Spetchley Park Gardens

When you have had an interest in gardens all your life it comes as a surprise when you discover a little gem of a garden that you did not know. This happened on a trip arranged by the Leicestershire & Rutland Gardens Trust to Spetchley Park Gardens near Worcester.

Spetchley is a beautiful historic garden, surrounded by ancient parkland, deer park and lakes and is set in the wonderful Worcestershire countryside with far reaching views to the Malvern Hills.17_07_13_6716

A short history taken from displays in the information centre.

The Spetchley Estate was purchased in1606 by Rowland Berkeley, a wealthy wool merchant and banker, and has been in the family ever since.

In 1625 his son, Robert Berkeley, was granted a licence to impark (to enclose) by Charles I creating the Deer Park that we see today and carrying out an extensive campaign of planting and enclosure. Robert was a chief justice and was knighted by the King. By a sad accident his house was burnt down in 1651 by Scottish Covenanters staying there who also supported the King. Sir Robert lost a great deal of money through supporting the Monarchy and rather than rebuilding the house, converted the outbuildings which became the family home for the next 170 years.

However with the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, Robert (grandson of Sir Robert to whom he left the estate) may have received compensation, and from 1673 when he became of age he embarked on a new campaign of tree planting advised by his friend the famous diarist and silviculturist John Evelyn

When another Robert Berkeley (1764-1845) inherited the estate in 1804 he embarked on the next major phase of alterations at Spetchley. 17_07_13_6717The new house, designed by John Tasker, was begun in 1811 with gardens and parks in the ‘romantic’ style of the time creating long vistas over the lake and sweeping lawns grazed by deer.17_07_13_6718

J. P. Neale 1822, in his book Views of Seats of noblemen and gentlemen, in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, wrote “The extensive grounds of this ancient place were crowded with timber, walls, and fences; judgement, skill, and taste, were absolutely necessary to give the whole a new appearance; and in this the present owner has succeeded with admirable effect… the eye now glides over the undulating green…”

17_07_13_6729The grounds were enlarged and improved for a third time from about 1897 by the celebrated gardener Ellen Willmott and her sister Rose. Robert Valentine Berkeley married Rose in 1891 and, together with her sister, she transformed the planting in the gardens with long borders densely packed with plants.

In 1925 Spetchley became one of the first gardens in the country to open its gates to visitors under the National Garden Scheme.

The garden

The gardens are having another improvement with the Spetchley Revival Project, a long term project designed to invest in securing the gardens for future generations to enjoy. Much of this has already happened.

Of particular interest is the complete dredging of the lake (garden pool on the map) which resulted in huge quantities of silt being removed, the banks reinforced and the puddling maintained. The lake is centre stage for many of the views from the grounds.17_07_13_6741

We had a guided tour around the garden with the head gardener. I think to get the most from this garden such a tour is essential as much of the interest is in the history. There are many trees of interest in the gardens that were planted by the family over the last 350 years with new specimen trees still being planted.17_07_13_6724This is a cork oak, Quercus suber, the primary source of cork for wine bottle stoppers and other uses, such as cork flooring and as the cores of cricket balls and an unusual tree in England.

Spetchley was earmarked as the headquarters for Churchill and his war cabinet during WWII however he decided to stay in London and so it became a recuperation home for the 9th USAAF.  On Churchill’s death 12 acorns that he had collected from his favourite oak at Blenheim were distributed to places that had a connection with Churchill. One came to Spetchley and the oak is growing on the Long Walk opposite the Cedar.

17_07_13_6722The bridge over the canal from the garden pool with the new rose garden in the background.

17_07_13_6723

The rose garden

Ellen Willmott, the renowned horticulturalist and plants woman, was instrumental in helping her sister, Rose Berkeley, design and plant the garden and so, heavily influencing the existing planting structures. She was the first lady recipient of the RHS’s Victorian Medal of Honour. This is the Miss Willmot of Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s ghost’

17_07_12_6665

‘Miss Willmott’sghost’ in Glebe House Garden

It is said she would always have some seed in her pocket so that when she visited other gardens she could scatter some in their borders , hence Miss Willmott’s ghost!

Ellen Willmott was also instrumental in the creation of the large herbaceous borders.17_07_13_672817_07_13_6708

Every garden needs at least one,17_07_13_6712and at Spetchley there is a very fine example, with room for two, located in a old brick built building in the garden.

Sculpture has been introduced into the garden creating many interesting focal points.

17_07_13_6732A corner of the walled garden now devoted to flowers.

Old melon and grape houses.

17_07_13_6737Some exotic planting in the melon yard.

Edward Elgar was a friend of the family, often staying and enjoying some fishing in the garden lake. He was so inspired by the garden that he penned part of his masterpiece, the Dream of Gerontius, whilst staying here.

17_07_13_6743No important house in England would be without a chapel and Spetchley is no exception with some very fine memorials to the Berkeley family in the nave.

Some areas have been redesigned in recent years. Of particular interest here is the creation of a covered walk way using Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’. This is probably unique and according to the head gardener is quite a challenge to keep looking good.

When to visit

The displays of spring bulbs in April and May, including drifts of Narcissi ‘Spetchley’, are some of the best in England and are complemented by a springtime shrub garden containing rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and azaleas and include one of the largest private collections of peonies in the Country. I shall certainly revisit the gardens at this time.

In June there is a large selection of roses, whilst July, August and September reveal the great herbaceous borders in all their glory.

Do not expect manicured borders but do expect much variety in the planting.

Glebe House Garden

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning July 29th Total 2017 to-date Average per week
27 636 21

Tresco Abbey Garden

For the last two weeks we have been away a staying on Tresco, one of the islands that make up the Isles of Scilly.

tresco_aerial

Tresco Island, Isles of Scilly

The above photograph shows what a beautiful island Tresco is. The garden this blog describes is located just between the first pool and the left hand side of the island. The Isles of Scilly are 28 miles south west of the British mainland

and benefits  from a temperate climate which enables many subtropical plants to survive there.

A brief history of Tresco Abbey Garden

tresco001

Augustus Smith (1804 – 1872)

In 1834 Augustus Smith leased all the Isles of Scilly. He set himself four goals: good education for children, to stamp out smuggling, to stop the practice of dividing family holdings and to ensure improvement of the land and buildings stock by islanders themselves.

He also started the Tresco Abbey Garden which were based around the ruined St Nicholas Abbey. He built walls and planted shelter belts, established a close connection with Kew and, because of the location of Tresco, many Scillonian mariners returned with seeds, plants and cutting from around the world.

tresco003

Thomas Algernon Dorrien-Smith(1846 – 1918)

In 1872 Thomas Algernon Dorrien-Smith, nephew of Augustus inherited the lease. He continued to support the economy of the islands and started the daffodil flower industry. Tresco Abbey Gardens went from strength to strength. The plants Augustus planted were reaching maturity and were flowering. Thomas identified the Monterey pine and Monterey cypress as successful in shelter belts and went on to plant thousands of trees. With links to the Truro Flower Show he effectively introduced many tender species to Cornish gardens.

“He devoted his life unselfishly to these islands and added greatly to their prosperity and beauty”

tresco004

Major Arthur Dorrien-Smith(1876 – 1955)

In 1918 Major Arthur Dorrien-Smith inherited the lease from his father. He was already a gardener and horticulturist and in 1903 set up the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. He went on many plant hunting expeditions in New Zealand and on one expedition brought back 2000 plants to be divided between Kew, Edinburgh and Tresco. In 1922 financial constraints forced him to hand back control of the other Scilly islands to the Duchy of Cornwall

However, he continued to develop Tresco abbey gardens. In 1935 there were 3500 cultivated plants on Tresco and he continued to order new varieties from around the world. In 1950 the gardens were opened to the paying public. He was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour by the RHS

tresco005

Lieutenant Commander Thomas Mervyn Dorrien-Smith

In 1955 Lieutenant Commander Thomas Mervyn Dorrien-Smith inherited the lease from his father. He was not a plants-man but soon established a management role. He made the transition from a purely agricultural community to one that also embraced tourism. He converted some of the island cottages for holiday lets and built the Island Hotel (now closed). He continued to introduce new varieties of plants to Tresco and in 1960 exhibited the full range of Tresco’s treasures at Chelsea Flower Show.

tresco006

Prince Charles and Robert Dorrien-Smith(1951 -)

In 1973 Robert Dorrien-Smith inherited the lease  from his father and in 1983 introduced a heliport on Tresco.

The garden was then hit by natural disasters:
In 1987 a very rare snow storm caused extensive damage to many of the plants and in 1990 a hurricane brought down many of the trees including ones in the shelter belts. Robert has since replanted 60,000 trees and restored plantings in the garden. He also introduced  various sculptures to the garden and created the “Mediterranean Garden”

Tresco Abbey Garden today

IMG_1594

St Nicholas Priory, the ruins of 12th century Benedictine abbey

St Nicholas Priory was founded in the early 12th century by Benedictine monks and it was where the first plants of the Abbey Garden were planted in the mid-nineteenth century.17_07_05_6595The garden is terraced against a sheltered south facing slope. This is the middle terrace. Each terrace effectively has its own micro climate getting drier as you go up enabling different ranges of plants at each level.IMG_1623Do not expect formal planting schemes or manicured borders. The garden is really about the plants.

17_07_07_6642

South African Watsonias

Watsonias flower in drifts through the gardens in the summer.

IMG_1624

King Protea

The King Protea is the national flower of South Africa and one of the most striking blooms on Tresco! No other garden in Britain can boast such a variety of beautiful South African Proteas on display.IMG_1588In the lower parts of the gardens tree ferns from New Zealand and Australia flourish.

IMG_1612

Norfolk Island Pine

This is one of the most iconic trees in the garden with its regular foliage. I often think it was planted upside down as the branches seem to hang upwards!Picture25‘Gia’ by sculptor David Wynne and made from a block of multi-coloured South African marble.

Tresco_20080703_2361

Canary Island palms

The Canary Island palms on the Middle Terrace are the tallest in the British Isles. These steps are called Neptune Steps and they dissect the garden from top to bottom.Picture22Higher up the Neptune Steps.Tresco_20080703_2317The “Mediterranean Garden” with a water feature, based on an Agave, which was created by Cornish artist Tom Leaper in 1996. This is probably the most ‘designed’ part of the garden.

IMG_1619

The pincusion plant from South Africa, Leucospermum cordifolium

IMG_1608

A native of the Andes, Puya chiensis

IMG_1615

Furcraea longeava in flower

IMG_1582

Aloe arborescens

Each New Year on Tresco the gardeners have count the number of plants in flower. This year saw more species of plants than ever before in bloom – an astounding 289.

I have only touched he surface of this unique garden. The only way to really understand the garden is to spend a few days on the island. There are many places to stay owned by the Tresco Estate. 17_07_05_6593

Source of history:
‘Tresco Abbey Garden A Personal and Pictorial History’ by Mike Nelhams

Glebe House Garden

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning July 1st Total 2017 to-date Average per week
0 558 21

An Afternoon in two Hoby Gardens

12.00pm – 5.00pm on Wednesday 14th June
Hoby , Leicestershire, LE14 3DR

£5 includes entrance to gardens plus tea & cake, Fizz available at extra cost

 ~~ Redwood ~~

Main Street, Hoby, LE14 3DT  plus cake, tea & fizz

 ~~ Glebe House ~~

Church Lane, Hoby, LE14 3DR

 All proceeds to All Saints Church Hoby maintenance fund.

See map of location of Hoby . If you can get to this event I am sure you will enjoy the afternoon.

 

Neeleshwar Hermitage Garden

17_02_07_4838For the last three weeks we have been away from Glebe House staying in the Neeleshwar Hermitage Hotel in Kerala, South India. Neeleshwar Hermitage is hybrid of a boutique hotel and an Ayurvedic wellness centre. Its 18 palm roofed villas are scattered across the garden, their porches cooled by spinning ceiling fans, and at the rear of each is a large outdoor bathroom with a tub set in a small walled garden. At the seafood restaurant, tables spill out into the beach.17_02_06_4823 I often think that a the percentage of guests who have stayed before is a good measure of how good a hotel is. This was our third visit and I would estimate that 50%of the guests had been before. This is despite the fact that it is not an easy hotel to get to. We flow from London Heathrow to Mumbai, then from Mumbai to Mangaluru and finally a two and a half hour car ride!17_02_10_4901We first stayed about six years ago when the Hermitage was relatively new. Since then the gardens surrounding the villas has grown significantly and are still being developed.17_02_10_4886Being next to the beach the soil is very sandy and unless watered plants soon dry out. At this time of year the temperature is typically 33c with no rainfall.17_02_10_4904The gardener explained that they plan to clear this area of dried up plants and plant the area with pineapple plants which would then provide fruit for the restaurant. Needless to say in this temperature I did not volunteer to help him.17_02_09_4870The garden is kept alive watering and the cattle egrets love it as the water brings the insects out.17_02_10_4903Around the garden  there are a number of small pools which as well as providing attractive features bring more wildlife to the garden.17_02_07_484117_02_10_488917_02_12_4921This part of the Kerala coast is very underdeveloped and the wildlife is stunning.17_02_12_491717_02_09_4859

The garden is by its location a tropical garden and the following is a selection of plants flowering when we were there.

The other feature worth mentioning is the swimming pool.17_02_15_4952The pool has become part of the garden as well as providing a fantastic amenity for guests.17_02_15_4954At 7 o’clock in the morning the air temperature was around 26c and the water was perfect for a swim looking out over the infinity edge to the beach.

We have now had 13 holidays in India and have traveled over much of the sub-continent. This trip was purly for winter sun and relaxation and the Neeleshwar Hermitage delivered 100%.

Glebe House Garden

No work on the garden for the last few weeks. We arrived home late last night. However, I was very pleased to see a bed full of snowdrops this morning.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
0 550 16

An unexpected formal garden

16_12_05_4421We have been travelling in Myanmar and a little bit of Thailand. When we left home I thought there would be plenty of interesting gardens to photograph and write about. How wrong was that! In the part of Myanmar we were in, for most of the trip, the ground around the houses is flooded each rainy season and as such was not kept as a garden. Further more as the house owners were frequently farmers there was no requirement for vegetables etc around their houses and the ground around the house was often used for pigs and chickens etc.

In Thailand  we were travelling along a rather obscure route from Kanchanaburi to Ayutthaya when I spotted a very tall Buddha  in the distance. Our guide had no idea what it was so we had to investigate.

Phra Buddha Metta Pracha Thai Trai Lokanat Gandhara Anusorn

16_12_05_4428Phra Buddha Metta Pracha Thai Trai Lokanat Gandhara Anusorn, is the largest and most beautiful standing bronze Buddha image in Thailand. It consists of a 32 meter high bronze statue standing on an 8 meter high base. The statue was cast in 2014 under Royal Patronage of Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand. 16_12_05_4422The standing Buddha is surrounded by a very large landscaped park, at Wat Thipsukhontharam, Don Salaep subdistrict, Huai Krachao District, Kanchanaburi Province. The modern temple also has an excellent exhibition concerning history of Buddhism, life of the Buddha and information on the casting of Phra Buddha Metta Pracha Thai Trai Lokanat Gandhara Anusorn.

The whole park and setting are outstanding and the following pictures should explain why we spent a couple of unexpected hours here.16_12_05_442416_12_05_441816_12_05_4426

16_12_05_4430

Some amazing topiary

16_12_05_4434

Clever use of bricks to create an interesting path

16_12_05_442716_12_05_4429

16_12_05_4431

Classic temple guardian

16_12_05_4435

16_12_05_4423

Keeping the whole park immaculate

16_12_05_4436

16_12_05_4439

This is part of the less formal area. (5 on the map above). The pathways here are lined with rough cut blocks of stone with Buddhist history.

16_12_05_4440

An interesting bridge with upright metal rods forming the fence on either side

16_12_05_4441

Looking back to the Buddha statue from the bridge with some of the Buddhist history blocks of stone

As you can see an exceptional park around an amazing bronze Buddha. When you consider it was only opened two years ago the planting was looking great. Oddly enough there is very little about this park on the internet and none of the tourist guides seem to mention it. We were there on a national holiday and there were very few people there.  If you are travelling in this part of the world then make a visit, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Glebe House Garden

Three weeks holiday and the garden is not in too much mess. There had been some very cold weather, while we were away, which has finished off most of the herbaceous plants and the final leaf drop has happened. Yet-lag and dull weather have meant only 4 hours in the garden this week. A quick lawn cut to pick up the leaves and some cutting back of the herbaceous borders.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
4 460 18

Gardens of Rememberance

We have been travelling in Myanmar (previously known as Burma) and Thailand for the pass three weeks. Our itinerary included visits to some of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries. The first of these was the Taukkyan War Cemetery in Yangon (Rangoon). Before we left England  a chance finding in Diane’s deceased father’s papers had given us the name of her Auntie Joan’s fiancée who had gone missing in Burma during the Second World War. His name was Cyril Lambert and further research indicated that he was remembered on face 11 on the Rangoon Memorial in the Taukkyan War Cemetery.

War memorials may seem a strange topic for a garden blog but these are gardens in their own right. I have been impressed by both the beauty and sadness of these memorials and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission need to be congratulated on their work. Much of the historical text below has been taken from the CWGC website.

Taukkyan War Cemetery16_11_27_4032

Taukkyan War Cemetery is the largest of the three war cemeteries in Burma (now Myanmar). It was begun in 1951 for the reception of graves from four battlefield cemeteries at Akyab, Mandalay, Meiktila and Sahmaw which were difficult to access and could not be maintained. The last was an original ‘Chindit’ cemetery containing many of those who died in the battle for Myitkyina. The graves have been grouped together at Taukkyan to preserve the individuality of these battlefield cemeteries

Burials were also transferred from civil and cantonment cemeteries, and from a number of isolated jungle and roadside sites. Because of prolonged post-war unrest, considerable delay occurred before the Army Graves Service were able to complete their work, and in the meantime many such graves had disappeared. However, when the task was resumed, several hundred more graves were retrieved from scattered positions throughout the country and brought together here.

The cemetery now contains 6,374 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 867 of them unidentified.

In the 1950s, the graves of 52 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War were brought into the cemetery from the following cemeteries where permanent maintenance was not possible: Henzada (1); Meiktila Cantonment (8); Thayetmyo New (5); Thamakan (4); Mandalay Military (12) and Maymyo Cantonment (22).

Taukkyan War Cemetery also contains:

  • The Rangoon Memorial, which bears the names of almost 27,000 men of the Commonwealth land forces who died during the campaigns in Burma and who have no known grave. The memorial was designed by Mr. H.J. Brown, ARIBA and unveiled by General Sir Francis Festing, GCB, KBE, DSO on 9 February 1958.
  • The Taukkyan Cremation Memorial, commemorating more than 1,000 Second World War casualties whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith.
  • The Taukkyan Memorial, which commemorates 46 servicemen of both wars who died and were buried elsewhere in Burma but whose graves could not be maintained.

16_11_27_4034Each grave is marked with a headstone giving, where available, name, regiment, and a personalised inscription. Many could not be identified.

In every direction there are rows and rows of the headstones each separated by some flowering plants and all immaculately kept surrounded by lawns.

The Rangoon Memorial

16_11_27_4039

The Rangoon Memorial

16_11_27_4047It is in the form of two long open garden courts, flanked by covered walks and joined by an open rotunda. The names of the fallen are carved on the inner faces of broad rectangular piers placed at intervals to form the sides of the covered walks. Through these colonnades can be seen the green lawns of the cemetery and the colourful garden courts.

16_11_27_4040

Detail from face 11 remembering Cyril Lambert

16_11_27_4046

Detail from the Memorial Register

The Death Railway

16_12_04_4338The Death Railway (Burma-Siam railway) stretched for 415 km from Thanbyuzayat in Burma to Nong Pladuk in Bangpong District in Ratchaburi province in Thailand. 304 km of the railway was located in Thailand and the remaining 111 km in Burma.

The notorious railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar).

Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre. The Japanese aimed at completing the railway in 14 months and work began in October 1942. The line, 424 kilometres long, was completed by December 1943.

16_12_04_4351

The notorious Hellfire Pass

The cutting know as Hellfire Pass is the longest and deepest along the entire length of the railway.It was also notorious as one of the worst places of suffering on the railway. The cutting was planned by Japanese engineers and was to be cut using manual labour.16_12_04_4359In fact there were two cuttings , a short one of 73 metres length and 25 metres deep and a longer cutting about 450 metres long and 8 metres deep.16_12_04_433916_12_04_4345These were typical tools now in the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum. If you get the chance this museum is well worth a visit.

The cutting was known by several names, originally Konyu cutting and then later variously ‘Hammer and Tap’ because of the constant sound of ‘hammer and tap’ crews drilling holes for explosives and now better known as Hellfire Pass, so named after the prisoners of war were kept working long into the night by the light of fires and torches.

The prisoners died because of sickness, malnutrition and exhaustion. There was very little or no medical treatment available and many prisoners suffered horribly before they died. The prisoner’s diet consisted of rice and salted vegetables served twice a day. Sometimes they were forced to work up to sixteen hours a day under atrocious conditions. Many prisoners were tortured for the smallest offenses. The Japanese commander’s motto was “if you work hard you will be treated well, but if you do not work hard you will be punished.” Punishments included savage beatings, being made to kneel on sharp sticks while holding a boulder for one to three hours at a time and being tied to a tree with barbed wire and left there for two to three days without any food or water.

16_12_02_4303

The Thanpyuzayat end of the railway

Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery16_12_02_4296

The graves of those who died during the construction and maintenance of the Burma-Siam railway (except for the Americans, whose remains were repatriated) were transferred from camp burial grounds and isolated sites along the railway into three cemeteries at Chungkai and Kanchanaburi in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar.

Thanbyuzayat became a prisoner of war administration headquarters and base camp in September 1942 and in January 1943 a base hospital was organised for the sick. The camp was close to a railway marshalling yard and workshops, and heavy casualties were sustained among the prisoners during Allied bombing raids in March and June 1943. The camp was then evacuated and the prisoners, including the sick, were marched to camps further along the line where camp hospitals were set up. For some time, however, Thanbyuzayat continued to be used as a reception centre for the groups of prisoners arriving at frequent intervals to reinforce the parties working on the line up to the Burma-Siam border.

Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery was created by the Army Graves Service who transferred to it all graves along the northern section of the railway, between Moulmein and Nieke.

There are now 3,149 Commonwealth and 621 Dutch burials of the Second World war in the cemetery.16_12_02_429816_12_02_4299

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery16_12_04_4379

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is only a short distance from the site of the former ‘Kanburi’, the prisoner of war base camp through which most of the prisoners passed on their way to other camps. It was created by the Army Graves Service who transferred to it all graves along the southern section of railway, from Bangkok to Nieke.

16_12_04_4374Some 300 men who died (most from a Cholera epidemic in May/June 1943) at Nieke camp were cremated and their ashes now lie in two graves in the cemetery. The names of these men are inscribed on panels in the shelter pavilion.

There are now 5,085 Commonwealth casualties of the Second World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. There are also 1,896 Dutch war graves and 1 non-war grave. 16_12_04_4377
Within the entrance building to the cemetery will be found the Kanchanaburi Memorial, recording the names of 11 men of the army of undivided India buried in Muslim cemeteries in Thailand, where their graves could not be maintained.

The cemetery was designed by Colin St Clair Oakes.

Postscript

We spent at least one hour in each of these cemeteries. Walking along the rows, reading the inscriptions and thinking about the history behind each grave. You would need to be a very hard person not to come away with a tear in your eyes.

Garden visits in the East

It is always amazing that it is possible to live in a relatively small country and have not visited all the various parts of that country. It was for this reason we decided to have a short holiday in Suffolk, a location that would also enable us to visit Beth Chatto’s garden and explore the Suffolk county.

Ickworth House

First stop of interest was the National Trust property Ickworth House.  16_09_06_3384Ickworth house is dominated by the impressive Rotunda commissioned by the 4th Earl of Bristol to house his priceless treasures collected on tours around Europe in the 18th-century. For 200 years, the eccentric, and sometimes infamous, Hervey family added to the treasures inside and out, also creating the earliest Italianate garden in England. The Italianate garden was interesting but not very photographic. It is essentially an evergreen garden with miles of box hedging. Sadly much of the hedging is suffering from box blight and, as a result, now looks very neglected. Interestingly the balls in the picture above were not box but nevertheless look very effective.

The grounds of the estate offer a number of walks in a very “Capability Brown” landscape although there is no evidence that he actually did any work on the gardens. 16_09_06_3382The kitchen gardens are huge and as is often the case have mostly become grass and weeds. However, there are plans to renovate them which will give an extra point of interest for garden enthusiasts. 16_09_06_3381However, there is much work to be done!

Lavenham

16_09_07_3402Suffolk is well endowed with beautiful medieval villages and Lavenham is one of the best.  Apparently the reason there are so many medieval buildings is that the town had been very prosperous. By the middle of the 15th century Lavenham was one of the most significant weaving centres in England, and remarkably for a town that never had a population greater than 2000, it is said to have been the 14th richest settlement in the country. However, this did not last and it went into rapid decline. This relative poverty helped preserve the place in its medieval glory for us to admire, as the residents could not afford to improve their properties. As a consequence many medieval houses still exist. There is a guided walk which describes many of the medieval buildings and is well worth doing if you visit Lavenham.

16_09_07_3388

The Guildhall

16_09_07_3399

No 55 Water Street

16_09_07_3401Numbers 10 and 11 Lady Street, now a very nice bistro. And there are many more similar properties.

Beth Chatto’s garden

For many years I have read articles by Beth Chatto and have always wanted to visit her garden16_09_07_3416The gardens started in 1960 when she took an overgrown wasteland of brambles, parched gravel and boggy ditches, transforming it using plants adapted by nature to thrive in different conditions to create the garden we see today. What was once a car park is now the much publicised Gravel Garden (which is never watered).

The garden is as you would expect very well maintained and some of the vistas are very attractive however, for me, the gardens lacked the ultimate wow factor. I would also have liked to have seen more plant labelling which I would have expected given the garden’s heritage.

The Gravel Garden was a little disappointing particularly given Beth Chatto’s writings on plants for dry places. There were plenty of plants surviving the dry conditions but they did not work as a whole. This may have been that we were seeing the garden after a long very hot period.

Hyde Hall

Our next garden visit was the Royal Horticultural Gardens at Hyde Hall. The RHS took over the land in 1993 and have been developing the gardens since then. It is 10 years since we last visited Hyde Hall and the developments and maturity of the gardens since then have been significant.16_09_09_3456

16_09_09_3436

Modern Country show garden

Grasses are used to good effect throughout the garden.16_09_09_3447One of the colour coded borders which were looking fantastic for the middle of september.

The Dry Garden, above, was one of the first developments when the RHS started to develop the garden. They are really very interesting with a huge range of plants and are a star attraction in the garden.16_09_09_3454A new development for 2017. The hard landscaping for a new vegetable area which will be based around a circle divided into quarters, each representing a different area of the world. Other developments include the landscaping and planting of the acres of land and the planting of a winter garden. 16_09_09_3448Lastly it is always nice to take home some new planting ideas such as this Rudbeckia.

Glebe House Garden

The garden had to look after itself this week!

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
6 201 17

Two very different garden visits

A Capability Brown landscape updated by Piet Oudolf, Nigel Dunnett and  Tom Stuart-Smith sounds like a garden worth seeing. Put this together with a “Country House Rescue” project and that formed the basis for a trip arranged by the Leicestershire & Rutland Gardens Trust. The trip was to Heath House and Trentham Gardens.

Heath House

The estate was financially non viable and was a candidate in Country House Rescue featuring Ruth Watson in 2010. It is now in the process of being transformed into a wedding venue. The surrounding 125-acre parkland includes an old walled kitchen garden, former stables and a delightful Regency orangery that overlooks a sunken rose garden with clipped box hedging and stone balustrades. There is still work to be done, particularly on the garden and out buildings but the location is stunning

Heath House

Approach to the Orangery

heath house

Regency Orangery

heath House

View from the Orangery

The box is cut late in the year to avoid browning of the leaves. Apparently the brides do not like it when the leaves are scorched with the sun!

heath houseThe pergola was being destroyed by the weight of an old wisteria and is in the process of renovation with half the uprights having been rebuilt.

Heath House enjoys a fabulous location and as such the borrowed landscape enhances the gardens. If you are in the area when they are open it would be worth a visit.

Trentham Gardens

Gardens that were well known for their carpet bedding borders were given a major makeover in 2003-2005 by Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith.

Piet Oudolf

trentham gardens Piet Oudolf

The Floral Labyrinth

Piet Oudolf’s distinctive prairie planting of perennials and grasses is now a well known gardening style. Running alongside the River Trent there are two main areas. The Floral Labyrinth, which Oudolf describes as having a pattern like “the neck of a giraffe”, consists of a network of borders divided by wide grass paths which are interspersed with little clearings. There is then a dividing curtain of river birch (Betula nigra) before you move into a wet meadow.

trentham gardens Piet Oudolf

The Rivers of Grass

This area is The Rivers of Grass and looking down on it the movement of the grasses simulates the movement of a river. It is simply planted with two varieties of molinia grasses (‘Edith Dudszus’ and ‘Heidebraut’) and some dotted colour (Persicaria bistorta ‘Superba’ or Astilbe chinensis). Unfortunately this area was not looking particularly good as, following a winter chop, the grasses had not attained a good enough height to really move in the wind.

The Floral Labyrinth:

The best source of plant names is from Piet’s web site where the original planting plans can be downloaded. There are two viewing mounds which enable you to look down on both the areas.

Tom Stuart-SmithTrentham Gardens Tom Stuart-Smith

Tom Stuart-Smith’s contemporary naturalistic planting combines the formality of the Victorian Italianate parterre with soft grasses and perennials, punctuated by the strong verticals of yew.Trentham Gardens Tom Stuart-SmithThe Italian garden links the site of the Trentham Hall with the lake and can be seen beyond the last of the carpet bedding schemes although Tom modified this with the yews and Stipa gigantea.

Nigel DunnettNigel Dunnett Trentham Garden

Nigel is well known for his wildflower meadows and was responsible for much of the wildflower plantings in the Olympic Park. At Trentham he has planted his traditional pictorial meadows and is experimenting with  a new woodland garden under shade. August is not prime month for such planting but the meadows still looked spectacular.

Overall, the new garden developments at Trentham are worth seeing, particularly if, as we had, one of the excellent garden guides to show you around and give you some of the insider information on the garden. However, beware, Trentham is also a major destination for people with little interest in gardening but go for the many other attractions to be had there so choose the day you visit carefully.

Glebe House Garden

It’s Friday and at last we have a little drop of rain. Not really enough to make any difference to the dry state of the plants. Maybe the weekend will bring more rain.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
27 159 18

 

The regeneration of a significant walled garden

This week we went to Norwich to see the Giacometti exhibition “A Line Through Time” at the Sainsbury Centre. Absolutely stunning but that’s another story. As we were staying overnight near Norwich we decided to visit Blickling Hall and Gardens. The absolute star there was the walled garden.

In early 2015 it was just grass. Then a project was started to regenerate the walled garden to achieve a productive garden that is able to supply the Blickling Estate cafe.

bickling.jpg

Blickling Walled Garden project beginning

And now just 18 months later it is being realised.

A stunning achievement and Mike, the project manager, and his team need to be congratulated on their achievement.DSC01260

Clematis of the week

08_07_16_2793x

Clematis Margaret Hunt

Clematis Margaret Hunt is a strong-growing vine that has large star-shaped, dusty pink (with hints of lavender) flowers in mid to late summer. Its pinnate leaves are pale green.

Sweet Peas

Sometimes the unexpected happens. Last year “The English Garden” magazine included a free packet of Sweet Pea seeds. These were planted in October in the cold greenhouse and planted out in March this year. They have been enormously successful and have been flowering for many weeks now. The bad news is that I have no idea what variety they were so it will be hard to repeat this success next year!

Gardening at Glebe House Garden was very much dependent on the weather this week with frequent showers of rain ensuring it was not always possible to use an electric hedge cutter.  However, one of the boundary hedges was cut and the cuttings shredded ready for adding to the compost heap. More progress on the cobbles was made and another crop of milkweed around the roses removed. Such a hard weed to eliminate!

Gardening hours
This week Since June 19th
30 102