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.

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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’

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‘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
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End of the Month View – July 2017

It is just over a year that I have been doing this blog. During that time I have done a number of EoMV which centred around one view across the main lawn.

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July 2017

To start with I am going to look back at this view as to how it has changed through the seasons. To do this I have put together a slide show in chronological order.

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Its is not perfect and how I wish I had taken this view every month. Never the less it is interesting how the colours change through the year with plants coming into bloom and then dying back and the angle of the sun making the shadows change.

Back to this July. So far the weather has been a tough this year with the first six months being very much drier then usual but then quite a heavy amount of rain in the last couple of weeks.  Plants that love rain have suffered from the lack. Dahlias are not as tall as this time last year. However there is much to look at.

17_07_27_6772This is the bed to the right of the view above. You can see one of the penalties of going on holiday….the box hedge has not been cut yet! 17_07_27_6772Behind the urn we planted some Artemesia. This is the first year it has looked the part with clouds of little white flowers.

Moving around the beds from the right of the classic view to the left, we have.17_07_27_6773 The dry heads of Kniphofia ‘Nancy’s Red’ needs to be removed as they make the border look like autumn. However the day lily Hemerocallis ‘Stafford’ looks good against the Cotinus ‘Nottcutts Variety’.17_07_27_6774The Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’ beautiful lilac blue balls would look good any where but against the dark foliage of Dahlia Bishop of Auckland they look great. A self set Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s ghost’ was presumably planted by Miss Willmot!17_07_27_6775Phloxs have been grown well this year, this one is Phlox paniculata ‘David’.17_07_27_6776Agapanthus remind me of Tresco with the red Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’ to the front. This Agapanthus is kept in the pot and left outside through the winter but always seems to comeback each year.17_07_27_6777This border is a bit disappointing. The dry weather seems to have resulted in the roses stopping earlier than normal and, as I said above, the dahlias have not been as good this year.17_07_27_6778The bright yellow flowers are Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’ and should continue to flower through the autumn.17_07_27_6779The nice Osteospermum is Osteospermum ‘Tresco hybrids’ but is not hardy in Leicestershire so I will take cuttings shortly.

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Miss Willmott’s ghost and Cloth of Gold

17_07_27_6781The large leaves are Ricinus communis impala with Clematis ‘Wyevale’, the blue flowers on the right.17_07_27_6782A very striking Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’17_07_27_6783A Kniphofia ‘Nancy’s Red’ with some specimen weeds in the background.17_07_27_6784Looking back towards the pergola the border I was disappointed in does not look so bad after all!17_07_27_6785And this view caught my eye.

Do have a look at Helen The Patient Gardener’s blog where you will find links to other gardens at the end of July. Thank you to Helen for hosting this meme.

The rain has kept us out of the garden this week but there is lots to do, particularly removing the specimen weeds!

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning July 22nd Total 2017 to-date Average per week
22 609 20

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – July 2017

17_07_12_6705The weather this year has been a challenge. It has been dry and hot and we seem to be advancing into that gap between Summer and Autumn even so it is only the end of July. Many plants are dry and crispy and having been away for a couple of weeks we have not had time to remove those specimen weeds that always seem to grow the best! However, there is still much to show this month.

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is doing well and has picked up considerably since we gave it a good watering.

The dahlias have been slow to bloom probably lack of water. Here is Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ with Hemerocallis ‘Catherine Woodbury’17_07_12_6662Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ looking great as always.17_07_12_6663Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’17_07_12_6695almost lost in the border with other perennials.17_07_12_6664Another day lily, Hemerocallis ‘Stafford’.17_07_12_6665A favorite with the bees and looking at its best Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s ghost’17_07_12_6666The blue globes of Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’. This magnificent variety produces stiff silvery stems with dark green, silver-backed thistle-like leaves which terminate in brilliant dark, vivid blue globes the size of a spiky golf ball.

Dahlia Twyning’s After Eight the white flower offset by the dark foliage.17_07_12_6667Anthemis tinctoria ‘Sauce Hollandise’ need supporting as it grows but gives a real splash of colour.17_07_12_6672One for the back of the border. Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’ will grow to six feet.17_07_12_6673Another echinops, Echinops Humilis ‘Taplow Blue’ also grows to around six feet.17_07_12_6700And here they are together with Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’.17_07_12_6671A useful gap filler for the front of the border is Mesembryanthemum and it is easy to grow from seed.17_07_12_6668Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’ another useful plant for the front of the border.17_07_12_6669One of my favorite dahlias, Dahlia Bishop of Auckland.  17_07_12_6670Always unexpected, Verbena bonariensis plants itself where it wants to grow but it is always a delight.

One of the best, Rosa ‘Bonica’ 17_07_12_6678Day lily, Hemerocallis ‘Lemon Bells’17_07_12_6681and in the same border Hemerocallis ‘Catherine Woodbery’

Eremurus White Beauty Favourite doing well as they were only planted last November.17_07_12_6679Achillea ‘Credo’ was planted in 2016 and is now looking much stronger.17_07_12_6706The bottom of the garden with Stipa gigantea and17_07_12_6684 Echinacea.17_07_12_6686Leucanthemum ‘Goldrausch’ a good strong  Shasta Daisy.17_07_12_6687Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ with17_07_12_6688Phlox paniculata Uspekh in the background.

By the large pond the seat is surrounded by lilies. Lilium Inuvik and Lilium Inuvik. Easy to do, just plant bulbs in pots November/ December and wait.17_07_12_6694Phoxs have done particularly well this year. In the foreground is Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’.17_07_12_6696Lavandula augustifolia ‘Hidcote’ is always hard to keep looking good and not woody.17_07_12_6697We only have one hanging basket and here it is!

A couple of clematis, Clematis ‘Perle d’Azur’ and Clematis ‘Jackmanii’.17_07_12_6699A great honeysuckle which we took as a cutting from another garden.17_07_12_6701Rosa ‘Meg’ a beautiful climbing rose that was in the garden 23 years ago when we brought the house and garden.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see what is blooming in gardens around the world.

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning July 8th Total 2017 to-date Average per week
13 571 20

End of the Month View – October 2016

16_10_26_3589It is quite amazing how little has changed over the last 9 weeks since the EoMV for August. The shadows are getting longer and we move our clocks one hour back this week end with the end of summer time so the evening really will get dark quickly. We have had no frost yet so all of the more tender plants continue to shine. Actually there are more dahlias in flower now.16_10_26_3596The Dahlia Twyning’s After Eight has produced so many flowers despite a lack of dead heading (I had assumed that any day now the tubers would be going into store for the winter so deadheading would not be worth doing!).16_10_26_3603Similarly Dahlia Bishop Of Llandaff and Dahlia Bishop of Auckland16_10_26_3608Bishop of Auckland is a lovely dahlia. It has velvety, crimson, single flowers on near-black stems, in contrast with dark green-red leaves. As the flowers age the edge of the petals have an almost incandescent blue tinge.16_10_26_360516_10_26_3591Dahlia David Howard also continues to perform.16_10_26_3604Looking back towards our house along the south west facing border. In places plants are looking dry and finished but the sheer number of flowers is incredible.16_10_26_3595From the same spot looking to the south west16_10_26_3606A sign of the days moving towards winter when Cosmos Purity gets too large and falls over but it is still flowering.16_10_26_3599There are seed heads everywhere. Here the seed head from an Agapanthus.16_10_26_3602And here the dried up remains of Miss Wilmott’s Ghost with very nice grasses behind. We grow these from seed but unfortunately did not record what they were!16_10_26_3597A corner of the pergola with Eucomis in the foreground and Euphorbia mellifera  in the background.16_10_26_3592Many roses continue to flower. This is Rosa Mutablis which has now been flowering since last May. Mutablis illustrates the typical China rose trait of darkening with age, instead of fading. Single petals open sulfur yellow, changing through orange to a rich pink and finally crimson. Bright, silky flowers of all these colors will often be on display at the same time, looking as if a group of multi-colored butterflies has settled on the bush. This aspect earned Mutabilis its common name–”The Butterfly Rose”. 08_06_16_2673Rosa Mutablis last May, six months of beautiful flowers.16_10_26_3614Just as I was about to finish this blog there was a spectacular sunset. This photograph is taken from our conservatory (see photograph above) and is looking across the garden towards the west. The old kitchen garden garden wall (1704) can be seen on the right. Originally it would have continues across the picture, to the left, where there is an arch and rose bed.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
32 400 21

End of Month View – August 2016

16_08_24_3297This is a view across the garden into what was originally a walled kitchen garden to the village rectory. The wall at the back is double skinned and could be heated via a fireplace and a system of brick ducts to transport the heat through the wall.  The flower beds were originally only a couple of feet deep when we moved here in 1994 but has since been increased up to 12 feet deep. The pergola on the right is made from green oak and replaced one that was made from scaffolding planks and poles.  The lawn, viewed from above forms a large half circle.

I shall use my “End of Month View” to look at this view and how it develops through the year. The following sequence of photos look at the borders in more detail from left to right.16_08_24_3298The star here is the Rudbeckia ‘Berlin’ with the Osteospermum ‘Tresco Purple’ and the Molinia caerulea grass behind. At this time of year much of this border is looking either green or brown. In the future we intend to get more gems of colour such as the Rudbeckia into the planting schemes16_08_24_3300With the Molinia on the left there is a bank of dahlias,  ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, ‘Fairfield Frost’ & ‘Nuit D’Ete’ together with Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’. I often use dahlias to fill gaps in the late summer borders.16_08_24_3299The Rudbeckia ‘Herbstone’ at the back provides good colour with Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s ghost’ providing structural interest. However the large leaves of Crambe Cordifolia in the centre has become an issue for this border. In late May the flowers can be great (although this year they failed completely) but for much of the year it only provides a mass of leaves. I think it will be gone next year!16_08_24_3302As you can see I designed and built the pond in 2010. We have been delighted with the pond but have struggled with the planting in front. Currently we have ground cover Rosa ‘Snow Carpet’ underplanted with Clematis ‘Chelsea’ neither has done that well which could be because it is a very dry spot. 16_08_24_3304This border on the right has done well this year. The large Nepeta is ‘Six Hills Giant’ with dahlias ‘David Howard’ and ‘Twyning’s After Eight’. In the centre is an interesting Salvia involocruta bethellii. This salvia is cut back in the winter but so far has survived our winters and grows to around 6 feet. We normally mulch the base in winter with dry material to protect it from the frost.

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Salvia involocruta bethellii