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Country Gardens to Visit

Visit to Goddards Gardens



Goddards is an extremely attractive Arts and Crafts house at Tadcaster road out of York about one and a half miles from the city centre.

I rate this garden very highly, it is not huge and ostentatious, as indeed the house is not. It is perhaps two or three acres in extent, but must have been an ideal garden for the children and adults of the household.

Readers of this blog will know my dislike of unconnected garden rooms – but here the connection is done masterfully, with curving, inviting paths leading from one area to the next, one is drawn into exploring the garden. There are hedges but most of the screening is done with trees and shrubs so the overall effect is that of a garden carved out of woodland. There are formal areas close to the house – a stone terrace with panels of cobbles adding some textural interest, an herbaceous border and a formal pond. As one gets further from the house the atmosphere becomes less formal but no less attractive.

There is a tennis court and a croquet lawn and I was most impressed to see that the reception will lend racquets and balls or mallets and balls, so that you can play.

There is a small vegetable garden with two very neat raised beds. Companion planting features strongly and the produce is all used in the small restaurant. One most impressive plant here was the curly kale Redbor – but it was at least 4 ft high, much higher than seed suppliers suggest it might grow. The working greenhouse is open to visitors and contains some tender plants as well as the usual array of seed trays.

Visit to Yewbarrow House


This is a private garden in Grange over Sands open for charity under the NGS scheme on specific days of the year see their website for details.

The house and associated garden are well up the hill at the back of Grange which affords stunning views of Morecambe Bay and eastwards towards the Yorkshire Dales. The garden is on a very steep slope facing southeast and is totally unsuitable for wheelchairs or people with impaired mobility.

The most stunning aspect during our visit in early September was the Italian garden which was crammed full of a huge range of dahlias this is extremely effective and the overall effect does just about feel Italian. At the top of this is a small gravel garden which is peaceful and very restrained in comparison with the rest of the garden.

From here the progression is into the vegetable garden which is large and well designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as productive. Here the owners grow many vegetables that are used in their hotels’ restaurants.

Continuing to the top of the hill one reaches the Prospect Tower, a lookout tower which allows even better views than from other parts of the garden. Near this are the Cutting and Trial beds and a Palm House in which is a large water feature as well as a number of palms and cycads. I’m afraid I found the Palm House incongruous and ostentatious.

Coming back down the hill from the vegetable garden there is a maple walk which is pleasing and a Japanese pond and tea house. Closer to the house are a sunken garden, a small lawn and a small sculpture garden. Much of the planting was dominated by the tender echiums, up to 14 ft tall.

Overall I’m sorry to say I didn’t much like the garden, it felt claustrophobic, possibly due to the very steep slope which I am sure is difficult to work round, and the vast array of expensive components seemed to be the result of money rather than necessarily good taste. Having said this the garden is most impressive and if you get the opportunity you should go after all the owners do open up out of the goodness of their hearts purely for the benefit of those supported by the charity.

Visit to Holker Hall Gardens


We’ve just been to the Lake District and visited four gardens. Holker Hall near Grange-over-Sands was the first, and we both thought, the best.

Maybe not the best garden to visit for flowers, although there were some fairly impressive displays in the Elliptical Garden and the Summer Garden, it is really the use of the contours of the land which is really pretty inspiring. Perhaps the best is the Neptune Cascade where water falls down a series of steps over an inlaid zig-zag pattern from the statue (of Neptune) at the top down between rhododendrons to the bottom where the cascade is flanked by two impressive stone obelisks.

Another feature is the Pagan Grove designed by Kim Wilkie. This is a small amphitheatre which initially did little for me, but it grows on you, it is understated and fits beautifully in the space it occupies, and by the time we left it had become my favourite part of the garden. The Sunken Garden again fits well into the natural contours of the land and is a lovely place to sit for a while amongst some of the most tender plants in the garden.

The Labyrinth combines the philosophy of the Hindi contemplative temple feature with the ancient stone circles of Cumbria, lose yourself to contemplation as you move slowly to the centre and then, as one of our fellow visitors said, cheat and come out the quick way!

Near the Labyrinth is the Slate Sundial, a five foot diameter slate bowl, designed by Mark Lennox-Boyd of Gresgarth Hall (Blog 95). It’s origins are 2,300 years old but the clever geometry and a table of corrections allow accurate time telling.

On the commercial side the cafe provided us an excellent lunch at a very fair price and there is also a food hall specialising in local produce and a gift shop.

Visit to Burrow Farm Gardens


John and Mary Benger moved to Burrow Farm in 1959 to have a dairy herd. Mrs.Benger started the garden in an old Roman clay pit, but then found it was not big enough and has gradually spread to its current size of 10 acres. The gardens are at Dalwood not far from Axminster in Devon.
The gardens are very varied, there are open spaces with planted beds and enclosed garden rooms, and it will take a good half day to do justice to the extensive plantings. There are a number of viewpoints and plenty of seats, so the less active can rest when required, the best of the resting spots is a beautiful thatched summerhouse with great views of the garden leading down to the pond and bog garden.
Whilst you are at the pond you cannot fail to be impressed with the giant hogweed, 12 feet tall when we were there in late June, crowned with a white cow paesly type flower - but beware, the sap from this plant will result in very unpleasant burning when you are out in the sun, and you will not even be saved by washing the sap off. For this reason this is one of very few plants that you will see in the garden that is not for sale in the plant centre.
Coming back up the hill towards the house you pass between two long herbaceous beds, behind the left hand one is the woodland garden and the aforementioned clay pit. One of the highlights for me was the Millennium Garden, with its rill flowing down the slope and very attractive planting on either side.
There is an excellent family run tea room, where sandwiches and snacks are available, and as well as the plant centre there is also a craft shop

Visit to Newby Hall Gardens


The main feature of the gardens are the two magnificent herbaceous borders that run for 140 m from the house down to the River Ure, these are some of the longest borders in Europe.

Off these herbaceous beds are a number of garden rooms. In one case a curved pergola clad in laburnum leads to a rock garden. Needless to say this is spectacular in late May. The rock garden is unusual in that it is in partial shade, and so you will see plants that you might not expect. Don’t miss the waterfall and the bridge, which used to be an aqueduct.

Other rooms include a rose garden, Sylvia’s garden – a soft and delicate show of whites, purples and blues designed to peak at the time of the York races in May. There is a tropical garden, largely populated with foliage plants; being this far north, many of the plants are look alikes rather than genuinely tropical.

Finally, mention should be made of the cornus collection not just the coloured stems variety but also the small trees cornus mas and cornus kousa.

Visit to Chatsworth Gardens


The whole estate, some 35,000 acres is an extremely professionally run business, there are farming, horse trials, filming, merchandising as well as the house and garden tourism side. Many events are arranged all through the year, some arty, some musical, in fact something for everyone.

The gardens themselves occupy some 105 acres and are perhaps most famous for the waterworks there are a number of spectacular fountains and waterfalls all of which are operated by gravity there is a reservoir high up above the estate which supplies the water rather than it being on a pumped recirculation system. This does however mean that in times of drought the operating hours have to be reduced.

In the old garden the Grotto House and Pond, Morton’s Pond and the Ring Pond should not be missed. In the modern garden (approximately 1800 onwards) the highlights are the cottage garden, the kitchen garden, the maze and the sensory garden.

There are greenhouses, the display house and the Case, a heated, enclosed wall garden that allows the production of tender fruit in this northern climate of significant altitude. Unfortunately Paxton’s Great Conservatory is no longer in existence.

Whilst here discover the intriguing coal hole and tunnel, explore the maze and children will want to spend the whole day at the farm, where you can meet the animals up close and watch milking. When you’ve done all this there are endless walks through the estate.

As you can tell from this brief coverage a day is scarcely enough to do the garden justice, let alone take in all that the house has to offer and to this end there are holiday cottages available on the estate, including the very dramatic Hunting Tower. There really is something here for everyone.

Visit to Sissinghurst Garden


The gardens extend to some 450 acres in all, but the actively gardened part is a much more manageable size. It is owned by the National Trust and is open from the middle of March until autumn.
The formal garden is divided into a series of rooms, some of which have a colour theme the famous white garden, the purple border, then there is the herb garden and the cottage garden. Further out are many walks and a mere 126 million bluebells!
If you live nearby there is a programme of exhibitions and events to attract you back time after time especially appealing is the Pantaloon’s irreverent take on Pride and Prejudice in June and Treasure Island in July. There is, surprise, surprise, an excellent tea room and plant sales outlet merchandising.
I have to say that Sissinghurst would be nowhere near the top twenty of my favourite gardens. As followers will know, I am not a fan of garden rooms, and why make a garden of a single colour? Surely one of the glories of most gardens is the contrast of different colours as well as form and texture. Once in a room there is little hidden from view, so the urge to explore is not kindled. The informal planting schemes, which I usually like, here seem to look unkempt and untidy.
Having said this there is a lot of good stuff here and, as I said, better people than me rate it extremely highly. Vita Sackville-West was without doubt very talented and I am very keen on some of her other gardens. The head gardener, Troy, too is a man of great talent and very interesting to listen to. So you should go to these gardens and tell me why I am wrong.

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens


The Botanic Garden of Edinburgh is situated at Inverleith, one mile north of the city centre on the A902.

The history of the garden can be traced back to 1670 when two doctors set up a physic garden to supply other local doctors with the medicinal plants they needed; so this can be counted as one of the first Botanic Gardens in the United Kingdom. It did not arrive at its current site, however, until the 1820’s, by which time the plant collection had become not only numerous but large in size so much so that the curator at the time had to invent a machine for moving large mature plants.

Your main objective in visiting these gardens should be to see and study the magnificent rock garden. There are nearly 5000 different plants displayed amongst two types of rock (Callander conglomerate and sandstone) and a scree. One can walk along many paths between the rocks to see more alpines than you will come across almost anywhere else. The range of size is impressive, from large shrubs to tiny carpeting plants, and the associated alpines collection is one of the best in the world.

The Chinese hillside is perhaps the other highlight, 16,000 plants this time! Edinburgh Botanical has had close relationship with China for many years and has helped to set up The Lijiang Botanical Garden.

There is a Scottish Heath Garden which aims to show the range of plants growing in the upland areas heathers, beech, pine, various sorbus species, and so on.

There are other garden areas too, a herbaceous border, Queen Mother’s Memorial garden, woodland garden as well as the more scientific gardens and glasshouses. There is also a very interesting leaflet for free downloading on the lichens growing in the garden.

Visit Monte Palace Tropical Gardens


If you’re looking for some winter sun then Madeira could be a very good choice. An island colony that was colonised by Portugal and still retains very strong ties with that country, it has year round temperatures that are usually between 20 and 30oC – ideal for plants as well as humans!

The Palace itself was bought, in poor shape by one Alfredo Rodrigues who remodelled it based on the castles he had seen on the banks of the River Rhone in Germany. During the second World War the palace gave shelter to many of the Gibraltarians who were evacuated to Madeira and subsequently ended the period when the building was used as a high class hotel.

In 1987 Jose Manuel Berardo bought the palace and a year later set up a trust which would ensure the future of both the property and the grounds. In 1991 the development was in a suitable state for Berardo to hand the estate over to the public.

Around the garden are a very large number of historical tiled panels – azulejos. The tiles were made between the 16th and 20th centuries and were collected from sites mostly in Portugal – churches, palaces, country houses and chapels. This is one of the finest collections of such panels in existence.

Jose Berardo visited China and Japan and was so impressed by the Buddhist garden philosophy that he commissioned not only a garden at the palace to reflect this philosophy but also some more tiled panels commemorating the trade history between Portugal and Japan.

Another world class collection in the Garden is that of cycads, probably the oldest plant species on earth having evolved some 200 million years ago. Most of the examples here come from Southern Africa (where Berardo made his fortune).

As well as large plantings of tropical species, native Madeiran plants are particularly well represented.

The hillside paths which at times are very steep take you past lakes and streams and buildings and statuary galore. There is an exhibition hall which usually displays African artworks as well as a stunning mineralogical display.

In so many ways this is a truly world class garden.

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.