A sense of journey


I have the luxury of being able to visit the Garden House in Devon twice a year at the moment.  My youngest son is at University in Plymouth and the garden is no more than 30 minutes up the road from his student house on the edge of Dartmoor.  We have taken to visiting when I pick him up or take him back.  So far we have visited in April and September and it is interesting to see a garden change through the year.  There has also been a change of Head Gardener and it was obvious from our visit this week, our third, that some changes were occurring, more in technique than anything grand but it did feel a little different.


The weather was strange; pleasant and warm in the sheltered areas but when you were a little exposed there was a fierce windy whipping through the garden.  It made visiting the Acer glade quite interesting with ducking required to avoid branches whipping around.


When we have visited before the wild flower meadow (top) and (above) were either well over or hadn’t really made a start.  We were both struck with how wonderful the garden looked so virdant and fresh and everything blooming away.  We were told on arrival that it was a little behind so we got to see lots of Azaleas and Rhododendrons which would normally have been over.


What struck me when I reviewed my photographs were how many I had taken of paths through the planting.  I have noticed that many of my garden visit photographs have this theme.  I really like the sense of journey and rhythm paths create especially when they lead round a corner creating mystery and interest.


I suspect this is what has been deep in my sub-conscious when I have been messing around with my garden and deciding what to do about the lawn.  It is always why I am probably so pleased with the way the paths are working in the back garden, they have turn and I am hoping that as the planting grows up over the next few years that they will have a sense of mystery.

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It isn’t just the casual meandering paths I like.  I also like the scale and formality of the wide grass path between the borders below.  In case you are wondering why the back wall seems to have two completely different kinds of stone this is because  the original wall was blown over last year.  When we visited in April I think there was a forlorn pile of stone with a notice explaining and lots of hazard tape around it.  The arch leads to the new arboretum which was planted up last year and I think will be wonderful in a few years when the trees have grown.


I wonder how my visit this September will compare to last September.  It will be interesting to see if the plants catch up from the slow start.  But then who knows what the weather will bring between now and then.

The Garden House, Devon

I knew there must be an upside  to my son studying at Plymouth University, a 3 hour  drive from us, though I was a little slow to pick up on what it was.  My glee when I realised that The Garden House was only 30 mins drive from his student house cannot be described.  I have wanted to visit this garden for a couple of years now having seen it mention in various publications and having recently reviewed Keith Wiley’s On the Wild Side.  Whilst Keith Wiley has moved on to make a new garden The Garden House has continued to be developed by the new Head Gardener, Matt Bishop, who seems to be an extraordinary plantsman.

This weekend I had to collect my son for the Easter break and so a visit was in order. The top view is the one you see time and again on publicity about the garden.  This is The Cottage Garden although obviously not at the best time of year to see it.  The flowering trees you can see are Magnolias.  I have never seen so many Magnolias flowering so floriferously as at The Garden House – they were stunning and made the garden worth a visit on their own. The view above is up the Long Walk to the house. I have no idea why it is on an angle but there are quite a few that have come out this way and I know I was tired so I assume I was holding the camera wonky!

Of course its far too early for the South Africa garden to be in bloom and I suspect that I will never see it on my University trips as I cannot convince my son that he should wait until July to be collected!  Whilst a lot of the garden is dependent on annual  and later flowering perennials which haven’t appeared yet the grasses through the garden still provided movement and I particularly liked the composition at the entrance to the garden (above).

The main reason I enjoyed our visit so much was due to the spring flowers.  I adore small dainty spring flowers particularly Erythronium, Epimediums and Primulas – all of which were in plentiful supply.  Along with wonderful plantings of Fritillaria, Bluebells and other spring delights.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that The Garden House is building up National Plant Collections of Erythronium and Epimediums nor that there were a couple of irresistible Epimediums  that found their way home with me.

Interestingly whilst it was the area around the Long Walk that I thought I would really enjoy I was really taken with the Walled Garden which is the original garden dating back from the 1940s when it was developed by  the Fortescues.  I have been beguiled in recent years by meadow and prairie planting and I have disliked the formality of hedges and clipped box but I have noticed that recently whilst I like the wilder look I am becoming more and more drawn back to the Arts and Crafts style.  Even more interestingly is that this last week I have been looking at the work of Gertrude Jekyll on my garden history course.  Whilst The Garden House is later in date there is a definite Jekyll/Arts and Crafts influence on the Walled Garden. However, ducking round a corner we came across The Oval Garden, a newer creation, designed by Keith Wiley in 1992 as a way of linking the terraces.  It is such a clever design and my design student son took far too many photographs of the way the walls curve and merge.

We  caught a sneaky peak of the new Gold Jubilee Arboretum which is being developed. The arboretum covers 2 acres and will contain over 100 new trees “many of them recent introductions from the temperate zones of the world“.  If the rest of the garden is anything to go  by it will be worth visiting.

Having admired the structures and Magnolias etc my gaze was drawn suddenly downwards when we went across The Front Lawns.  My son’s cake was delayed whilst I was busy peering at the Primula collection and taking photos.  I hadn’t realised that there were so many old varieties but I think I will save those for another blog.

I am completely smitten by this garden and am already planning another visit at the end of May (son needs collecting at the end of the academic year) and September (oh son needs dropping off at start of academic year) and probably doing the same in the following 2 years.  Much to my son’s amusement on the way to the garden I was saying that we would have to find somewhere else to visit in May and then when we left the garden I said I would be back in May.  This is only the second garden I have come across which I want to visit time and time again – the other being Bryans Ground – and interestingly they have some similarities of style.  So having been exposed to countless styles of garden design and learnt through my course how landscapes have developed it seems my overriding passion is still for the Arts and Crafts period.