Monday, 29 July 2013

Broughton Grange near Banbury - a walled garden with a difference

The unique parterre at Broughton Grange - designed by Tom Stuart Smith 
When Tom Stuart Smith was commissioned to re-design the gardens at Broughton Grange as a Millennium project for the owners, he introduced a whole new meaning to the concept of parterre in this country. His design is unique - based on shapes taken from the leaf cell structures of beech, oak and ash trees featured elsewhere in the garden - and although it's difficult to see the precise patterns in the pictures here, save for the crinkly shapes, you can see that both compartment structure and planting are unique.
Prairie-style planting in the top section of the Walled Garden at Broughton Grange
Broughton Grange is just outside Banbury in Oxfordshire - it's a Cotswold stone manor house, set in the heart of a 350-acre estate with fine views over the surrounding countryside. When the owners approached Tom Stuart Smith to redesign the existing landscape there was no walled garden here at all. It was merely an empty field overlooking the distant horizon, which he transformed into a three-tiered terrace with prairie planting, a productive vegetable garden, unusual water features and a spectacular and unusual parterre.
The knot garden in front of the main house, with views to the countryside beyond
Look elsewhere in this garden and you will find a very different tempo, including the immaculate knot garden to the west of the main house (above), edged in York stone and a much more traditional second parterre (below), running on an east-west axis to the south of the property, and leading into the traditional long borders to the south. The garden extends to 25 acres and includes many mature trees, an orchard, and a sunken garden which is home to a stumpery and peat wall garden. A further 80 acres have been designated as an arboretum.
The secondary parterre at Broughton Grange runs on an east to west axis below the main house
But it is the walled garden - designed in 2000 by Tom Stuart Smith, who worked in conjunction with architect Ptolemy Dean on the hard landscaping - that appeals to visitors on the annual open days here at Broughton Grange. It is designed to provide year-round interest and each October some 5,000 tulip bulbs are planted to ensure spectacular displays in springtime. These are later replaced with summer flowering plants to give colour throughout the summer months.  
Another view of Tom Stuart Smith's parterre - part of the walled garden at Broughton Grange
Broughton Grange had been in the Morrell family for nearly 200 years before changing hands in 1992 and the garden was desperately in need of renovation when purchased by the present owners. The garden is open every Wednesday from May to September (10.00-16.00) and admission is £6.00 for adults (children under 16 free). Details of other open days - for the local hospice and the NGS are shown on the Broughton website.
Ptolemy Dean did all the hard landscaping at the Grange, including all doors and walls
For more summer garden ideas, click here.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Summer flower and steam spectacular at Bressingham Gardens - a great day out for all the family

Bressingham Gardens - where steam trains are paired with spectacular borders
Few gardeners can imagine the possibility of pairing steam trains with spectacular summer borders, but the combination really does work and solves the problem of a family day out likely to appeal to all ages during the long summer holidays. That's what you'll find at Bressingham in Norfolk and when I visited this week, I was astounded by the colour and form of the 16-acre gardens and enchanted by the narrow-guage railway train that winds its way through the Dell Garden. 
Bressinghams was founded by Alan Bloom in 1953
The nursery at Bressingham, known as Blooms, was founded by Alan Bloom in 1953. He was primarily a nurseryman, with a special interest in hardy perennials. But his other great passion was steam trains. All his initial efforts went into the horticulture side of the business, where he experimented with the highly-successful island beds that remain such an outstanding feature of the six-acre (2.4 hectares) Dell Garden today. But his love of horticulture was matched by his love of steam engines and he acquired his first locomotive less than a decade later - 10-ton Bertha - purchased in nearby Thetford in 1961.
Part of the charm of Bressingham is that you can hop aboard a miniature train and see Alan Bloom's horticultural prowess and magnificent planting schemes up close, before exploring the rest of the gardens at leisure on foot. But there is another whole section of garden, equal in size to Alan Bloom's, created by his son Adrian, who joined the family business in 1962. This part of the garden is known as Foggy Bottom and although equal in size to the Dell, is very different in both temperament and planting.   
The garden that Adrian Bloom has created in the last 50 years on the site of a former meadow is very different to his father's plot and features a range of conifers and heathers from all over the world that keep their colour and structure throughout the seasons. There is also a fine collection of giant redwood trees (sequoladendron gigantum) which he brought back from California and grew from seed. The unusual name - Foggy Bottom - does not come from morning mists rising from the large central pond, but rather from a place that Adrian knew in the United States.
Bressingham is definitely worth a visit, whether you are a railway or plant enthusiast. It is open daily (10.30-17.00) from the end of March to early November and there are various different tickets available, depending on whether you want to visit the gardens, or ride the trains. Click on the link for prices. You can also stay at Bressingham Hall, at the heart of the gardens, on a bed and breakfast basis.
For more summer garden ideas, click here

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Splendid Suffolk - Garden stories to come!

Bressingham Gardens - the island beds around the Hall created by Alan Bloom
Bressingham in bloom
Bottle display at Wyken Vineyard
The "Hot" garden at Wyken Hall

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Beside the seaside II - Sandgate Close, Seaford - open for NGS this weekend

If you're off in search of interesting gardens to visit this weekend, you simply cannot miss the two that are open for the NGS in Seaford, Sussex this Sunday - Driftwood  and Sandgate Close. The latter is a magical, mini-botanical garden, filled to capacity with interesting plants - a miniscule micro-climate where you'll find something to delight you at every turn and more than 500 different plant species in under an eighth of an acre.
The garden at Sandgate is the brainchild of Denis and Aideen Jones, who arrived here in 1982, when there was nothing more than a poor quality lawn and 12 Leylandii along the back fence. Times have certainly changed and when you enter the garden gate, you are transported into a magical world of plant wizardry. Every inch of garden is covered with  plants and this is also a fine example of how to live without a lawn!
Denis and Aideen open the garden for charity regularly throughout the summer season and also by appointment.  They are open this Sunday (21st July) for the NGS from 11.00-17.00 and are also part of the Sussex Macmillan Appeal on the weekend of 3rd and 4th August, when 22 gardens from Brighton to Eastbourne are open. Get there for an open day if you can - this is definitely a 5-star "Small is Beautiful" garden.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside! Drop into Driftwood this weekend - a Sussex garden with heart open for NGS

Driftwood is one of two Seaford gardens opening its doors for the NGS in Sussex this weekend and is well worth making the effort to see if you like to be beside the sea. This glorious postage stamp garden is a riot of colour right on the coast and you'll be inspired by the innovative planting and design. You'll also be amazed at the variety of plants in the garden.
Owner Geoff Stonebanks works tirelessly in his plot to raise funds for charity and has already raised over £21,000 with 57 openings to date. Driftwood opens regularly for the NGS during the summer, as well as other charities and the garden was a finalist in the coveted Daily Mail National Garden Competition last year. This year also sees it as an active participant in the Thompson and Morgan customer seed trials programme. 
I had a sneak preview yesterday with my friend and fellow blogger, Ronnie Tyler, who is busy "kicking cancer". You can read her story on "Hurtled to 60 and now Beyond" Driftwood is one of the gardens on our trug list. We had perfect weather for our visit, even if the temperature was climbing into the high eighties, and it was wonderful to see Ronnie out and about. 
Driftwood is open tomorrow for the NGS, from 11.00 to 17.00 and Geoff will be serving tea in his delightful garden. His trademark is his vintage china. Neighbouring Sandgate Close is also open and I shall be dropping in there today for a sneak preview, so watch this space for more pictures later.
And if you can't get there this weekend, both gardens are also opening as part of the Sussex Macmillan Appeal, and featuring 22 gardens between Brighton and Eastbourne on the 3rd and 4th August. This is the second year of the programme and you can read about it and the participating gardens by clicking on the link

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Memories of RHS Hampton Court

Conceptual Garden - I Disappear, designed by Arek Luc
Show Garden - Singing Tree, designed by Clive Mollart and Clive Scott
Summer Garden - Willow Pattern, designed by Sue Thomas

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Home from California heatwave and hotfoot from RHS Hampton Court ...

Ecover garden - gold medal and Best in Show - designed by Michael Childs
Home from California at teatime yesterday and up there with the crowds at Hampton Court Flower Show today .... high temperatures, huge crowds and happy people looking at all the show gardens, so I had to hustle my way to the front to get these pictures. But with three days to go, readers may want to see what's in store for them.
Ashes to Ashes - won gold medal - designed by Bruce Waldock
Mid-Century - awarded gold medal and best low-cost, high-impact garden -
designed by Adele Ford and Susan Wilmott

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

After California Dreamin' - heading home to Hampton Court

Lotusland near Santa Barbara - 37 acres of horticultural wonder
Nearly three weeks in California and thousands of miles later, I've visited more than 20 gardens during my stay here and loved every moment. Highlights included many of the gardens visited on the 2013 Garden Bloggers Fling, where we were lucky enough to visit many small, private plots in and around San Francisco.
The lath botanical building in Balboa Park, San Diego
I was also fortunate to be able spend time in the Los Angeles area, which meant that I got to one of my long-time "Wish List" gardens - Lotusland, outside Santa Barbara - and to see some of the missions, including San Juan Capistrano (below), before heading south to San Diego where I was able to see the famous lath botanical building in Balboa Park (above).
The mission, San Juan Capistrano, with all the roses in bloom
Now it's home to Hampton Court and another heatwave ... or so I'm told. After temperatures well into the 90s here in southern California, I suspect that I'm going to enjoy every moment in the sunshine back home. I'll be reviewing all the gardens I've visited here on the West coast in the next few months, but for reviews on San Diego Botanic Garden and Keeyla Meadows' amazing blaze of colour outside San Francisco, click on the links. And please, can anybody tell me what this plant below is - seen in Balboa Park yesterday.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Silent Saturday - California cactus up close

Cactus flowers seen on my travels here in California - at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, San Diego Botanic Garden, Lotusland and San Capistrano Mission - all to be reviewed soon. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

One for the wishlist in San Francisco - Keeyla Meadows' garden

The moment you draw up outside Keeyla Meadows' house in a San Francisco Bay area suburb, you know that you're about to see something a little different to the conventional California garden (if there is such a concept). This property is both unique and uplifting - a riot of colour and clever planting in a tiny plot that houses this popular ceramicist's studio as well as a host of plants that we can't grow back home in the UK.
Pull up at the curb and you'll see plants spilling out into the street, beckoning you in to this extraordinary and eclectic plot reminiscent of the "Flower Power" movement all those years ago - where colour and creativity combine to give a sense of charismatic, but organised chaos. There's not an inch of space unoccupied by a plant, sculpture or decorative paving stone. But this is Keeyla's trademark.
Keeyla Meadows in her studio in Albany CA
This stunning small California plot reminds me of one my favourite gardens in the UK - Driftwood in Sussex, where the packed planting scheme and creative elements are an enjoyable assault on the visual senses. Keeyla is a well-established name on the San Francisco scene, both as a garden designer and ceramicist. Her work is very much in demand and after a visit to her charming home in Albany, I can see why.  And if I'd had more room in my luggage going home, I'd have thought seriously about taking one of her pots with me, but as you can see from the picture here, they tend to be a little large! 
Keeyla opens her garden to visitors during the spring and summer months, on the first and second Sunday of the month from 1.00 to 4.00 pm, so if you're visiting the area, you can see it for yourself - you won't be disappointed. Combine this with a visit to the Ruth Bancroft garden in Walnut Creek (to be reviewed later this month) to get a view of Californian garden creativity at its best!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

California Dreaming! Visiting gardens in and around San Francisco

I never thought there would be so many unusual and interesting gardens to see in the San Francisco Bay area, but having spent the last three days on the 13th annual Garden Bloggers Fling, I have been proved wrong. I've seen some amazing places, met some of the world's great garden bloggers, and had the chance to see a dozen new gardens - some private and others open to the public. 
The Ruth Bancroft garden in Walnut Creek
Temperatures climbed well into 80s in San Francisco, and a lot higher further inland over the weekend, with some parts of California seeing highs of went well over 100 degrees as the West Coast was hit by a heatwave. Of course, the Texan bloggers - Andrea, Cindy, Diana, Melissa, Pam, Susan and Vicki - thought nothing of the searing heat. But my fellow English bloggers Helen and Victoria were just as surprised as I was by the unusually hot weather.
One of the show garden areas at Sunset magazine headquarters - open daily to the public
So while I take the time to catch up and collect my thoughts (I'm now back in southern California visiting more gardens before returning home), I'm giving a sneak preview on some of the amazing gardens visited during this year's Fling. Many of the landscapes we visited were small, private gardens, including Keeyla Meadows' wonderfully coloured plot in Albany (below) and the remarkably peaceful Dudan Garden in Walnut Creek.
Keeyla Meadows' garden in Albany is as colourful as her wonderful ceramics
We also visited nurseries and garden centres and a couple of legendary public gardens in the Bay Area including Filoli, Ruth Bancroft and the San Francisco Botanical Garden and Conservatory of Flowers. So while I take the time to catch up and collect my thoughts, I'm posting some tasters to whet your appetites. I'd like to thank this opportunity to all the California team for arranging such a wonderful itinerary for us all, especially Kelly Kilpatrick of Floradora ... and watch this space for full reviews on each of the gardens visited.
The Dudan Garden in Walnut Creek, with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside