Garden Visit : Little Ash Bungalow, Devon NGS

Plant Paradise

It takes a lot for me to leave my cosy potting shed. I’ve created a happy little haven, with all creature comforts; kettle, toaster, comfy chair, reading corner. Cat and new puppy for company. But, I was enticed out recently to visit a garden I’ve heard a lot about, Little Ash Bungalow at Fenny Bridges, Devon. And I’m happy to say, it was well worth the journey. The garden is a delight. Rare and unusual perennials, trees and shrubs. A plant paradise. Here’s a photo ‘slide show’ of my visit. The garden is open this Sunday, 18th August from 1-5 for the National Gardens Scheme.

Francoa sonchiflolia. Known as bridal wreath. An evergreen perennial with lance-shaped basal leaves and 80cm tall spires of rich pink flowers. Not totally hardy in more exposed gardens.

Astrantia Little Ash Seedling, blue echium vulgare and pink Salvia Penny’s Smile. A lovely contrast of flower forms. This combination has a long flowering season. Astrantias have a good ‘skeleton’ structure once the flowers have gone over.

Purple Veronicastrum Fascination partnered with red Persicaria amplexicaulis and white Persicaria alpina. I’ve just discovered ‘persicum’ is Latin for peach and refers to the long peach-like leaves.

Grey-leaved Melianthus major (honey flower) creates a background to blue agapanthus, bright pink Diascia personata and mauve Verbena officianalis grandiflora Bampton.

Agapanthus thrive in the well-drained gravel beds up by the house. The evergreen agapanthus is deep blue africanus variety.

From the top terrace, looking down the right hand side of the garden, to the glorious East Devon country views beyond.

Owner Helen Brown has made the most of the views. Here she’s framed them with a series of arches covered with climbers such as ornamental vine, Vitis Purpurea and scrambling viticella clematis.

In the gravel just in front of the steps, there’s Dierama, known as angel’s fishing rods. Grass-like leaves with tall graceful flowering spikes. The flowers dangle down, hence the common name. I’ve found this difficult to grow in my wet Leicestershire clay. It’s a plant that needs a perfect balance of good fertile soil with excellent drainage. Not easy to achieve.

The view through the second arch. There’s a white clematis Paul Farges, or summer snow, on the right.

At the end of the view, there’s a granite and metal sculpture. These were originally rollers in wooden frames, pulled by horses to flatten clods in the surrounding fields. The metal parts came from more modern Cambridge rolls, pulled by tractors. In the background you can see an area of moisture-loving planting alongside a stream, with a path leading to a pond.

A focal point metal seed head sculpture in the centre of the mini-meadow.

Umbellifers in the meadow. Very attractive to bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

Looking over a low farm fence, there’s a paddock full of grasses and wild flowers such as yellow rattle and yellow Lotus corniculatus, bird’s foot trefoil.

The whole field is covered in tiny white flowers. We know this as stitchwort, a type of stellaria.

Helen leaves flowers to set seed for birds to enjoy. This is a Silybum marianum with thistle-like seeds just about to take flight. I’m glad I captured the moment, and I’m glad I made the effort to leave my potting shed to see Helen’s garden in all its glory.

Little Ash Bungalow is a 1.5 acre garden regularly open for the NGS, and also open by arrangement for groups of 10 or more on pre-arranged dates. Admission is £4 adults, children are admitted free. Cakes and refreshments usually available. Dogs on leads welcome.

Little Ash Bungalow, Fenny Bridges, Devon, EX14 3BL

https://ngs.org.uk/view-garden/21320/

Notes:

Other plants I noted, if you are a keen plants person: Roscoea Royal Purple, Crinum powellii Album, umbellifera Conopodium majus, Hedychium spicatum, Buddleja weyeriana, Clethra alnifolia for perfume, Grevillea victoriae, Cuphea blepharophylla, Buddleja lindleyana, pitcher plants, rudbeckia, Catalpa erubescens Purpurea, Phlox Starfire, Crinodendron patagua, Lobelia urens, Gladiolus papilio Ruby, Miaianthemum racemosum, bamboos, pond plants, bog plants and clematis – many unusual varieties.

NGS Garden Visit- Oak Tree House

Pam Shave has a garden packed full of plant treasures. There’s wonderful scented roses, clematis, special perennials, and a whole border of foxgloves. And the good news is, you can visit the garden and see them too. Pam is county organiser for the NGS-Yellow Book – open gardens scheme, which raises money for cancer care and nursing charities.

I was lucky enough to visit today for a preview. Here’s a slide show of plants that caught my eye.

Foxgloves stand out in a border packed full of geraniums, campanulas, poppies and day lilies galore.

Thalictrum aquilegifolium or meadow rue. A pretty filler between the standard and bush roses.

David Austin Roses are beautifully healthy and deliciously scented. This one pictured above is Princess Alexandra of Kent. Blue herbaceous geranium provides a pretty weed-smothering ground cover beneath them.

This James Galway rose with very frilled petals is growing along the boundary fence. The scent is like a summer fruit salad, all pineapple, peaches and melon combined.

Pink sanguisorba is a lovely “fluffy filler” in amongst the roses and echoes the spires of the foxgloves.

Geranium Summer Skies is a perennial worth searching for. It makes a statement plant mid-June, and then blooms again if cut to the ground after flowering.

Oriental poppies are another high summer attraction, and this one is a particularly pretty pale pink, with ink-black stamens. It’s called Papaver Royal Wedding.

I grow blue and white love-in-a-mist. I wouldn’t be without its delicate starry flowers and pretty seed heads. Pam grows this variety, with a range of pinks and whites, called Nigella Mulberry Rose.

There are little collections of containers all around the garden. I’ve never seen so many in one garden. Even some of the vegetables are grown in pots. Here there’s annual cosmos with scented-leaved pelargoniums.

Roses also grow in huge 50cm terracotta pots. This is a David Austin rose. I’m just waiting for confirmation on the names of some of these plants. I was enjoying my visit so much, I forgot to look at the labels. (Pam has reported back- this one is Lady Emma Hamilton. A must-have for me.)

Clematis Versailles grow in 45cm pots, as a pair, each side of the back door. Such a beautiful purple colour, with a deeper stripe down the centre of each petal.

Underplanting for the clematis is this pretty scented nemesia, an annual which can be kept going from one year to the next by taking cuttings and overwintering in a frost -free greenhouse .

Masses of flowers and full of bees and hover flies .

Bees love the violas, also growing in a collection of plant pots. Viola Florence and Martin came from Jack and Laura at Bouts Nursery.

A raised brick-edged pond spills into another horseshoe-shaped pond on a lower level. We sat on the pond side, watched the fish and admired the miniature water lilies.

Exotic-looking gazanias grow well in free draining compost with added grit, in a sunny spot, or in containers.

Oak Tree House opens this Weekend, 22 and 23 June. North Road, South Kilworth, Leicestershire, LE17 6DU.

Links : NGS Oak Tree House https://www.ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/garden/20265/

David Austin Roses: https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/

Perennials : https://www.hardysplants.co.uk/

clematis : https://www.raymondevisonclematis.com/

Many thanks to the Garden Media Guild for organising today’s visit : https://www.gardenmediaguild.co.uk/

Please feel free to share this post and spread some good news. And follow me on twitter @kgimson, on Instagram karengimson1 . Thank you 😊

Ellicar Gardens -open for NGS 25th February @ellicargardens

There aren’t many invitations that start with the warning “beware of the goose!” But when Sarah Murch sent an e-mail inviting us to visit, she told us to sound our horn when we arrived. She would safely let us in past the goose.

Now, I had a very unfortunate experience with a gander some years ago. I only just managed to outrun him. They are surprisingly scary at full speed, with their necks out stretched and wings flapping. Not an experience I particularly wished to repeat.

But to be honest, we didn’t need to worry. The Ellicar garden goose was more concerned with guarding his “family” of adopted bantam chicks. But we gave him a very wide berth anyway.

The newly-hatched chicks and goose combination were just the start of what turned out to be a most surprising visit. We found a llama, goats, rare breed sheep, cows and two adorable rescue pigs. And they all clearly love their owner. They all come racing across the field as soon as they catch sight of Sarah.

This is Orlando, Sarah’s newest acquisition; a birthday present, she explains. Well, I’ve never met anyone who’s had a llama as a birthday present before, but I’m soon quite envious. I find myself enquiring exactly where one could obtain such a gorgeous creature, how much they eat, how much they cost…… I’m nearly ready to order one on the spot when I hear the coat can be brushed and fluff woven and knitted into jumpers! What a joy. We move swiftly on. Turning our thoughts to the gardens, around the corner, past the paddocks, is a sight of great beauty- a natural swimming pool.

The pool is frozen over when we visit, but Sarah explains the water is warm enough to swim in from March to November. The temperature is 17C in spring, and 20-26C in summer. The pool is naturally filtered and surrounded by grasses and willows that cast their reflections on the water. Sarah painted a lovely picture when she described swimming with kingfishers flying by, just above their heads.

The garden is planted with wildlife in mind and many of the perennials and shrubs provide nectar for bees and butterflies, and seeds for birds. Grasses are a special feature of the garden. At this time of the year, they look stunning, backlit by a sunset, which is when I took these photos.

The grasses include various stipa, silver feather grass Miscanthus Silberfeder, and feather reed grass Calamagrostis Overdam.

Seed heads shine amongst the colourful dogwoods and willows; eupatorium, aster and sedums in particular.

Coral bark willow, Salix Britzensis- pollarded to produce bright red stems- looks fabulous set against a background of white silver birches. They are underplanted with masses of emerging spring bulbs, including crocus, snowdrops, iris and narcissi.

We love this living willow “fedge” a cross between a fence and a hedge, with teasel heads in front. And there’s a children’s garden, with bug hotel, wild flower planting- and even a willow den.

Ellicar Gardens covers five acres and has been created over the past eight years by Sarah and her husband Will. The gardens open this Sunday February 25, 12-4pm for the NGS charity. There are other opening dates on the website. Adults £4.50, children free. Carr Road, Gringley-on-the- Hill, Doncaster, DN10 4SN. For more information : ngs.org.uk. Hodsock Priory is about 20 minutes drive away and the winter garden there is open until March 4th. Their last opening day is also in aid of the NGS.

Hodsock Priory .

Ellicar Gardens

Two happier pigs have never been seen! Just irresistible.

Art in the garden- a visit to Cathy’s glorious plot.

When Cathy Lyon-Green wanted a garden room – she set to and built it herself. "Building really is as simple as laying one brick on top of another- and checking the levels regularly." And the result is stunning- a pink painted summerhouse with grey windows and pretty pantile roof. It's the perfect place to sit and survey Cathy's extraordinary garden.

Readers might recognise Cathy's name from the popular meme In a Vase on Monday and Rambling in the Garden blog. I've enjoyed joining in with the meme for about a year, so when I saw Cathy's garden would be open for the National Garden Scheme for the first time, I couldn't resist a visit. Mum and I were in for a real treat. Everything about Cathy's garden is out of the ordinary. There's a surprise around every corner. Quite honestly, I got out my notebook and started writing down ideas for my own plot. We loved these photo canvasses which brighten up the garden walls.

We spotted these pretty metal plant supports with jewel-like flowers.

Simple ideas are often best, and we loved finding little painted stones around the garden. Some said, empathy – peace, and love. Mum and I pondered what our stones might say. Mum said "giving," and "caring." Mine would say "sharing," and "loyalty." Doesn't it make you think.

You never know what you are going to find next in Cathy's garden. Nestled against the shed wall we found this character. Mum and I had an argument as to whether it was a male or a female of the species. We both agreed it was friendly though.

We thought this beautiful metal sculpture reminded us of wild flowers and cow parsley in particular.

These two birds on top of the garden wall made us laugh. Are they pigeons or crows? We couldn't decide. Just about everything in the garden sparks a debate. It's all a talking point.

I am always looking for new ideas- especially if they save money. So I loved this idea for a cane- topper. It's a painted wooden cube. So simple, but is a brilliant way to protect eyes, and make a statement. The cubes were in bright fuchsia pink and purple shades. They looked gorgeous contrasting with the lime green leaves, and popping up through the cottage garden flowers.

I might copy this idea on my cut flower and veg plot. The plant supports would also be a good idea to hold up the netting over the cabbages etc.

For once, Mum and I were in total agreement on something. This message.

It's always lovely to see items saved and re-purposed in the garden. We loved this little stained glass window set into one of the garden walls.

We found plenty of places to sit and relax in the garden. This cosy seat is enveloped in a pink planting scheme of astrantia, geranium and alliums. We loved the little green checked cushions which were a feature on all benches and seats throughout the garden.

And finally, after much backtracking and going round the garden several times to make sure we hadn't missed anything, we found the terrace in front of the garden room that Cathy describes as her sitooterie.

"I have always 'made' things, and if something is needed, I will want to make it if at all possible. I built my first low brick wall about 40 years ago, but my great interest in bricklaying was well and truly kick-started when we were constructing the extension in 1998 and I have created many more opportunities to continue bricklaying since then. The opportunity for the sitooterie came about when we dismantled the original greenhouse that was on the site. "

I asked Cathy how long it had taken her to create the garden. "We didn't really do anything in the garden except cut the grass until about 2000, then gradually we began reducing the grass by creating beds over the next few years, before coming to a standstill when work well and truly got in the way. Listening to my heart instead of my head and retiring in 2011 was when I was able to focus on the garden as a whole and consolidate or improve on what had been done up until then. There was still no overall plan, and many of the best ideas were created as a response to something that just wasn't working, or something that would otherwise have been a waste- such as the shrub border which came about because our neighbour was filling a skip with topsoil!"

We can report back that the home-made cakes were all delicious and Cathy's helpers Janet and Chris made us feel very welcome. We sat for quite a long time, making mental notes of all the planting combinations we loved and all the little touches that made this such an inspirational garden. Driving home, we kept saying to each other "and did you notice that……," and "what about that……." But neither of us could say how big the garden was because it was so deceptive. The little paths twist and turn through shady fern- filled corners and out into a stream- filled glade. We looked on the NGS website when we got home and it stated- one third of an acre. The blurb also says 'Plant-lovers garden, full of surprises." Mum and I nodded our heads in agreement!

Cathy's garden, East View Cottages, Tamworth, Warwickshire, will be open again for the Yellow Book NGS towards end of June next summer. Cathy had a good turn out for her first ever open gardens. 155 people in total over two days. Click on the highlighted words for more information.

Spring Garden Visit for Mothering Sunday

It’s always to treat to discover a garden you haven’t visited before- especially when they open for only one day a year. Gunthorpe Hall proved to be the perfect place to take Mum for our special Mothering Sunday outing.


We stood and admired these iron gates and views over the Rutland farmland. One thing we wished we had was a guide for all the rare breed sheep. Mum and I thought we recognised a few, but there were many we’d never seen before. The lambs were a springy delight. 


The park surrounding the formal garden is awash with daffodils, and every kind of spring bulb you can think of. 




Daffodils have naturalised in the grass around the magnolia, cherry and lime trees. Backed by a south facing wall, there’s a new kitchen garden with raised beds and a new Hartley Botanic greenhouse.



We all love to mooch in greenhouses, looking to see what other people are  growing. We found broad beans and  beetroot seedlings  looking very healthy and thriving. 


I would just love to get my hands on these sleeper-edged beds. There would be sweetpeas, and dahlias, and cut flowers galore! 


And after all that gardening, I’m sure I would be quite comfortable lying on these outdoor couches, with wonderful canvas sails to shade the sun. 


Well, some people have gnomes, stone statues etc. And then there’s……plastic penguins! Not sure what the story is behind these slightly grumpy-looking penguins, but there were quite a few about the place- all in different colours. And a white plastic gorilla, and a red teddy bear. I will try to find out and report back…….


We weren’t sure about the scary-looking eyes. But we did love the cowslip bank and the mulberry tree underplanted with thousands of bulbs. 


Gunthorpe Hall, near Oakham, opens for the Leicestershire National Gardens Scheme once a year. I can highly recommend a visit. The garden is a wonderful spring delight. Mum loved her outing – and the delicious afternoon tea made by all the hard working volunteers.  

Do you have any favourite spring gardens you like to visit? Or have you, like us, found somewhere new and special to visit?