wasn’t that hard given that there is an established nursery at the garden and the selection and quality of perennials was excellent.  I resisted the bearded irises and instead went for an Aster divaricatus which apparently was a favourite of Gertrude Jekyll and having just written an essay about her for my garden history course this seemed apt.  I also bought an Anthericum liliago (St Bernards Lily) which is great as I have been trying to grow these from seed for several years and failed.

If you are in the Hereford area and love perennials then I would recommend a visit to Aulden Farm which is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from April to August.  We also visited Ivy Croft but I will save that for another post.

Coton Manor: A Country Delight

Last week I spent a wonderful day at Coton Manor Garden School.  After the gardening school session and  yummy lunch I had time to explore the garden so I thought I would share some photos and my impressions of the garden.

I wouldn’t describe Coton Manor as a garden which is  trying to set trends or be cutting edge.  I would describe it as the garden of a true horticulturist; someone who loves plants and everything associated with them and who wants to share that passion.  It is one of those gardens which has that elusive thing – a real spirit, a soul.

What do I mean by this?  In recent years during my garden visits I have noticed that there are a few  gardens which have, for me, a certain something special, that talk to me, that I feel a connection with, often emotional to.  I believe it is a truly subjective thing which differs from person to person – after all we are all different. Coton Manor just edges into this category for me.  I think because its style is one I like, the traditional English country garden with a little quirkiness.

There is a certain formality around the  stone house as you would expect and this was nice.  I particularly liked a planting of very pale pink tulips which seemed to work very well with a Sedum which had a strong pinky/rosey tone to it.  However,  it was the woodland area which really grabbed my attention and has made me decide I need to revisit.  I have a small woodland area which I am developing and woodland spring plants are one of my favourite groups of plants.  They are so delicate and dainty but when planted in large drifts, as they are at Coton Manor, they can really make an impression.  I spent quite some time looking closely at the different Erythroniums and Disporiums which are a particular interest to me at the moment.  I am very interested to see what this area looks like in the summer – whether it is an area that is purely for Spring or whether it has a second season of interest and how this is done.

I think Coton Manor is located near a spring or stream as there is a quite a lot of water in the garden with small streams running down the slope of the garden to a bog garden.  You wander from here past a very pretty spring meadow which I tried to photograph but failed to really capture.  You are then in a large open space with some more formal herbaceous borders along the top of the slope.  Being the beginning of April these were far from at their best and again I want to visit later in the season to see how they develop especially as they are on a slope which is a situation I am also trying to work with.

So to go back to my earlier comment about gardens which have spirit and in some cases soul, I will class Coton Manor as one with huge spirit.  It is a plantsman’s delight without suffering from that habit of cramming lots of different plants into a border which is often the case in plantsmen’s gardens.  Its owner’s passion and enjoyment is obvious not just in the generous plantings but in the warm welcome you receive when you visit.

English Country Garden – Coleton Fishacre

As I have mentioned in my previous post I spent last weekend in Devon.  We managed to fit in a daily garden visit and on Saturday it was the turn of Coleton Fishacre.  The property is now managed by the National Trust but was originally built in 1923-26 for Rupert D’Oyly Carte, the son of Richard D-Oyly Carte who was behind the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.  I have been to many national trust houses over the years and to be honest I do get a little bored of the tapestries and family portraits etc so my enthusiasm for visiting the actual house was low.

However, I then discovered that the house was furnished in the Art Deco style so my attitude towards visiting it changed immediately.  I am a complete sucker for abit of Art Deco!!  We visited the house first as it had only just opened for the day and we wanted to avoid the crowds.  I wasn’t allowed to take any photos but if you like Art Deco and are in the area I would really recommend it – it was beautiful.

Having visited the house we moved on to the garden, the real reason for our visit.  Like many gardens in South Devon and Cornwall it descends from open views around the house through more jungle-like vegetation down to the sea.  I was reminded very much of the similarity in layout with Heligan although Coleton Fishacre definately had its own character.  There are terraces around the house with formal planting, and the gardener was busy starting to plant out the summer bedding.  Close to the house there is a formal rill with strong clean lines but quite quickly this changes to a more naturalised effect.  If you look in the photo above you can just see the formal rill in the top right hand corner.  The stream works is way down through the garden, splitting into two at one point.  The paths run along side and there are numerous small bridges taking you from one side to the other.

The streams come out into at least two large pools on their way down the hill.  The planting around these will be very lush in a couple of weeks but as you can see the gunneras haven’t quite got going.  I was particularly struck by the yellow Skunk Cabbages that seemed to be everywhere but have now been advised that they smell so I really don’t want any in my garden – I do have a cold which is probably why I couldn’t smell them!  The majority of the planting going down the hill is what you would expect of a garden in this part of England – lots of Camellias and Rhododendrons (there was even one in flower).  The underplanting seemed to be primarily wild garlic and bluebells which weren’t that far from coming out.

When you reached the bottom of the garden you are still some height above the beach but the view in the top photo is what greets you. I can understand why the D’Oyly Cartes fell in love with the setting. 

Did I like this garden?  Well it was a pleasant place to visit and there was a real sense of exploring as we followed the path down the slope along the streams, passing large clumps of bamboo etc but the garden, unlike the house, did not leave a lasting impression on me. I found nothing to inspire me in my own garden and the planting was rather haphazard for my liking although very much of its time. I am sure when it was originally planted it was, like many of this era, considered to be impressive. I suspect what I prefer is something with a degree of formality in it, or at least to see nature tamed just a little bit!  But then everyone has different tastes.

English Country Garden (Aug 09) Stockton Bury


I was enchanted this week when I finally visited Stockton Bury gardens near Leominster in Herefordshire.  I have been meaning to visit this garden for about 2 years now having seen several magazine articles on it so as I am on annual leave this week and the weather was good I decided to go and visit.  Usually I visit gardens with my sons or more recently my garden club.  However, my sons are nearly adult now and have busy lives so I decided the time had come for me to venture out on my own (I’m a single mum by the way).  I don’t know why I was so nervous as I have been on my own for a long time but there was something about walking round a garden on my own that made me apprehensive.  I needn’t have worried once I arrived and started to walk around I was completely caught up in the planting I saw. 


The top picture shows a view of the Pigeon House Garden which was the size of many domestic gardens.  I liked the way the borders were shaped so you were encouraged to explore further and couldn’t see the whole garden in one go.  I could have spent all afternoon just in this bit of the garden but I continued past the vegetable garden and fruit cage


and eventually came to The Dingle.  This includes a large pond and rill.  Again the planting is very lush and quite decadent.  All my favourites were there including Ligularia, Lobelias and Salvias.  There were also some very vivid blue Campanulas which was quite breathtaking.  Throughout the garden I noticed that a lot of Eryngiums had been used and it was interesting to see how the blue of the flowers acted as a backdrop to so many other colours.  In particular I was struck by how well the contrast with the red Crocosmia EmberGlow worked.


Considering that some people say that gardens are past their best come August as the roses have gone over etc I think this garden is a testament to how with careful thought a garden can look stunning all year round.


Eventually having wandered around and taken loads of pics and soaked in the atmosphere I wandered back to the entrance and plant sales area (in the building to the right of the pic below).  Needless to say I succumbed to some plants: Crocosmia EmberGlow, Helenium Moerheim Beauty and Actaea Rubra.  I will definitely visit this garden again buy earlier in the year so I can see the Iris Bed plus the Japanese water irises .  For my first sole outing it was OK but I didn’t stop for a cup of tea and I think if I had had one of my garden chums with me we would have spent more time discussing the planting.