A Dream of an Herbaceous Border

I spent most of last week trundling around Yorkshire with a large group of friends indulging in visiting gardens, plant buying and eating cake – what’s not to love.  I have been on this holiday for four years now, to different parts of the UK, and this year for some reason I was acutely aware that my taste and preferences in terms of gardens had changed, or maybe had become clearer.  I also found it interesting that some of my preferences were at odds with many of my travelling companions and this seemed to be possibly a generational divide.

It is some years since I wrote ‘reviews’ about specific gardens as they can become quite repetitive to read and my plan was to write a post which captured the gardens that I loved, and why I loved them as well as what I didn’t feel enthusiastic about but maybe others did.  However, looking at my photos I got stuck at the first garden we visited which I adored and took so many photos of.  So before I write a more analytical post of the gardens I thought I would indulge in a little flurry of herbaceous border photos.

The garden in question is Felley Priory, which is in North Nottinghamshire – we stopped on the way to Yorkshire.  I had never heard of it before but I learnt from fellow travellers that it hosts a wonderful plant sale later in the year so obviously is well known in the area.

If you asked me if I liked topiary I think my response would be indifferent but when I stop and think about it I realise that there is a deep sub-conscious attraction to some of these idiosyncratic creations.  I love the topiary at Levens Hall in the Lake District which reminds me of Alice in Wonderland and whilst not on the same scale as Levens Hall I loved the humour in the topiary at Felley Priory.  The topiary is something you encounter before you come across the herbaceous borders which are behind the yew hedges you see in the photo above.

For me the borders were breathtaking.  The planting was of an exceptional quality with a high level of unobtrusive maintenance.  Being someone who struggles with plants flopping I spent some time peering between the plants to see if I could see what supports were being used.  Our group, including professional plant growers and gardeners, all felt that there was no support so well was it hidden.  But supports there were, hidden away and clearly demonstrating the benefits of putting in supports early in the season so the plants grow up through them and not my approach of retrospective staking which never looks good.

I also loved the colour combinations in the borders which was wide ranging but not clashing, as many of the borders we saw later in the week were.  There is also something about the scale of the flowers to each other.  Nothing is big and blowsey and overshadowing anything else.  Each plant is part of the overall whole but allowed to shine in its own way. Some of the other borders we saw elsewhere had a complete imbalance of flower size and colour meaning that the border did not make a cohesive whole but felt very bitty to me – well that was my view.

I really liked this part of the border which is essentially red, white and blue but so subtle due to the inclusion of the burgundy scabious which provides a good link between the red mondara and the blues of the phlox and the eryginium. The skill is that the mondara is a bluey red, if you know what I mean, as opposed to an orangey red again adding to a harmonious whole. I also loved that the gardeners were happy to use white meadow sweet which many would worry was a weed.  The meadow sweet isn’t planted in a large clump or solid ‘drift’ but instead the planting is starting to move more towards the matrix style of planting which we came across a few more times on our trip and is, for me, the way forward.

 

 

Garden Visit – the birthplace of Crocus

Last weekend I had the delight of visiting Brockhampton Cottage, near Ross on Wye with a group of friends from Hardy Plant Society.  Brockhampton Cottage is the home of Peter Clay, part owner of Crocus (the online plant company) and was designed with the help of Tom Stuart-Smith.

The house sits on top of a hill in a site of several acres.  As you can see the views from the house are stunning, probably more so from the upstairs windows.  You can see for miles. Peter showed us around the garden and spent time explaining the ethos behind the development of the garden and how it inadvertently led to the creation of Crocus.

Peter is not a gardener by trade, coming instead from a marketing background but having inherited the property back in the 1990s he decided to create the garden of his childhood dreams – that country garden surrounded by wild flowers and meadows; the ideal of many a retrospective childhood dream.

He learnt that with a large space he needed to plant in large quantities and quickly became frustrated with phoning around nurseries tracking down a couple of plants here and a couple there.  This led to a evening conversation with a close friend, where fuelled by beer, they postulated about how the new worldwide web should be able to change things and make it possible to choose plants to decorate your outside space just as you could chose furniture and paint to decorate your inside space. This mad idea is where Crocus was formed leading to Peter having a career he had never envisaged.

Around this time Peter met a young designer called Tom Stuart-Smith and asked him to help him with his garden, their collaboration on the garden as continued ever since.

What I found fascinating about this garden was the complete celebration of its location.  The view is king and Peter explained how having cleared the land in front of the house he decided to mirror the natural landscape by planting a range of trees of different sizes and shapes to reflect the variety of trees in the wider landscape.

We also learnt how having planted a selection of trees across the site, these were under-planted by box bushes which in their growth habit replicated the shrubby under-planting you could see in the distant landscape.

Close to the house the planting is more formal with wide herbaceous borders full of large drifts of perennials.  The intention is that the colour pallet is limited and is partly driven by the naturally pink coloured bricks of the house.  This house can be seen for miles and there is a conscious attempt to help it sit comfortably within its landscape through the use of climbers, with only white flowers, and the creation of three wide shallow steps across the front of the house to help ground the house.

As the planting moves away from the house the colours fade into whites and greens – many different greens and many textures again referencing the landscape.

The landscape drops steeply away from the side of the house and the view of the house is broken with these beech columns which also act to filter the wind coming through the valleys.

The meadows and the sweeping grass paths are the real triumph of this garden but tucked away along the side of the property is a shady garden with a brook which flows down the side of the property and is clothed in ferns, siberian irises and these wonderful Primula florindae which caused many oo’s and arh’s.  On reaching the bottom of the hill you find wide beds of foliage rich herbaceous plants primarily with white or cream foliage.  This planting is in large blocks following the matrix approach which Tom Stuart-Smith is known for and which works so well on this scale.

The visit was a delight and I took away some interesting thoughts and ideas to play with in my own space.

The garden opens under the National Garden Scheme each year to coincide with the orchids flowering in the meadows.

Yeo Valley Organic Garden

The other week I spent  lovely 4 days with a group of friends exploring the gardens of Somerset and Wiltshire.  One of the gardens I was quietly looking forward to seeing was the Yeo Valley Organic Garden which we were due to see on our way home.

I’ve been aware of this garden for some time now.  It regularly features in magazines and on television sometimes because of its gravel garden and sometimes because it is one of only a handful of certified ornamental gardens in the country. Interestingly, their plants come from a small organic nursery just over the hill from me.

You arrive at the garden, nestled in the beautiful Yeo Valley, through the organic diary (I eat their yoghurt every morning).  You enter through a corridor of hedges, past a stunning greenhouse full of exotics and seedlings, a vegetable garden.  Where oh where was the gravel garden?  Past some yellow themed herbaceous borders.

Very nice and interesting use of yellow foliage.

Turn right past the grass border – lovely especially on a windy day such as when we visited. And then you go up the driveway to the house and round a corner and wow!

You can get a fantastic overview on entering if you go up the small mount with the viewpoint on the top (see top photo).

The gravel garden was planted up in 2011 and I just love its abundance.  This is my sort of garden. Swathes of perennials with plenty of space for them to grow tall and strong, merging into each other creating an amazing tapestry.

There’s a pond in the garden singing with damsel flies.

The farmhouse provides a focal point for the garden and it almost feels as though the house provides the backdrop for the garden rather than the garden providing the backdrop for the house.

Oh and off to one side is the birch grove with shade loving planting, a perennial meadow and an annual meadow which had just been recently tilled.

And all of this has been done organically with no pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals.

It was my favourite garden of the whole trip.  I have so many photos of the gravel garden which is always a sign that I loved it.   I have included just a handful of my favourite photos in this post but if you are down in Somerset I would really recommend making a small detour to visit this garden – it has a great cafe as well.

Wordless Wednesday: Bishops Palace Gardens, Wells

Suffolk and N Essex Garden Tour – Day 1

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Our first day started with torrential rain causing delays on the motorway  causing us to be late for our first garden of the four day garden visiting extravaganza that we were embarking on.  Due to the awful weather, the owners of The Moat House generously invited us into their home for morning tea and cake.  I think it rakes a real generosity of spirit to invite 38 soggy strangers into your home with their damp shoes and dripping umbrellas and coats particularly given the pale green carpet.

Moat House, Little Saxham
Moat House, Little Saxham

Being hardy gardeners, having refueled, we were keen to explore the first garden.  The Moat House is a partially moated garden of two acres which has been developed over 2 years. The garden is very much your traditional country garden with herbaceous borders full of roses, generally in pastels shades, alliums, geraniums, delphiniums, and peonies.  IMG_5343

As you would expect with any English country garden there was plenty of box edging and topiary around the garden.  Personally, I’m not that keen on box edging but I can see that it provides a nice edge and has the benefit of hiding the legs of plants and the bare soil but you need to have the discipline to keep them looking sharp in order to achieve the best effect.

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And we had the first of many parterres filled with herbs and plants for cutting.

Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow
Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow

With the rain abated and the sun shining we moved on to our next garden – Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow.  The garden was created by Bernard Tickner who has gardened here for some 50 years and has now placed the 7 acre garden in trust for the charity Perennial. Bernard is a plantsman and his approach is to create a garden which is very loosely designed, giving a natural feel, and providing interest all year round.  The garden is almost on an island created by the diverted mill stream which powered the Fullers Mill.  The Fulling Mill has existed on the site since 1458, fulling is a process through which you make cloth thicker by passing it through a series of wooden mallets, the fabric is then stretched out on the drying ground.

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I quite liked the looser planting style to the previous garden and it was the favourite garden for many that day.   generously  borders with gentle curves are planted up with shrubs and perennials merging together in soft mounds.

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However, the real feature of Fullers Mill Garden is the stream and mill-pond.  The inclusion of water in the garden was a real theme of the gardens we visited this week which was interesting as we constantly heard that we were in the driest part of the country.  Presumably this is because when the houses were built there was no water on tap so the properties were located close to streams in order to have easy access to the little water that was available.

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I think Fullers Mill Garden is one that would have benefited us having a little more time to explore but we spent the day trying to catch up the time lost in the morning on the motorway.

Bellflower Nursery, The Walled Garden, Langham Hill
Bellflower Nursery, The Walled Garden, Langham Hill

We ended the day with our first real plant buying opportunity at Bellflower Nursery.  The nursery specialising in Campanula, hence its name, and hold a national collection.  I have to admit that I’m not that keen on Campanula as they never grow very well for me but I really enjoyed visiting this garden purely due to its location within a walled garden.

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The owner of the nursery, Sue Wooster, not only has her nursery to run but also the ornamental side of the walled garden to maintain and she shared with us that she has also just taken on the tenancy of the edible part of the walled garden. She was doing a sterling job is maintaining the borders which I think also act as stock beds for the nursery but what I enjoyed was the slightly dishevelled aspect of parts of the garden which Sue admitted had a habit of getting the better of her.  There is something particularly romantic about a walled garden especially one that has the ghosts of its past still evident.

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So day 1 having started a bit wet under foot ended well with us in high spirits and our coach driver rapidly becoming aware that he was going to have to develop skills in packing plants.

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Garden Visit: Montpelier Cottage

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I had a delightful afternoon visiting Noel Kingsbury and Jo Eliot’s garden in deepest darkest Herefordshire within spitting distance of the Welsh borders.  I nearly didn’t go as I wanted to get on with the front garden but having planted up half the space in the morning and with unexpected blue skies at lunchtime I set off for what is always an enjoyable drive west.

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Noel’s garden is not what many would call the traditional style of garden.  Indeed I ran into someone I know from a garden club who hadn’t visited before and was a little perplexed by the research beds and the intensive planting in some areas and the large meadow and ponds with wildflower planting.   We agreed that it made a nice change from many of the gardens you visit, particularly under the National Garden Scheme, and my fellow garden club member said it had certainly given him real food for thought.

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Personally I really enjoy this garden.  I have visited before, last August, when I went for lunch and had a proper tour with Noel.  The garden demonstrates Noel’s interests in plant communities and how perennials, in particular, grow together.  The area above is a series of research beds with various perennials planted out in blocks to see how they fare in Noel’s heavy clay soil  However, plants are allowed to self seed as is evident from the prolific number of aquilegia and trollis which are scattered around the garden and really pull everything together.

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I really like the intensity of this area of planting with all the purples and cerise flowers; it was alive with insects.  It is this intense style I am trying to achieve but its a style which looks more natural than the traditional style of perennial planting and I think that although it looks so natural it is quite hard to make work well.  It is one of those things that everyone thinks looks easy until you try it yourself. As the year progresses the grasses and late perennials which are currently hidden amongst the early flowering plant will have bulked up and bring a new wave of interest and colour.

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And finally a real surprise as Noel’s Aeoniums are already out on the patio, and have been out for two weeks.  Mine are still lurking in the greenhouse and looking the worse for it so this week they will be moved out into the fresh air and hopefully it wont be long before they look as glossy and healthy as Noel’s.

I’m off to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show tomorrow and it will be interesting to see if any of the show gardens, with all their immaculate planting, have the same sense of place as Noel and Jo’s garden; I suspect not.

Sissinghurst – a Romantic Confection

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As I was staying in Sissinghurst village for my visit to Great Dixter at the lovely Milk House, which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone visiting that area, it would have been madness for me not to visit Sissinghurst garden.IMG_0447

I have to admit to having mixed feelings about this garden visit.  Sissinghurst is one of those gardens that, as a gardener, you feel you should have visited and be able to reference. Interestingly during conversations on the study day at Great Dixter quite a few people were, shall we say, a bit sniffy about Sissinghurst, saying such things as ‘well I have visited but I don’t feel a need to go back’, which was intriguing. I need to say now that my mindset on arrival was somewhat distracted as I was having car issues and I was worrying whether the car would get me the 4.5 hours home (in fact the car was OK which was a huge relief). So I didn’t have the relaxing contented visit I had hoped for.

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I had the benefit of being one of the first through the door and instead of exploring the tower I set out to see as much of the garden as I could before it become crowded.  More by luck than design I found myself firstly in the renowned White Garden. Now I am not a fan of White Gardens I find them sort of static, I much prefer contrasting colours or even harmonious colours and the way the colours work with each other.  However, I have to admit that this part of the garden had a nice calming atmosphere, particularly given my frame of mind.

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Again in the Cottage Garden, which is planted up in hot vibrant colours, I wasn’t thrilled with this combination – the yellows are all the same and I would have liked to see some possibly lighter shades of yellow or an orange verbascum such as Clementine to jazz it up.  However to be far this was just one small planting in the Cottage Garden, the rest was a mixture of strong yellows, red and oranges and lots of textures.

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One of the things I really liked at Sissinghurst were the vistas through the various walls or hedges leading the eye to the next garden or an area you wanted to find your way to.  I have quite a few photographs of vignettes such as the one above and also of large planted pots planted with a single type of plants – an interesting contrast to the mass groupings of pots at Great Dixter.

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Like the White Garden I find the Nuttery with its shady woodland planting relaxing.  I have a weakness for ferns and I was bewitched with the way the sunlight was bouncing off the fronds in this mass planting and showcasing the statue.  I would like to try to do something similar but I don’t know if I have the space.

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The area of the garden that I really enjoyed was the Rose Garden which was somewhat surprising.  I am liking roses more and more and I particularly liked seeing them planted with other perennials.  As you can see the alliums in the photograph above and at the top of the post provide a wonderful froth through the borders.  The scent in this garden, especially as the sun was shining, was quite divine.  I liked this colour palette which provided a really romantic atmosphere (if you ignored all the other visitors which I studiously managed to exclude from my photos).  IMG_0518On arrival at the garden there was an exhibition about Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicholson’s marriage, with copies of their letters etc.  On the walls of the barn that the exhibition was housed in were painted quotes from these letters which showed the strength of their feelings for each other and I think the Rose Garden really epitomises their love for each other.

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So what is my overall impression of Sissinghurst? Firstly, I think I was spoilt by my visit to Great Dixter the day before which really speaks to me.  However, Sissinghurst is a beautiful garden and is the first National Trust garden I have visited which has an atmosphere which, in my opinion, is so hard to come by when the garden is not managed by its creator/owner. I know that Troy Scott-Smith, who took on the role of Head Gardener in 2013, is working to move the garden away from  pristine horticultural excellence back to a garden, which although demonstrating good horticulture, also has a more artistic feel such as it had in Vita’s time.  You can really see that there are areas where this has been achieved and other areas where it hasn’t quite got there.  Hardly surprising given Troy has only been post for two years.  I think I would like to visit again in say 2 or 3 years to see if Troy has been allowed to have his way and how the garden has developed.

 

An Unexpected Arts and Crafts Gem – Perrycroft

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It’s funny how you can trek all over the place, even all over the world, and yet it turns out that there is a wonderful gem of a garden right under your nose and you had no idea.

Perrycroft turned out to be such a garden today.  Situated just over the Malvern Hills from me, nestled just below the ridge and with panoramic views of British Camp and out across Herefordshire towards the Black Mountains of Wales, the house and garden were stunning and I wasn’t alone in this opinion.

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The house was the first commissioned the renown Arts and Craft’s architect, CFA Vosey received for a house.  Vosey had started his career designing wallpaper and furniture and was very inspired by William Morris, Pugin, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau and railed against the over decorative approach of the Victorians.

“Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences.” (CFA Voysey)

The white walls and green woodwork are peculiar to his designs and I was completely transfixed by it. The green works so well with the lawn and surroundings and really ties the house into its location.

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Adjacent to the house is the formal garden studded with topiary. I really liked the simple alternating approach of the blocks of sedum and grey foliage but more so that you look down into the square which gives you an interesting viewpoint and reminded me of the medieval gardens which had raised walkways around them.

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The topiary continues down into the next part of the formal garden.  You don’t really get a sense of the slope in the photograph above but they are quite steep and it is interesting that the owners haven’t been tempted to put in lots of horizontal terracing to tame the slope – in fact the box squares working down the slope actually emphasis the slope.

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The chickens are demonstrating the steepness of the slope in the shadow of their topiary cushion.  I have said many times before that I am not a huge fan of hedges and garden rooms mainly because I find them claustrophobia but this wasn’t the case at Perrycroft –  there was a luxurious generosity of space in each area.

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A sense of movement is achieved going down the slope with the repetition of key plants and colours as you can see with the asters and I like the way the verbena bonariensis is planted in front of the dark purple berberis hedge.

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There is a wonderful exuberance in the planting which is as generous as the space.  It is clear that a confident hand is behind this garden.  The owner, Gillian Archer, is very much a hands on gardener and is ably assisted by two full-time gardeners hardly surprising when you consider there are 10 acres to tame and manage.

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If ever there was an example of how wonderful a late summer border can look here it is.  The borders positively glowed with colour.

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As I have said there are 10 acres and aside from the formal gardens there is a woodland and also a wilder area with a chain of three ponds working their way down the slope,  a couple of wildflower meadow type areas, an orchard and a vegetable area.

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Throughout the garden are these very high back benches and I wonder if they are based on Voysey designs.  My research tells me that he liked to design the house including the furnishings and I understand that he partly designed some of the garden are Perrycroft.  It seems to me that the benches are reminiscent of his style.

The number of photographs I take of a garden are always a good indicator of whether I am enjoying it, am inspired by it or, as in this case, just bowled over.  When Voysey died in 1941 amongst the various tributes to his contribution to design and architecture was one from Pevsner, a German born art historian who commented:

“…he never regarded himself as the great artist whose genius must be respected and accepted without querying. He built what was to be useful and enjoyable, that was all. Hence the undated perfection of the best of his work. … his [pattern] designs were so perfectly balanced between stylization and love of nature that the best of them have, to my mind, never been surpassed. Voysey believed in a humane, homely, honest life, in simplicity with domestic care and comfort, and in leisure judiciously and pleasurably spent amidst trees and flowers. … the essence of his work and his personality does not belong to our age but to an age gone for ever.”

Perrycroft opens under the National Garden Scheme

Isole Madre – an Italian Botanical Delight

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Now some of my readers have kindly described my garden as lush when they saw my EOMV photos but I don’t see it this way.  For me the photo above shows a lush garden.  The garden in question is Isola Madre, the garden I discovered on holiday in Italy which was the highlight of our trip for me.

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2014_07220405Isola Madre is the third island in the Borromea Bay and a sister island to Isola Bella.  Whilst Isola Bella is a personal wedding cake of a garden, Isola Madre is now a botanical garden and a partner RHS garden – so I got to use my RHS card twice on holiday.

As with Isola Bella I found the vistas and glimpses through trees and down paths quite captivating.

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2014_07220265The standard of horticulture is exceptional not surprising as the curator, Gianfranco Giustina, was awarded a Veitch medal by the RHS in 2014.  I knew I was in for a good garden visit when I saw the coleus, which I’m not that keen on, looking so good amongst ferns.  In fact there were many ferns, including various tree ferns, so I was very happy.  Not only were the plants generally labelled but the guide book also gave lots of details about key plants.

As with the Isola Bella the garden paths lead you up to the high part of the island.  The garden has a wealth of magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias but sadly we were a little late in the season to see these in flower.

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The ferns and the bamboos do well due to the climate of the region as despite the temperatures being in the high 20s/low 30s there was rain many days and so the plants were thriving.

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The highlight of the garden is the oldest Cypress of Cashmir in Europe. If you look closely 2014_07220410at some of the photos you will see lots of wires leading to this tree and there is an amazing story behind this.  In 2006 the tree was toppled by a tornado.  Whilst many would be sad and think that was the end of a tree which had been grown from seed collected from the Himalayas in 1846, the staff on Isola Madre had other ideas.  With the help of helicopters and three huge cranes they righted the tree.  Then they covered the root ball with constantly damp sheeting and the leaves were sprayed with anti-transpirants. The result is that the tree has re-established and is growing well – what an achievement.

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2014_07220346Having explored the shady end of the lower island you find yourself up by the house and the Chapel Square and the Nymphaeas pond.  The planting is more colourful around the house with the use of quite a bit of bedding and annuals. Whilst I wasn’t that keen on the garish colours on Isola Bella I did like the same plants on Isola Madre.  I think this is because the permanent planting tones them down.  The bright colours work very well against the cool colour of the walls and I think the blue/grey of the woodwork is a good foil.  The borders are quite narrow and it was impressive how many plants had been shoe-horned into the space.  No doubt they are watered and fed a lot.

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We did spot the odd gardener but they were generally working in the areas which weren’t open or having a break for lunch.  Many of the annuals were kept in check by the white peacocks who strutted around and seemed to have quite a thing about the Cleome which were growing along the bottom of the house walls.

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One of the things that made me smile when visiting this garden was the range of plants growing there and planted permanently outside.  The cactus growing on the cliff side of the island particularly amused me as it seemed so incongruous to see a huge cactus hanging over a large inland lake.

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It was views like this which add to the magic for me and will stay in my mind for some time to come.

 

Three go to North Italy – Isola Bella

Isola Bella

One of the places I was really looking forward to visiting on our holiday was Isola Bella; one of three islands in the Borromean Bay.  I had seen the garden on Monty Don’s Italian Garden series and was really pleased to discover it was just a short ferry ride from our hotel.

The palace on the island was originally intended to also have a casino, small villa or palace, higher up on the island when it was started by Carlo III Borromeo in 1630. However, it was his sons,Vitaliano VI Borromeo and Cardinal Giberto III Borromeo who dropped the casino idea and concentrated on the introduction of a garden to compliment the palace with the notion that the island should appear to be a ship sailing across the lake.  As you can imagine the Borromeo were, and are, a very wealthy family so why not think grand.

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You arrive on the island and enter via the palace.  I was so distracted by visiting the garden, which as a partner RHS garden I got to use my RHS membership card to enter, that I hadn’t really considered what the palace would be like.  As with many Italian palaces and villas particularly in this area the furniture is predominantly dark wood and quite heavy and there is lots of marble which isn’t surprising as there are two large quarry mines on the shores of Lake Maggiore.

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But entering this large state-room which was the height of the palace took your breath away.  Not only the size and height but the coolness of the pale blue and white after the darkness of the other rooms.

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The ground floor or I suppose basement is taken over by a huge grotto.  The walls and floor are covered in mosaic patterns made up of pebbles of different colours.  It is quite bizarre and I found it a little oppressive.  The palace is still in the Borromeo family’s ownership and they visit in September – bit like royalty. But to the garden.  Having been directed around the palace you exit into a very classical italianesque space.

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Up some stairs and then up and round another set with a tightly clipped hedge running on both sides.

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Sadly I had missed the flowering of the Agapanthus in these pots but they must look stunning.  Then you are confronted with the extravagance that is the garden of Isola Bella.

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It’s like a mad wedding cake on steroids with all the bells and whistles.

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As you can see the walls have the same pebble mosaic as the palace grotto and was no doubt completed around the same time.  Unsurprisingly I was more drawn to the ferns at the bottom of the walls than the in your face bedding.

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The edifice, I can think of no other word for it, sits at the highest point of the garden and 2014_07220186is surrounded by terraces which accommodate the slope.  Some are quite narrow (as above) and some are large.  This gives a good variety of spaces and atmospheres.  Moving away from the bedazzling centrepiece you find quiet areas of ferns and other shade lovers, huge bamboos and wonderful magnolias.  2014_072202032014_07220205There are also white peacock, of course, which strut around demanding food from visitors.

2014_07220170You cannot fault the horticultural standards of the garden, it is immaculate.  On the day we visited there had been high temperatures, for some days, but also winds and then when we were there downpours but there was hardly a leaf on the ground, unlike on the main land, and all the plants looked incredibly healthy.  Whilst this style of garden really isn’t my thing I found it interesting to note how they had used the different aspects of each of the four sides of the edifice to accommodate different plant needs.  So one side was a rose garden, another had citrus fruit, another rubeckias and yet another flowering shrubs.

But all the time you are distracted by the beautiful views across the lake to the mainland and its villages with their picturesque terracotta roofs and the alps in the background.  It was almost as though the planting had to be over the top to keep the attention of the visitor. The planting and statues certainly shout for your attention and personally on a bright sunny day I found it a little too much – even one of my son’s commented that he was surprised I had wanted to visit as he didn’t think it was my sort of garden.

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Would I recommend a visit? Absolutely if you are in the area. It is a wonderful and exuberant confection of all things horticulture and brings a smile to your face even on the hottest and humid of days.