BBC Gardeners’ World Live

We did a little dance in celebration when The Watchmaker’s Garden at BBC Gardeners’ World Live won platinum and best in show. Our family’s nursery grew some of the plants for the garden.

I was lucky enough to attend the preview and meet the designer, Alexandra Froggatt.

Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter is a bustling, cosmopolitan area steeped in history. In the late Victorian era it was booming with trade as the jewellery and watchmaking industries expanded. Craftsmen set up workshops in their back gardens to meet demand. Alexandra’s design is inspired by these 19th century back garden horologists. Inside the workshop, the city’s iconic Chamberlain clockface is in mid-production with a workbench covered in original tools and artefacts. Antique specialists loaned jewellers’ equipment to add authenticity to the scene.

Outside the workshop, the garden is full of heirloom and heritage vegetables, including some varieties which would have been grown in the Victorian era; herbs growing alongside cottage garden plants.

I love the doorway planting. You really want to walk through that door to see what’s on the other side.

Wild flowers grow in the grass surrounding the garden, and nasturtiums, peas and beans scramble over fences and supporting hazel posts.

Sponsors for the garden include Odeon Antiques, St Paul’s Church, La Mons Jewellery, Stonebarn landscapes, Terry Porter- plants, Vande Moortel- landscaping materials, and RPG Herbs, run by my brother-in-law Paul Gimson and his wife Rozanne.

Gardeners’ World Live runs until 16 June at Birmingham NEC.

https://www.bbcgardenersworldlive.com/

RPG Herbs http://www.rpgherbs.co.uk/conta.html

Alexandra Froggatt http://www.alexandrafroggatt.com/

In a Vase on Monday – 10th June 2019

It’s the much-awaited summer. And it’s raining. It’s pouring. And it’s 9C. So only one photo today for my Vase- and it’s sweet williams and sweet peas again. They are loving the cool temperatures and moisture. I must admit, I am not.

My dark red sweet williams, Dianthus barbatus Sooty, are suddenly providing buckets of flowers. Sweet williams are such good value plants. For a couple of pounds for a packets of seed, you can have a steady supply of flowers three months or more. They are like dark velvety chocolate. Dark colours don’t show up in photos very well, so I’ve screen shot the picture and homed in on the flowers.

There’s a few forget me nots left to go with the love in a mist. And sweet peas are also flowering faster than I can pick them.

Calendulas are looking fab with peach butterfly antirrhinums, and blue chives are being thrown in every bowl of salad, as well as every vase of flowers. Such a versatile perennial herb to grow. The antirrhinums are flowering for their second year, but I’ll sow some more seed for next summer, just in case they don’t overwinter. They last for nearly a fortnight in a vase, if you change the water each day.

I do hope the weather is better where you are. Hopefully we will all get some sunshine again soon. Meanwhile, it’s dark clouds and white cow parsley -aplenty!

Links :

I’ve been to visit the Cotswold Wildlife Park. Here’s a blog I wrote about it: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/06/10/the-cotswold-wildlife-park-a-celebration-of-the-gardens/

Here’s my recent blog listing the varieties of sweet peas I’m growing: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/06/03/in-a-vase-on-monday-3-june-2019/

Don’t forget to leave a comment on my blog review of Hansford Coil spring garden chairs- there’s one chair to win in our prize draw competition. They are wonderfully comfortable and easy to carry about the garden: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/05/31/product-review-hansford-coil-spring-chair/

In a Vase on Monday : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/06/10/in-a-vase-on-monday-the-very-pink-of-perfection/

The Cotswold Wildlife Park – A Celebration of the Gardens

BOOK REVIEW

By Harriet Rycroft and Tim Miles

Produced by Reef Publishing for Cotswold Wildlife Park

£18 inc p&p.

Looking through the mansion window, I see a pretty stone terrace, balustrading covered in rambling roses, mighty English oak trees in the distance. And a rhinoceros. Or two. I’m at the Cotswold Wildlife Park and it’s not your traditional garden view!

I can hear blackbirds, robins -and yes, there’s a lion’s roar, and black siamang gibbons “whooping.” I’m having a special behind the scenes tour with head gardener Tim Miles and gardener and writer Harriet Rycroft.

Tim and Harriet have spent the past 18 months working on a new book The Cotswold Wildlife Park- A Celebration of the Gardens. And there’s plenty to celebrate. The gardens are a paradise of exotic plants, special trees and shrubs, and wild flowers.

Photo: Front cover.

There are more than 250 species of animals and birds living at the wildlife park where important conservation and breeding work is being undertaken. The star attraction is undoubtably the white rhinos – saved from poachers in Africa, and now producing offspring.

Photo: my i-phone pic of page 60 in the book. Original photo credit: Harriet Rycroft.

Rhinos appear to have free rein in the parkland setting, but in fact, their paddock is ringed by a ha ha. It means there are no fences. They can clearly be seen from all surrounding paths. When I say “clearly seen,” I might add that the paths meander around flower beds containing thousands of ornamental onions, Allium hollandicum Purple Sensation, and grasses such as Stipa gigantea (giant oat grass) and cultivars of Miscanthus and Cortaderia (pampas grass). It’s rather a wonderful combination. Rhinos and alliums. You’ll not see that anywhere else in the world.

Planting provides browse material for many species, but also, importantly, shelter for the animals. This might be shade from summer sunshine, or protection from wind and rain. Planting must, of course, let visitors see into enclosures, but it is so exhuberant that the the lines are blurred between visitors, animals and the wider landscape.

I did manage to get a good look at African Spoonbills and Madagascan Teal. But if they wanted to hide from me, they could.

It is interesting to see trained fruit trees along the walled garden enclosures. There’s a perfectly-pruned fig, and around the corner there are espalier cherry and pear trees, fruiting kiwi and grape vines. Bamboo, a favourite fodder for many animals, grows inside and outside of the enclosures, again blurring the boundaries between them.

In the Tropical House I spy a Linne’s Two-towed Sloth. It’s the first time I’ve seen one. He’s nestled in amongst the foliage, rubber plants (Ficus elastica) cheese plants (Monstera deliciosa) and bromeliads and orchids. Branches of oak provide “perches” and there’s an illusion that house plants have “escaped” to take root in this mini-jungle. In a fascinating insight into the relationship between keepers and gardeners Tim explains that any plant plagued with pests such as greenfly, is given to the keepers to be placed in the Tropical House. Exotic birds clean up the plants by eating the pests. A win-win situation all round. Natural pest control at its best.

Continuing the tropical theme, in the protection of the Walled Garden, there’s palm trees, bananas and cannas interplanted with dahlias, Begonia luxurians and Begonia fuchsioides. Plants overspill onto the paving so you don’t notice the concrete kerbs. Creeping plants such as Tradescantia, Plectranthus and Verbena cascade and intermingle.

Phormiums, banana plants and bedding such as geraniums and coleus (solenostenum) provide a contrast in form, colour and texture.

Container planting features fuchsias, begonias, scented pelargoniums, trailing Scaevola Sapphire, twining Thunbergia African Sunset, nemesia- and even a Protea cynaroides (king protea). It’s rightly described as a “theatre with plants.”

There’s a conservatory- leading to the Bat House and Reptile House- where I spotted a pretty pink Cantua buxifolia.

Some sort of pink grevillea also thrives in the protection of the glass.

I’m still searching for the name of this pretty blue flowering plant. Let me know if you have a name for it. It’s rather lovely to visit a garden and find something you haven’t seen before.

No surface seems to be left without cover. This is the end wall of the rhino house, smothered in golden-flowering Fremontodendron California Glory.

We just throw our weeds in a compost bin, but certain weeds growing at the park provide food for the animals. Giant tortoises love stinging nettles, and goose grass or cleavers are relished by some of the herbivorous reptiles. Banana leaves are popular with stick insects and locusts, but are also given to squirrel monkeys. Honey treats are stuck to the leaves. The monkeys have fun picking off the treats, and then spend time cleaning themselves of the delicious sticky honey.

Gardeners don’t just get requests for plant material for food and nesting; prunings such as lavender and rosemary provide useful enrichment / active entertainment for the lions. Keepers fill bags with the clippings to make giant catnip toys.

With so many rare and glorious plants, the gardens at Cotswold Wildlife Park are a delight to visit all year round. Visiting transports you to another world. A world that’s been created with imagination and passion. There’s nowhere else quite like it.

All pics, apart from the front cover and the baby rhino, are i-phone photos from my head gardener tour.

Links:

Harriet and Tim’s book is available from Cotswold Wildlife Park https://shop.myonlinebooking.co.uk/cotswoldwildlifepark/shop/product-list.aspx?catid=8

In a Vase on Monday -3 June 2019

The first sweet peas are always for my Mum.

I’m growing a mix of old and new. Heritage varieties: Mrs Collier (cream) and Dorothy Eckford (white). New this year: Capel Manor. Old favourites: High Scent, Wiltshire Ripple Mix, Albutt Blue and Chatsworth.

The best Blue is Chatsworth. Five or six flowers per stem, prettily ruffled and gloriously scented. Long lasting in a vase, and flowers until the first frosts. The Duchess of Devonshire, the last of the Mitford Sisters, lived at Chatsworth and was president of the Sweet Pea Society for many years.

High Scent and Albutt Blue are modern grandiflora varieties with a picotee edge. Albutt Blue, bred by Harvey Albutt I’m 1999, has a blue rim on a white ground. High Scent is a cream flower with a mauve edge. High Scent is also known as April in Paris.

Seeds are planted in root trainers in October. Use 50/50 compost and grit for drainage. I start mine in a propagator at 15C. As soon as a green shoot is spotted, I remove them from the propagator and grow on in a cold poly tunnel. Sweet peas can cope with cold, but shouldn’t be too wet or they will rot. To out-wit the mice, I stand the root trainers in a deep straight-sided plastic storage box. When the seedlings are 3-4″ tall, I pinch out the tips to make bushy plants. The tips can be grown on as cuttings. Very useful if you are growing heritage varieties and only have a few seeds in the packet.

I planted mine in April in no-dig beds. I mulch the bed with Plant Grow (plant based) fertiliser. This feeds and holds in moisture, and seems to deter slugs and snails.

My sweet peas scramble up an A-frame of hazel rods. I grow them in the same place for four years, then move them to a different bed to prevent the build up of pest and diseases. By then, the hazel rods are collapsing anyway and need replenishing. Each year I weave in a few more twigs to strengthen the supports. I water with a liquid Plant Grow feed.

In front of the sweet peas there’s a row of calendulas and highly-scented pinks. Every space is crammed with flowers.

Alongside, there’s dianthus barbatus (sweet williams). These are sown in summer, make good strong roots and leaves in the first year, and flower in the next. This year I’m growing a dark red variety called Sooty which is just coming into bloom. Sweet williams follow wall flowers to give a continuous supply of cut flowers. I learned how to grow cut flowers at Common Farm Flowers with Georgie Newbery in Somerset.

Little extras in this posy are the last of the forget-me-nots and some pink alliums I always harvest, as a way of controlling them. They can become invasive.

And finally, a favourite pelargonium. This originally came as a cutting from my grandfather Ted Foulds. He loved his garden and each week came to visit and “inspect the plot.” He never arrived without a pot of something, a few seeds, an offset, a cutting. Half my garden came from my grandfather and my Mum. He died 22nd May 2005 aged 83. Still desperately missed, but not forgotten. I faithfully take cuttings of his pelargoniums each autumn, and they flower every summer, as a lovely reminder of him.

Links : In a Vase on Monday :https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/06/03/in-a-vase-on-monday-oops/

Sweet peas at Easton :https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/whats-on/coming-up

Ripple Mixed varieties : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Tall_3/Sweet-Pea-Ripple-Mixed-Seeds.html#.XPTo-4zTWfA

Plant Grow fertiliser : http://www.plantgrow.co.uk/our-products.html

Root Trainers : https://www.haxnicks.co.uk/garden-products/rootrainers

Sweet William seed: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-William-Seeds/#.XPTptYzTWfA

Common Farm : https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/

You also might like to take part in a prize draw for a Coil Spring garden chair : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/05/31/product-review-hansford-coil-spring-chair/

Product Review – Hansford Coil Spring Chair

*Please leave a comment at the end of this review to be entered in a prize draw to win a Hansford Coil Spring Chair.

Gardening is hard work. By this time of the year, I’m starting to groan at the size of the brambles and painful stinging nettles. It’s a job to keep up with the weeds. So I really look forward to flopping down on a comfortable chair at the end of a gardening session.

I jumped at the chance to try out a Hansford Coil Spring Chair. I didn’t pay for this product. As usual, words and opinions are my own. By now, you’ll know I always give my honest view on books, products, composts, seeds, and plants that come to the potting shed for review.

My chair arrived three days after ordering. Email updates were reassuring and meant I was at home when the box arrived.

The chair arrived well packaged and undamaged. It took five minutes to assemble the chair which comes in two parts. Tools, a spanner and some screws, were included. I meant to take photos of the before and after, but it was so quick to put together, I got carried away.

The chair is light enough to carry about the garden and so I tried it out in various locations, under the sweet chestnut tree, in the wild flower border and in the orchard. I didn’t find it too difficult to move about.

I love the way the chair blends in to the planting, and doesn’t dominate the scene. It looks lovely set amongst cow parsley and pink campion. Which is just as well as 90 percent of my garden is cow parsley at the moment.

I have a black painted greenhouse and summerhouse, so I chose a black chair. Alternative colours are duck egg blue and green.

The mesh seat is comfortable in hot weather, and very lovely with lavender and rosemary poking through. I will probably have to buy another one to go with my review chair, as really a pair is needed. You could add cushions, but the chair is comfortable enough without them to be honest.

Information sheets that come with the chair say the product is powder coated and there’s a one year warranty. The web site states the chair is suitable for indoors, conservatories, and outdoors.

James, who set up Hansford Furniture with a friend is offering one chair as a prize draw win to readers of this blog and my instagram page. Please leave a comment below to be included in the draw. No purchase is necessary and Hansford are running this competition. James will randomly select (pull a name out of a hat) on 13 June at Gardeners World Live, where they have a stand this year. Please also say if you do not wish to be entered in the prize draw, which is also fine. Sorry, uk entries only, and there’s no cash alternative. Hansford decisions are final.

Information from the website:

*look in the comments below, James has sent a link for 15% off the price, for readers of bramblegarden.com. This discount is a promotion being offered by Hansford Furniture and I am simply passing on the information.

Links: https://hansfordfurniture.com/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/karengimson1/?hl=en

Twitter : https://mobile.twitter.com/kgimson?lang=en

In a Vase on Monday -27th May 2019

It’s been raining on and off all day, so by 8.30pm it was now or never to pick my Monday Vase. I just caught the last of the light. But the flowers are full of raindrops.

There’s a “first and last” theme to tonight’s posy. It’s the last of the forget me nots. They have been glorious for months, providing a blue accompaniment to all the spring bulbs. And it’s the last of the wallflowers. Their wonderful scent has drifted across the veg plot for weeks. The variety is Persian Carpet, and I’m just about to sow some more seed for next year’s display.

It’s a first for the dianthus barbatus ( sweet williams). I have some self-seeded magenta flowers, and some rows of a new dark red, almost black variety, called Sooty.

There’s the first flowers from the sweet peas too. I’ve got heritage varieties, Mrs Collier (white) and Dorothy Eckford (cream) – alongside modern varieties High Scent and Wiltshire Ripple, and new this year, Capel Manor.

It’s also first for the blue love-in-a-mist and Blue Diadem cornflower. The cornflowers will flower right through to October. Seed was sown last October and plants were over-wintered in the poly tunnel. To be honest, the flowers only seem a week or two earlier than the ones grown outdoors, so I probably won’t bother trying to over-winter them again. They took up a lot of space and needed a lot of watering. Too much trouble for something that grows so readily outside.

Self-seeded pot marigolds are putting on an early show. I love these pale orange flowers, sisters of a variety called Orange Fizz. I’ll definitely grow these again. I’ve just planted some tiny plug plants to flower until the first frosts. Variety unknown, as they came from my Mum. Her labelling system is worse than mine! I’m not complaining, as she’s also brought annual pinks, stocks, cosmos and some kind of daisies. I can’t wait to see what they look like. We hoed out a trench and planted them in rows, mum passing me the plants and me setting them in the ground. We got a system going and planted them in half an hour.

The last of the winter pansies have grown long and leggy. Perfect for jam jar flowers at this time of the year. I’ve just sown some new black varieties. They look as sumptuous as velvet on the seed packets.

As soon as I’d picked my flowers, the light began to fade. How lovely to still be able to wander about in the garden in the evening though. If I’m lucky I’ll catch sight of the barn owl again.

Links : In a Vase on Monday: https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/05/27/in-a-vase-on-monday-more-sweeties/

Links : Dianthus Sooty https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk/item_450K_dianthus_barbatus_sooty

Six on Saturday- a view of my garden 18th May 2019

It’s a sad farewell to the tulips today. Cold weather has given them staying power this year, but I can see they are fading fast. I love the dark purple tulips. They remind me of a bishops’ sash, an amethyst ring, a royal cloak. A stained glass window. Silk.

This is Purple Queen of the Night. I’ve noticed tulips vary in colour, depending on supplier. So this one came from Taylors Bulbs, the one below is also Queen of the Night, from Parkers wholesale.

I’ll be planting more of the the Walkers variety; these stood up to the weather well, and didn’t “melt” when it rained.

I shall miss the jewel-like colours of tulips. It’s been the best display I’ve ever had, and didn’t cost much. Most of the bulbs were bought in the sale at Christmas and planted the first week of January. Waiting to plant until it’s really cold helps prevent viruses which spoil the flowers and leaves.

When the tulips fade, my garden turns green. This is the view from our bedroom window today. The beech trees are at their freshest now, lime green leaves highlighted by sunshine. Gradually they shade out the woodland floor and I say goodbye to the spring understory; bluebells, wild garlic and the last of the white narcissi. Wild clematis and honeysuckle provide some compensation. I didn’t plant these climbers, but they are welcome here. Honeysuckle crowns a silver holly pyramid. No harm seems to come to the holly. It’s a cheerful combination. A happy co-incidence.

The evening scent drifts around the garden and in though bedroom windows. A wonderful scent to end the day. A feast of nectar for night-flying moths. For daytime-flying insects, crab apple blossom provides a banquet. It’s usually smothered in bees. This one I think is Wedding Bouquet.

If you have a small garden, Malus Laura is the one to choose. This gorgeous small tree grows in an upright, vase- shape, doesn’t cast much shade and has wonderful dusky pink blossom, purple new leaves, and plum coloured crab apples. So much interest in just one tree.

Links: Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/six-on-saturday-18-05-2019/

Queen of the Night : https://taylors-bulbs.com/spring-flowering-bulbs/

Malus Laura : https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/124642/Malus-Laura/Details

Malus Wedding Bouquet : https://www.frankpmatthews.com/catalogue/malus/10139

Mastergrip Gloves on Trial.

Review and prize draw for gardening gloves.

I’m not keen on cold wet hands, so I always wear gloves in the garden. Town and Country sent me some new Mastergrip gloves to try out.

The problem with gloves is you’ve often got a choice of wearing gloves- or doing some gardening. They aren’t always very flexible. So I’m often taking them on and off- and losing them.

In the past, I’ve just worn kitchen rubber gloves, but they are not ideal. They get hot and uncomfortable, and are easily damaged. However, Mastergrip have the advantage of being flexible and breathable.

I used them for dead heading in the greenhouse.

Pricking out and transplanting the delicate cherry tomatoes.

Weeding around the pot marigolds. These are seedlings of last year’s Calendula Orange Fizz.

The gloves are flexible enough to pick out tiny weeds. I’m not using any chemicals, so trying to keep on top of weeds is important for me.

Usually, I have to take my gloves off to do fiddly jobs like tying in the sweet peas. Luckily these gloves were easy to wear and stayed on for the whole morning while I was working in the veg plot, cut flower patch and greenhouse.

The information that comes with them says the palm and fingers have a latex coating. The back of the gloves are made from a breathable material for comfort and flexibility.

Mastergrip gloves, for everyday tasks, costs £6.99. There’s also Mastergrip Pro for tougher tasks, A thermal version for winter warmth, and a Mastergrip Patterns version for lighter tasks. There’s also versions for children, which is great. I’m always keen to get youngsters involved in gardening. They don’t usually take much persuading.

Town and Country sent these gloves unconditionally for a trial. I didn’t pay for them. However, I’ve been delighted with them, and I’m happy to recommend them.

The company has offered one pair for a prize draw. Please leave a comment below to be included in the draw. No purchase is necessary; names will be randomly selected by the company, and their decision is final. There’s no cash alternative. The deadline is Sunday 12th May, 8pm. Please also say if you don’t want to be included in the draw as all comments are welcome here. Enjoy your weekend gardening.

Links : https://www.townandco.com/

Six on Saturday. A view of my garden on 11 May 2019

Here’s some photos from my garden diary today for #sixonsaturday. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the tulips. They’ve provided colour and joy for two months. Surviving the torrential rain and hail, they are tougher than they look.

Carnival de Nice. Reminds me of summer days with striped bunting, deckchairs and raspberry ripple ice cream.

Angelique. Like apple blossom. Petals start a deep blush pink then fade to translucent white. I love the colour-changing beauty of tulips.

Black Parrot. More elegant than some of the parrot tulips around. A joy in terracotta pots amongst grey lavender. Viola Antique Shades provides a perfect match with purple and coppery tones. These have been flowering since last October. Good value.

Darwin hybrids, from a cut flower mix, planted at Christmas. Reminds me of a peach sundae.

I’ll be lifting these tulips and planting them in the orchard to flower next year. One tiny patch provides so much variety, planted only 1″ apart. I’ve earmarked the spot for cosmos and larkspur. Cut flowers until October. Behind them, sweet peas planted only a fortnight ago are half way up their hazel rod supports. There will be sweet-scented flowers by June.

Links : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/11/six-on-saturday-11-05-2019/

Cut flower mix tulips : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/tulips/cutting-mixture-tulips

Carnival de Nice https://www.farmergracy.co.uk/products/tulip-carnaval-de-nice-bulbs-uk

Angelique : https://www.sarahraven.com/flowers/bulbs/tulips/tulip_angelique.htm

Black Parrot tulip https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/tulips/parrot-tulips/tulip-black-parrot

You might like to read My Cut Flower Patch : https://bramblegarden.com/2018/06/18/in-a-vase-on-monday-my-cut-flower-patch/

Borde Hill Garden

Rhododendrons, azaleas, woodland, sculpture, rare and unusual trees and plants.

We stand still and listen. “There’s a great tit…a chaffinch…a goldfinch…a robin.” I’m writing the names in my notebook, but the list is recounted faster than I can record them.

We are on a tour of Borde Hill Garden. And, what luck, one of our party is an expert on birdsong. The chorus of sound drifts through the trees. Such a beautiful melody, and a wonderful place to be. An English woodland garden on a spring day. Just glorious.

I spot a tree creeper. To my shame, it’s the first time I’ve seen one. A tiny bird, the size of a wren. My first thoughts are that it’s a mouse. Its speckly brown feathers perfectly match the tree bark it’s clinging to. It scurries up a few metres, and then uses its long downward-curving bill to fish out an insect from a crevice. Suddenly it moves to the other side of the trunk. It knows it’s been spotted. Then, making a “see-see-see” call, it flies away. A magical moment- and we’ve only just arrived in this woodland paradise.

We start our tour in the Garden of Allah, a dell created in 1925 where the the owners nurtured many of the species brought back from the great plant hunters of the time. Head gardener Andy Stevens points to a towering Liriodendron chinense (Chinese tulip tree) which was raised from seed collected by Ernest Wilson in central China. Borde Hill bought the tree as a 16ft mature specimen from the famous Veitch’s nursery in 1913. There’s a huge Magnolia fraseri which arrived in the garden as a seedling from the south-eastern USA in 1933. And further into the garden there’s a Davidia involucrata (pocket handkerchief tree).

I can’t decide whether to look up, or down. Up, into the branches of so many rare and unusual trees. Or down, at the ribbons of pure white wild garlic flowing into drifts of bluebells. It’s easy to see why Borde Hill has been described as “unforgettable.”

Leaving the dell, walking past rhododendrons and camellias planted in the 1920s, and magnolias planted as seedlings in the 1930s, we reach Warren Wood and Stephanie’s Glade. It’s here that many of Borde Hill’s fabulous collection of champion trees can be found.

There are many trees I have never seen before. We stop and admire a rare Meliosma Beaniana which is smothered in delicate creamy coloured flowers. Like many of the trees and shrubs at Borde Hill, there’s a fascinating history and story behind them. This tree came via Ernest Wilson who was plant hunting in China in 1908. It was planted at Alderman (now a boarding school) and transplanted at Borde Hill in early 1930s. Records show it flowered for the first time in its new home in 1933.

I found a particularly lovely tree, possibly a type of photinia. It is smothered in white flowers. A magnet for bees and hoverflies.

Borde Hill is famous for rhododendrons and azaleas which are reaching their peak now. I’ve never seen such a striking and colourful display.

Some of the azaleas are scented which adds to their attraction.

Walking out of the woodlands, suddenly you come upon a more formal scene, an Italian garden with topiary flanking a rectangular pond. There’s a statue and waterfall at one end, and large terracotta plant pots each side of the water.

There’s always a surprise around every corner. At the top of the steps, near the sculpture, I found this Peony Mai Fleurie.

Further along the walk, I found more peonies, looking at their best right now.

Tree peonies and perennial forms seem to do very well at Borde Hill and I make a note to plant more in my own garden.

This week sees the start of Borde Hill’s 20th anniversary Sculpture Exhibition (10 May to 30 Sept). Visitors can walk through the 17 acre gardens and enjoy more than 80 pieces by well-known and up-and-coming artists.

I love this one, which I think is Little Owl by Paul Harvey. The labels were being put out on the day of our visit.

And this one, which I’m guessing is Icarus by Nicola Godden. Such a perfect setting in front of the house. Checking the website, I see this winged figure was commissioned for the London 2012 Olympic Village. There’s also a wind sculpture by Will Carr to look out for.

There’s something for everyone at Borde Hill, and all-year-round interest too. But for me, the magic of the place will always be the peaceful walks through those magnificent trees. And the sound of birdsong. The very essence of spring.

Borde Hill: Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1XP, opens from 25 March -3 Nov.

The garden, listed Grade II by English Heritage, is set within 200 acres of parkland.

Special events this year:

Roses. Talk and tour with Michael Marriott from David Austin Roses: 20 June 10.30-2pm

The Rabbit’s Eye View- long term plant performance, landscape masterclass by Noel Kingsbury, 11 Sept 10-4.30.

Practical Pruning – Juliet Sargeant 16 May 10.30-3pm

Designing a Romantic Rose Border – Juliet Sargeant, 11 July 10.30-3pm

Tasty Autumn Talk- Juliet Sargeant, 18 Oct 10.30-12noon.

Many thanks to Eleni and Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke for hosting our visit, and to Constance Craig Smith and the Garden Media Guild for organising the tour.

Links :

For more information about Borde Hill : https://www.bordehill.co.uk/

More on birdsong : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/04/identify-bird-song/

RSPB Let Nature Sing: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/let-nature-sing/