Monday, 25 July 2016

Summer 2016

What would your definition be of the quintessential English summer?

Does a hot summer's day, in a garden, listening to a brass band, surrounded by the heady scents of flowers, come close?

A visit to Burton Agnes hall and gardens 

last Sunday provided all of that and more.

Admittedly there were only four instrumentalists, but the sound echoing round the courtyard was just wonderful and so atmospheric.

The gardens here are brilliant, especially the Walled Garden, which is another of my obsessions.

I really enjoy seeing how the original ethos of providing the big house with all year round fruit, flowers and vegetables has evolved and how the space is currently used.

Still with a large potager and lots of fruit in evidence, this walled garden is quite special. 

In addition to containing over 4000 different plant species it is also home to the National Collection of Campanulas and provides lots of family interest with giant board games; chess, hop scotch, hoopla and snakes and ladders

and draughts.

each within its own satellite colour themed and incredibly private garden.

This one goes all out for the family visitors, with sufficient horticultural interest for plant lovers and walks (The Woodland) and The Maze to keep everyone happy. 

Unless like my family (with several degrees between them) who could neither find the maze entry or having followed a small child in could not find their way out!

At least I had a quiet sit in the shade, listening to the music and smelling the wonderful heady scent of Paul's Himalayan Musk.

And again, surprise, surprise, tea and refreshments for the weary but safely returned adventurers.

Doesn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Gravetye Manor

I absolutely adore visiting gardens (as if you hadn't guessed!)

There's always so much to see, learn and admire (plus the odd cup of tea and cake!).

The English have been described as a nation of shopkeepers; I think it's more accurate to say we are a nation of gardeners.

Like Capability Brown, whose individual style was famously copied on the Continent and beyond, there existed a later Englishman whose huge contribution and influence to the evolution of English gardens has largely gone unrecognised; William Robinson. 

He lived at Gravetye Manor from 1884 and created the wonderful gardens which have been, after a period of neglect, maintained in his original concept.

He was a pioneer of the English natural garden style and influenced many of those, including Gertrude Jekyll, who followed. 

A gardener, botanist and writer, his ideas were, for that time, quite radical and innovative. 

"In this, as in other matters pertaining to fitness and beauty, each place is treated according to its own character. A garden should grow out of its own site if we are to have the best of it. One should think of the spot and what can best be done with it ..."
June 1918

Pretty much as garden design theory exits today; think genius loci, Beth Chatto "right plant, right place" and the more relaxed New Perennial movement.

The plan below shows the layout and scale of his gardens.

Map reproduced from

When other gardeners were attempting to subdue and control Robinson saw a different approach; a less formal and more naturalistic style.

The garden flows and ebbs beautifully on many different levels and I absolutely loved the unusual shape and design of the kitchen garden.

and the fabulous gate at the northern end: beautiful design.


Now part of the Relais & Chateaux group the garden is only accessible to hotel residents or diners. I have to own up and say I had more than a cup of tea or cake here - but the cost of a lunch is well worth it to be able to access the gardens.

It was both illuminating and enchanting. 

And the food's pretty good too!