Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Andromeda Botanic Gardens, Barbados

Welcome to Andromeda Botanic Gardens in Barbados ... a tropical plant paradise
Andromeda was established by Iris Bannochie around her home in St Joseph, Barbados
Follow John's Path through the gardens and discover a world of tropical plants
Iris Bannochie, Barbados' leading horticulturalist, was awarded the Veitch Medal by the RHS in 1977
Iris Bannochie bequeathed Andromeda to the Barbados National Trust in 1988
The gardens are named after the Greek goddess, Andromeda and are tethered to Barbados' coral stone rock

The gardens are an excellent showcase for the island's many exotic trees and plants
Andromeda Gardens are open daily from 9.00 to 17.00

Friday, 24 April 2015

"Must See" British gardens - Wollerton Old Hall, Shropshire

The Rill Garden at Wollerton Old Hall 
Wollerton Old Hall, near Shrewsbury is definitely a garden to visit this year if you can. This unusual four-acre property is a credit to its owners, Lesley and John Jenkins, who bought the house nearly 30 years ago and have created an Arts & Crafts style landscape here in a series of garden rooms surrounding a house that in part dates back many centuries.  But you will have to plan your visit carefully because the garden is only open two days a week - on Friday and Sunday afternoons from 12.00-17.00 - from Easter until the end of September (Fridays only in September), plus Bank Holiday Mondays.
The gardens at Wollerton Old Hall are set around a Grade II listed 16th century house (not open to the public)
Lesley Jenkins spent part of her childhood here when her parents originally owned the property, but they eventually sold up and moved away and when she and her husband John bought it back in 1984, there was a very different garden to the one you see today. Lesley studied Fine Art and has created a landscape with strong architectural lines and colour schemes within a framework of garden rooms that run across three north-south and three east-west axes, allowing striking glimpses of what is beyond. Hedging and paving play an important role in drawing your eye through this garden.
A visit to Wollerton Old Hall in the spring will allow you to see the structure of the garden
I visited in May, but have spoken to colleagues who have gone later in the season and am assured that Wollerton retains its interest throughout the open period because of its imaginative planting. Clipped yew, box and a variety of shrubs give strong structure to the various different garden rooms and the borders are planted with many different perennials that come into flower throughout the season. 
May was a little too early to enjoy some of the garden rooms at their best, but there were plenty of spring bulbs in bloom and with the promise of summer soon, the chance to see the bare bones of this charming garden with all its walls and gates. What really struck me was the vast array of different greens in the spring palette here and the chance to see the promise of what's to come later in the season. So this year, I'm determined to return to Wollerton throughout the open period, as I head to more properties in the north of England and further afield in Scotland, in my quest for new gardens.
The full-time head gardener at Wollerton Old Hall is Andrew Humphris, who worked before at nearby Biddulph Grange. He is helped by part-time gardeners and a team of volunteers. There is also a nursery, stocked with many of the unusual perennials you see in situ here. I left there with a car load of healthy plants which look wonderful at home. Located near Shrewsbury and Market Drayton, there are many other stunning gardens nearby including the Dorothy Clive Garden, and, a little further afield some of the gardens in Herefordshire.
Wollerton Old Hall is a sea of green in springtime
Part of the joy of spring in any garden is the startling array of green you see and Wollerton is no exception, although Lesley and John Jenkins have drawn on their plantsman expertise to ensure that both colour and structure appear throughout the garden whenever you visit. And once you reach high summer, the palette here is very different, with magnificent "hot" borders. 
There is also a series of lectures and classes available at Wollerton throughout the season, giving participants the chance to have a private view of the garden. For further details click on the link.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Columbia Road Flower Market in East London - a special Sunday outing

If you're in London for the weekend, where better to head than Columbia Road flower market in the up-and-coming East End on a Sunday morning? Today is overcast, but the flower-laden stalls will brighten your day, as will all the unusual shops in the area. The market takes place every Sunday from 08.00-14.00 and it costs nothing to look. Definitely worth a visit! I came home with armfuls of flowers, costing just a fraction of what you'd pay elsewhere.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Heatherwick's head-turning glasshouses at Bombay Sapphire's new Hampshire distillery

Thomas Heatherwick's unique glasshouses at the Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire
Thomas Heatherwick - the designer and architect responsible for the sleek and curvy, new red London Routemaster bus and the promised Garden Bridge set to span the River Thames – is no newcomer to the headlines these days. But now you can see another fine example of his innovative designs at the recently-opened Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire, where you will find a bespoke glasshouse complex that will really set you thinking because of its incredible shape and sense of unity with its surroundings.
The Heathwick glasshouses display the 10 different plant species used in the gin production process
Nestled on the banks of the River Test in Hampshire in the apparently sleepy village of Laverstoke, the two Heatherwick glasshouses are home to a range of both tropical and Mediterranean plants used in the distillation of Bombay Sapphire gin. Heatherwick is responsible not just for the spectacular curvature of the gigantic modern greenhouses, but also the conversion and restoration of 23 existing buildings on the site that were formerly a paper mill. Nothing is wasted here and the heat generated by the distillery process is used the warm the glasshouses.
Heatherwick's glasshouse design incorporates more than 1.25 kilometres of stainless steel frames
The glasshouses are a valuable addition to the site and form part of a slick marketing operation to promote the gin that sells in bright blue glass. And, when I visited at the weekend, I couldn't have asked for better weather because the sky matched the colour of the distinctive Bombay Sapphire bottle. The brand owner - Bacardi - has had the sense to turn their main UK gin distillery into a tourist attraction where visitors are offered the chance to see how gin is made; taken on a whirlwind tour of the ingredients used; and then asked to savour the smell of the various botanicals involved, so they can have a tailor-made gin-based cocktail in the bar at the end of their visit before returning to the real world. 
    Garden visitors will immediately recognise the appeal of Heatherwick's glasshouses even if they aren't gin drinkers. They are quite spectacular, with their riverside location and the extraordinary shapes used in their construction. If you check out the Heatherwick website, you will see that: "The finished built structures are made from 893 individually-shaped, two-dimensionally curved glass pieces held within more than 1.25 kilometres of bronze-finished stainless steel frames. In their entirety the glasshouses are made from more than 10,000 bespoke components."

Heatherwick currently sits at the centre of an ongoing argument about the practicalities of his Garden Bridge project, which received the green light from Westminster Council just before Christmas last year. At an estimated cost of £1.75 million, the bridge has been equated to the High Line garden project in New York City, in terms of its visitor appeal, but battles continue to rage about its both its cost and practicality. 
The Bombay Sapphire distillery opened to the public last year and is certainly worth a visit even if gin isn't your tipple. Your entrance fee (£15.00) includes a tour of the site and affords you the opportunity to ogle at the extraordinary Heatherwick glasshouses, as well as a chance to taste the gin that is made there. And of course, there are many other gardens nearby including the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens at Romsey, West Green House garden and, as summer progresses, Mottisfont Abbey - famous for its roses.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Visit Vann this week if you can and see the Gertrude Jekyll water garden

Time to reflect at Vann - the listed house seen through a glass ball in the garden
Vann dates back to 1546, but was restored and renovated in Arts & Crafts style by W.D. Caroe
Now is a good time to see the structure of the Arts & Crafts pergola
The woodland walk and water garden in March
Fritillaries in flower in the water garden
A fine example of a "crinkle-crankle" wall in the garden
Late-spring flowering (May) at Vann
The water garden in early June
June at Vann ... a mass of flowers in bloom
Vann is near Godalming in Surrey and is open every day this week for the NGS until Sunday - 10.00-18.00. From next week it is open every Wednesday to visitors (10.00-18.00). Admission is £6.00. For a full review and more pictures click here.