Gardens to Visit
Visit to Beth Chatto
There is one lesson above all others that must be learned from Beth Chatto, and that is to choose plants which suit your site and soil type. In 1960 Beth and her husband started to create a garden on what was just about pure gravel in an area of extremely low rainfall so only plants of serious drought resistance would stand a chance. Fortunately Andrew, the husband, had deep knowledge of plants and their needs and it was this experience that was largely responsible for the success of their project. Access to the gravel garden, tea room and nursery is free, but there is a charge to enter the other gardens.
Having laid out the planting areas with hose pipes the area was ploughed and subsoiled and then as much organic matter as could be obtained was ploughed in. Then the planting began. Shrubs such as cistus, lavatera and lavender have been very successful, along with plants such as alliums, agapanthus, kniphofia, and lychnis, as well as many species of ornamental grasses. But such is the range of planting that you can see a great display whenever you choose to visit.
There is more to see here than just the gravel garden, there is a stunning water garden developed along a series of ponds and this leads to a woodland garden, a reservoir garden and finally the scree garden
Finally there are the tea rooms and nursery, the latter being very competitively priced for such excellent plants.
Visit to Wallington
If you have ever driven the beautiful moorland road between Hexham and Rothbury in Northumberland you may have noticed 4 stone dragon heads smiling at you as you pass, these are in the grounds of Wallington Hall.
The house is a Palladian mansion with grounds around the building were originally planted by Sir Walter Calverley in the mid 18th century and his wooded areas are still there for you to wander the various paths and even watch the wildlife from a hide. There is a large parkland area, probably inspired by Capability Brown who lived for a while just a few miles away.
However to find the real reason that makes these gardens worth the journey you will have to walk half a mile through the East Wood. Again there are many paths that can be followed, but at the head of the lake is the old walled kitchen garden, you can enter through a modest wooden door and your breath is taken away.
Here is the most beautifully designed series of beds as full of colour as you will see anywhere. Shrubs and herbaceous plants vie with each other to give the greater effect. As you wander through the beds, you will be able to assess the benefits of garden rooms versus being led from one area to another by curved path. Check out not only the plants but the skilful way in which they are laid out, in places you may even find that you think some plants could have been better placed.
There is a conservatory for more tender plants, well worth a look and not only if you are caught in a shower. Tea rooms and plant sales await you on your return to the house.