Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Goodnestone Park - a modern parterre and a 'borrowed landscape' in Kent

Goodnestone (pronounced 'Gunstone') is an 18th century Palladian mansion
Goodnestone Park - a fine brick-built Palladian style mansion, built at the turn of the 18th century - sits amid 14 acres of gardens in a quiet corner of Kent.  It's located at the far end of a village bearing the same name as the house (pronounced 'Gunstone') where the local pub - The Fitzwalter Arms - bears the name of the family who've lived here for the last three hundred years. It's hard to tell whether the house is still occupied, although the garden is certainly well loved.
Goodnestone's parterre was designed by Charlotte Molesworth as a millennium commemoration
The parterre at the front of the property, sits on the lower of two terraces and has a broad flight of steps leading up to the elegant house, originally built by Brook Bridges between 1700 and 1704. The parterre is a recent addition - designed by Charlotte Molesworth - and commissioned to commemorate the millennium. Part of its charm is the simplicity of the design, with its network of gravel paths between the box hedges and simple planting in the enclosures.
Brick and flint arches in the walled garden, give glimpses of what's beyond
To the rear of the house are grass terraces leading to an arboretum and gravel garden, plus a woodland garden that's exceptional early in the year because of the abundant azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons and also well-known for its spring bulb displays and fritillaries. But in high summer, the focus is on the interconnecting walled gardens to the side of the main house - a classic 'borrowed' landscape focussing on the adjacent Norman church tower as their central focal point.

The central pool was added as recently as 2009
The walled gardens are were re-created within brick walls that date in part to the 18th century. It was Margaret, Lady FitzWalter, who moved to Goodnestone as a young wife in 1955, with her husband Brook - who created all that you see here, aided by head gardener John Wellard. They gardened together for over half a century and she only handed over the running to her eldest son Julian in 2012, having added many new features during her horticultural reign, including the parterre and large rill pool at the heart of the walled garden (left). 
     The ancient walls in this part of the garden shelter three sections - each very different in tempo. The area closest to the house features a profusion of old-fashioned roses, climbing plants and spectacular spring colour; the middle garden has the long rectangular pool surrounded by lawn; and the area closest to the church features traditional borders overflowing with perennials, interspersed with vegetables, fruit and flowers for cutting (below). The charm of this garden is considerably enhanced by numerous brick and flint arches in the walls giving a glimpse of what's beyond.
Goodnestone Park is open from the end of March until the end of September - Tuesdays to Fridays, 11.00-17.00 and Sundays from noon to 17.00. Also open on Sundays in February and October from noon to 16.00. Admission is £6 for adults and £2 for children (6-16). Other notable gardens nearby include Doddington Place and Godinton House.  
                                               For more garden visit ideas click here.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Titsey Place, Surrey - wondrous walled gardens nestled in heart of North Downs

The walled garden at Titsey Place is filled with flowers throughout the open season
Titsey Place nestles in a corner of Surrey, close to some of the most visited gardens in Southern England including Hever Castle and Sissinghurst. It has one of the finest walled gardens in the South-East, a manor house steeped in history and, despite its proximity to the M25 a bucolic setting that is conducive to spending several hours lazing on the grass admiring the views across the Darent valley, or walking in the extensive grounds. 
The impressive allium displays (May and early June) are soon replaced by later-flowering annuals and perennials
The jewel in the crown here is the walled garden, dating back to Victorian times and open just three afternoons a week from May to September. May sees impressive displays of alliums, followed later by a succession of annuals and perennials which guarantee colour throughout the season, together with fruit and vegetables that will make your mouth water. It was fully restored in 1996 and is now operated using original Victorian methods.
In the greenhouses there are heavily laden tomato plants and a variety of tender fruit, including peaches and nectarines, while the external walls provide support for espaliered fruit trees underplanted with colourful borders. Within the walls, the space is divided into rectangular box-edged beds, with pathways and rose or vine-covered gazebos providing crossing points between the different flower, fruit and vegetable sections. 
Rose and vine-covered gazebos intersect the pathways that divide the different growing areas
Titsey Place occupies an impressive hillside position at the heart of the North Downs, with uninterrupted views over the surrounding countryside. The house dates from 1775 and has been lived in by successive generations of the same family for the last 400 years. It is open to the public and is well known for its collection of family portraits and paintings by artists including Sir Joshua Reynolds and Canaletto.
The manor house at Titsey presides over 500 acres of parkland and woods
The manor house (above) is surrounded by some 500 acres of woodland which is open to the public for much of the year. From the house, lawns sweep down to two lakes at the bottom of the valley. The first is filled with water lilies and huge golden carp and the second has a Greek-style temple on the far shore. Closer to the house there is an immaculately-kept knot border and two formal rose gardens.
Titsey Place is only open on Wednesdays during the week and on both Saturday and Sunday, plus Bank Holiday Mondays 13.00-17.00 from mid-May to the end of September. Admission is £7.00 for house and gardens and £4.50 for the gardens. Historic Houses Association (HHA) members free. 

                                            For more summer gardens to visit, click here.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Wordless Wednesday - A walk at Scotney Castle in Kent

Scotney Castle is open daily at this time of year - well worth a visit, 
particularly in the afternoon sunlight.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Coton Manor - a garden for all seasons in the heart of England

Coton Manor is a 17th century house built of local stone, overlooking 10-acres of gardens
In my first garden foray to Northamptonshire this week, I was able to visit two very different, but highly-prized properties within a stone's throw of each other - Coton Manor and Cottesbrook Hall. But I confess it was more by luck than good judgement that I managed to see both on the same day, because the latter has extremely restricted opening hours and after a serious wrestle with the M1 that was gridlocked for much of the journey, I had chosen the only day of the week that both are open at this time of year - a Thursday.
The terraces at Coton Manor provide a micro-climate for many sun-loving plants
Coton Manor and the land surrounding it, has been nurtured by the same family for nearly a century. The result is a mature garden, with many specimen trees, where successive generations have capitalised on the setting - with fine views over the surrounding countryside - and the architecture of the 17th century stone manor house to provide an interesting backdrop to what is obviously a private garden. And although some 30,000 visitors come here every year, the garden retains a sense of intimacy that is often lacking in gardens that open regularly to the public. 
Paths and streams wind through the water garden at Coton Manor
Ian and Susie Pasley-Tyler moved here from London in 1991, when they inherited the property from his parents. They knew nothing about gardening, but during the last two decades they've embraced their 10-acre plot and Susie now works tirelessly with her team of gardeners to provide colour and interest throughout the seasons. Visitors start arriving here for the snowdrops and hellebores in February, and continue to visit until the end of September when the late summer borders are still in bloom. 
The present owners added a water staircase to the orchard
On arrival at Coton visitors wind their way past the honey-coloured house to the terraces which face south - the wisteria here is spectacular early in the season, as are the roses in the early part of the summer. But there is still plenty to see in late summer and by August many of the late borders are in bloom. Elsewhere in the garden you will find an orchard with its water staircase (above), a bog garden, woodland garden (famous for its spectacular bluebell displays in May) and, in high summer, a magnificent wildflower meadow. 
Coton Manor opens for two weeks in February for the snowdrops, but the main season is from Easter until the end of September, from Tuesday to Saturday and also Bank Holidays and Sundays in April and May from 12.00 -17.30 (last admission 16.45). Adults £6.00 and children £2.00. There is also an excellent nursery and it's well worth checking the Coton Manor website for details about garden courses that are run on site. Each year a selection of well-known gardening worthies share their knowledge with students here.
For more summer gardens to visit, click here.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Helmingham Hall Gardens - a moated paradise in Suffolk

Helmingham Hall in Suffolk - a moated 16th century property with 10-acre garden
A late spring, followed by a heat wave in July have done little to dent the charm of the gardens at Helmingham Hall in Suffolk - certainly one of the most impressive moated properties I've visited yet on my travels. The unusual architecture of the 16th century house, still occupied by descendants of John Tollemache - the man who built it - combined with the determined efforts of Lady Xa Tollemache - who has lived here since 1975 - to redesign the 10-acre gardens adjacent to the Hall, ensure that visitors will be delighted by what they find.
There is a drawbridge (right) over the moat at Helmingham Hall, which is still raised every night
The handsome house is built of brick and sits at the heart of 400 acres of parkland, where the ancient oak trees were often painted by John Constable, who lived here on the estate. Xa Tollemache knew little about gardening when she arrived at the hall, but is now well established as a garden designer. She won a gold medal at Chelsea in 1997 and since then has completed commissions at stately homes here in the UK, including Wilton House near Salisbury and Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire.  She is the brains behind the garden here and works closely with her head gardener Roy Balaam.
As you wander through the walled garden to the west of the house, you will glimpse the Hall
The garden at Helmingham is divided into two main areas - to the west of the house is the moated garden, which includes the walled kitchen garden, with its fine sweet pea tunnels, seasonal borders and an immaculate parterre, flanked at one end by the Apple Walk. The walled garden also features cruciform themed herbaceous borders, planted to flower throughout the spring and summer seasons. Elsewhere in this part of the garden you will find colour-themed yew buttressed borders and the productive potager.
Helmingham Hall takes pride of place as a backdrop from every vantage point in the walled garden
Closest to the house in the walled garden is the parterre (below), designed and planted as recently as 1978 with box hedging (and still looking untainted by box blight) and surrounding it on three sides is a rose garden featuring hybrid musks, planted by the former Lady Tollemache (Dinah) when she lived here. What is evident throughout the walled garden is the skill of Xa Tollemache to provide a constantly changing colour palette throughout the seasons. 
The parterre in the moated garden was re-planted as recently as 1978
To the north-east of the house, the tempo changes again and it is here that the current owners have created a new series of garden rooms, in keeping with the Elizabethan house and visually effective when viewed from the upstairs rooms, with a knot garden, herb garden and rose garden, all enclosed with immaculately-clipped yew hedges. Other garden areas worth exploring are the wild flower garden and orchard and you can also wander further afield into the surrounding parkland where you will find both fallow and red deer.
Xa Tollemache created new knot, herb and rose gardens at Helmingham when she arrived at the house
Helmingham Hall is open from 1 May until 15th September on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 12.00-17.00. Entrance is £6.00 for adults and £3.50 for children (free admission for HHA members). There are also two annual plant fairs, with the next one taking place on 15th September (10.30-16.00), with many specialist nurseries attending. Nearby gardens worth making the effort to see include Bressingham and Wyken Hall.

For more summer garden visit ideas, click here.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

A sneak preview of what's in store this week - Galloping Gardener recommends hot summer gardens

Scotney Castle - a moated ruin with wonderful grounds - highly recommended for summer picnics
My galloping has been somewhat curtailed recently due to family commitments, but I'm planning to get back on the road this week and head north towards some of the gardens north of Oxford - weather permitting! Now is the time to enjoy gardens in their blousy summer splendour, as the dahlias begin to bloom, and it's a good reminder that there are still plenty of wonderful gardens to visit at this time of year, even in high summer.
Rodmarton Manor in Gloucestershire - one of the finest Arts and Crafts gardens in Britain
I shall also be reviewing some of the lovely properties I visited during the recent heatwave, including Helmingham Hall in Norfolk (close to both Bressingham Gardens and Wyken Hall, which I've recently added to my garden pages), Broughton Castle and various smaller properties that I've had the chance to see.
Parham House in Sussex is famous for its borders in the four-acre walled garden
I had a really enjoyable day at Parham House (above), with its magnificent four-acre walled garden, earlier this week, which I'll be reviewing in the next few days. And then, of course, there are all the amazing California gardens waiting to be let out of my camera, following the Garden Bloggers Fling in San Francisco. But I plan to save those for later, as there are so many gardens still to visit before the end of summer in England.
Dahlias in bloom at Rousham - one of Monty Don's favourite English gardens
Many of the gardens I've visited in recent years are featured here, so click on the links for more information and in the meantime, happy garden visiting.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Garden rooms, old-fashioned roses and fine wine at Wyken Hall in Suffolk

The Quincunx at Wyken Hall, Suffolk
The charming and unusual four-acre garden surrounding an equally unique half-timbered and gabled manor house - Wyken Hall near Bury St Edmunds - is only a fraction of the flourishing enterprise operated on an ancient estate recorded in the Domesday Book by husband and wife team Sir Kenneth and Lady Carlisle. They also run a successful vineyard, working farm, thriving shop and popular eaterie next to their home in this lovely part of Suffolk.
The garden is offset by the striking copper reddish colour of the 16th century house at its heart and the owners have capitalised on the unique hue of their home to enliven the series of garden rooms that surround it. Sir Kenneth equates the unusual colour  to 'Suffolk Pink' which was used in Elizabethan times and has used a traditional limewash method rather than modern masonry paint to decorate the exterior of the hall. The house is not open to the public, but you can wander at leisure in the garden.
The cottage garden, with gate designed by George Carter
As you approach the formal gardens surrounding Wyken, you will stop first at the cottage garden with its unusual gate (above), designed by neighbouring Norfolk inhabitant George Carter, who was rated by the Sunday Times as 'one of 10 best garden designers in Britain'. And from here you walk on to discover the box quincunx in front of the house - five interlocking circles of topiary, filled with bulbs or herbs according to the time of year. And  you will be able to admire the verandah with its original Mississippi rocking chairs acquired by Lady Carlisle on a trip to America.
Walk round to the north side of the hall and you will discover the apple orchard and immaculate kitchen garden, where much of the produce is grown for The Leaping Hare Vineyard Restaurant and Cafe, located in the adjacent 400-year old barn. And from here you will catch your first glance of the hot border, currently in full bloom. The colours are magnificent in high summer and are further complemented by the hue of the house.
The Hot Border at Wyken Hall
To the south of this colourful scene are a series of garden rooms designed by Arabella Lennox-Boyd (who opens her own home Gresgarth Hall to the public once a month) back in 1983 and which are now well established. There is a herb garden, knot garden and rose garden featuring a wide variety of old-fashioned roses. And close to the house is a miniature pergola, inspired by the one at Bodnant, where Sir Kenneth was born and spent the early years of his life. 
The Wyken Hall Knot Garden designed by Arabella Lennox-Boyd
The garden changes tempo again when you head towards the southern end where you first encounter a garden pond with a tempting oak pier and inviting chairs (below) that will make you want to rest and reflect, particularly if the weather is hot. This is where you will find the Dell - recently replanted with silver birch, the Heavens Maze and the Wyken Wood, which flanks the seven-acre vineyard.
It is well worth making the effort to visit the garden at Wyken Hall and you certainly won't be disappointed when you get there. It is open daily from Easter until the end of September from 14.00 to 18.00. On Saturdays there is a Farmers Market and the gardens remain closed. Admission is £4.00 and children are free. RHS members gain free entry throughout the season (except on special event days).
Combine this with a visit to nearby Bressingham and you will come home with many ideas for your garden at home. Lunch in the restaurant is excellent  and of course, you can always take some Wyken wine home with you.

For more summer garden ideas, click here.