Visit to Bowood House and Gardens

My invitation read: “Come and visit Bowood’s famous spring planting; and Lord Lansdowne will lead a tour of his woodland garden.”

Who could resist such a missive. Not me! So I set off for Wiltshire- dreaming of camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas galore!

And what I found was one of the best spring gardens I’ve ever visited. Over two miles of paths meander through the 30 acre garden- set within a former quarry. A stream runs through the valley with banks of ferns, candelabra primroses and bluebells either side.

Now, I’ve been on these garden visits before, where tours are promised. The owner is often there for a welcoming reception- but then frequently hands over to staff for the tour itself. So I was surprised and pleased to see Lord Lansdowne standing by his offer and giving us a walking tour of his garden – and one that ran an hour longer than planned.

If you come to visit my garden, I’ll take you around, show you the tree I planted when we moved here, my favourite seat, my favourite shrub and the plants I inherited from my grandparents’ garden. To be honest, our visit to Bowood felt just like that; a keen gardener showing us around his plot – with all his favourite trees and shrubs and viewing points. As soon as we arrived, Lord Lansdowne pointed to a group of cornus dogwood trees and described them as his “pride and joy.” And then followed a chat about how difficult they are to grow, and how “wonderful” they look when the white bracts appear in spring. His enthusiasm is something we all share as gardeners. We nurture and plant something, and then stand back and admire it, and want to share that moment with fellow gardeners. It’s something I recognise and understand.

One thing I haven’t got though (ok, there’s no rolling acres and stately home either) is a rhododendron named after me. This one is Lord Lansdowne’s – it’s rather lovely, with peachy cream petals and pink buds.

I can see why this is one of his favourite views, looking out from the garden. We are standing on the mausoleum steps looking out across the tops of the rhododendrons through a gap in the trees.

Some of the rhododendrons are called Bowood Hybrids, and Lord Lansdowne showed us the nursery beds where his selected seedlings are planted. He said they could be sitting there for 10 years before he’d know if they were something special or not. Patience is obviously a virtue when you are growing new varieties like these.

I must admit, there were a dizzying array of variety names as we walked through the woods. I should have written them down, but I was just listening to the commentary and enjoying what turned out to be a most unusual and special day. I mean, how often can you report that you were meandering through the woods and suddenly there on the path is the celebrated plantsman Roy Lancaster!

Roy, who is writing about the gardens, stopped for a chat and joined our group for a photo. It was fascinating to hear the two friends talking, the Latin names flying back and forth. And later, we visited a patch called Roy’s Corner, where specimens brought back from Roy’s plant-finding expeditions are being nurtured. Altogether, it had been, a day like no other.

Bowood Woodland Garden opens from 28th April until early June. Check the website for details. http://www.bowood.org

No wonder the owner admits he spends every Saturday lunchtime having a picnic in the gardens. I think I would too.

Many thanks to the Garden Media Guild for organising this visit to Bowood. If you work in horticulture, you can become an associate member. Membership is open to anyone working in garden writing, broadcasting and photography. Probationary membership may also be available for new starters in the profession and there are training courses and mentoring schemes available.

End of the Month View -April 2018

We leave cold, wet April behind, and May finally brings some warm, settled weather.

The potting shed window ledge soon has a jug of cow parsley and forget-me-nots from the wild garden.

We’ve waited for this display all winter. Wild cherry trees in the paddock. Alive with bees. An avalanche of white blossom.

Scented narcissi Geranium pop up in the long grass around the pond. I love the egg yolk centres.

Needing some work this summer, the pond is ringed with marsh marigolds and lady’s smock wild flowers- and brambles and stinging nettles! A bit of cutting back and control is planned.

Our front lawn is a blue haze. My Grandfather Ted Foulds brought the first wild violets here, seedlings from his garden. They spread over the whole plot, and I love them.

I’ve planted my sweet peas. The hazel rods are a bit ramshackle, but they’ll soon be covered with flowers. I planted seed in October. I’m growing old favourites: High Scent, Wiltshire Ripple and creamy white Mrs Collier, plus heritage varieties from Easton Walled Gardens .

Suddenly, these dog’s tooth violets pop up through cow parsley in the woodland. I forget I’ve planted them – and then they emerge. Sunshine on a cold, cloudy day. Erythronium Pagoda is the variety growing here.

Shining out from the shade, Tulip Purissima. Reliably comes back every year. Copes with everything the weather throws at it.

I grow Orange Emperor tulips in the daylily bed in front of the greenhouse. Another good do-er. Always comes up every year if planted deeply on a bed of grit for drainage.

Favourite shrubs in flower at the moment are daphne and quince. This one is Japanese quince, Chaenomeles Kinshiden. Double flowers open pale lime green and change to clotted cream as they age.

Pleased to see my plectranthus has survived the winter, tucked up in the greenhouse. A striking plant for summer containers. Easy to grow from cuttings.

There will be plenty of citrus fruit for summer preserves. This plant flowered all winter, filling the greenhouse with such a wonderful scent.

We do quite a bit of owl watching from the top of the garden. Delighted to report the barn owls and tawny owls have survived the freezing winter. We’re hoping they bring their fledglings into our garden again this summer.

Another cause for celebration. The hedgehogs- we think they are last year’s babies- also survived the cold, and have come out of hibernation, ravenous. They are doing a great job of clearing pests in the garden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slide show of my garden at the end of April and into the first week of May. Enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend. I’m hoping to spend some time just sitting in my favourite garden chair. If I can possibly ignore all the weeds growing rampant in the background!

Thanks to Helen Patient Gardener for hosting the EOMV. Why not go over and see how Helen’s garden looks at the end of April.

What are your plans for the garden over the coming weeks? Get in touch and let me know.

Last chance to visit bluebell woods…..

Cold weather has held back the bluebells this year. They are still looking glorious. Last chance to visit Coton Manor tomorrow.  Here’s some photos from our visit today. As usual, we started with a picnic. Spreading our rugs under the branches of some apple trees, we  tucked into home-made bread and warming soup, followed by an array of cakes and shortbread. A great start to our garden visit.


Our little haven can be found at the far end of the car park. Funnily enough, we’d never noticed the orchard before. But full of blossom today, we could hardly miss it. Next we set out to visit the bluebells.

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As you can see, the bluebells are at their peak of perfection. It’s a sight I’ll hold in my memory until next spring. That blue, with the unfurling lime green leaves, and the honey scent. Just glorious!

We found the dogs’ graves. What a peaceful resting place.


The gardens always provide breathtaking planting, deserving of a separate post. But for now, here’s a taster of what we found.  Luckily the wisteria escaped any damage from the recent hard frosts.


I love this view from the terrace steps.

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I wrote about visits to bluebell woods here mentioning Coton Manor  and Hodsock Priory .  For more information click on the highlighted words. Also look at the Woodland Trust website for bluebell woods all over the country.  Be quick to visit. They are at their best right now.

#wordlesswednesday 

First picnic of the season. We visited Hodsock Priory for the bluebells.


No picnic is complete without jam jar flowers- and chocolate cake.


And this is the glorious view. 


I wrote about Hodsock snowdrops here. Also a must-visit for bluebells. Last chance to see them this coming weekend 6th and 7th May, 10-3pm. I’ve shared more photos over on twitter @kgimson. 

Do you have any favourite bluebell woods you like to visit? Are you a fan of picnics? 

A visit to Coton Manor

My car could probably drive itself to Coton Manor. The route is so familiar. I’ve been  visiting  the garden for about 20 years. And each time I learn something new. I  take a pen and paper to make a note of planting combinations. I always have to walk around the garden in the same direction. First, the top terrace, by the garden school, where there’s beautiful terracotta pots of seasonal plants. Tulips today, mass planted in a single colour. Then on through the rose and lavender garden. Through the arch to the top woodland walk. Down the slope, following the stream, watching the ferns unfurling, spotting a patch of erythronium dogs tooth violets and some maroon tipped trilliums. Crossing over the  rill, we walk through the wildflower meadow- full of cowslips and camassias.  Not horticultural matters, I know, but the little speckled bantams that live at the bottom of the stream garden are such a delight to see. We chuckle over their  fluffy feathered legs, and their funny little ways. Today, one spots a fly, and zigzags crazily through the orchard, neck outstretched to catch the tasty morsel. There’s flamingoes. Puzzling when first encountered.  But a treat to look forward to on every subsequent visit. They are seemingly colour-coordinated with the orange pink tulips along the stream bank. Today we walked through the bluebell woods.  We stood still and just gazed. A sea of blue, set against the smooth grey beech trees. And then, the scent. We store up such glory- to last the whole year. Until next time.  

Coton Manor’s five acre bluebell wood- open until 15th May 12 noon to 5.30

   
I am always drawn to houses built with the warm honey coloured Northamptonshire stone.  The original Manor House was destroyed during the Civil War and rebuilt in 1662, using  stone salvaged from nearby Holdenby House.  The current owner’s grandparents moved to Coton in 1926, extended the house and created the bones of the current 10 acre garden. A history of the house and gardens has been written by Ann Benson, available through the Coton manor website http://www.cotonmanor.co.uk. 

 


We always hope to be in time for the wisteria flowering. Such a glorious scent.

  

The lavender-edged terrace garden has Tulip Elegant Lady and double late peony flowered Black Hero. Soon there will be geraniums, erysimum and heucheras to cover the bulb foliage. The garden school is on the right. Courses still available (at time of publication) this summer are by Sarah Price, Tom Duncan,Johnathan and Peter Gooch, Martyn Rix, Brian Ellis, Rosy Hardy and the owner Susie Pasley-Tyler.

Tulip Black Hero- a double peony flowering form   

I always find plenty of inspiration for container planting. This is my favourite at Coton, the copper urn and Spring Green Tulips.

  

Tulip Yellow Spring Green. New to me and something I will try this year.   
ELegant Lady Tulip. Reliable and  lives up to its name.

  
fringed Blue Heron tulip. Such a colour!

 
  
Honesty (Lunaria annua) An unusual bi coloured form.

  
iris – possibly Plum Tart. 
Plants, seeds and bulbs can be purchased at the nursery. The garden opens Tuesday to Saturday 12 noon to 5.30  from 25th March to 1st October. Mum and I have bought season tickets, which means we can visit the garden through the changing seasons and obtain lots of planting inspiration. 

Do you have a favourite garden that you like to visit? What planting inspiration have you found?  Please leave a comment so that I know I’m not talking to myself here.