Saturday, 28 November 2009

The Secret Garden.

A visit to Peckover House gardens.

Peckover House and croquet lawn.

For a number of years as I was growing up we had a smallholding on the North Brink of the River Nene near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Anyone who knows The Fens, knows that Wisbech is not he grandest of towns, it is somewhat run down and dilapidated and a little rough around the edges. In Georgian times however it was an affluent and bustling town with it's large docks used by many wealthy merchants. Today, amidst the neglected shops and run down buildings on the banks of the River Nene there still remain some really quite beautiful Georgian properties. They have a delightful untouched charm about them and are often a favoured haunt of the period drama makers. Numerous television productions such as Martin Chuzzlewit, Micawber and David Copperfield have been shot in and around the houses there, and at one house in particular; Peckover House.

Ginkgo biloba.

Despite living on the same road as this beautiful Georgian merchants house for several years I never visited it or it's walled gardens. As a child I always remember little tastes of the garden as I walked along the pavement with my mother such as the smell of roses in summer, a dragonfly whizzing noisily past or the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree landing at my feet in Autumn. So for many years I have been curious about what lay within the walled garden at Peckover. Tumbledown Farm, the smallholding where we now live lies on the Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Cambridgshire borders so Peckover is only a 30 minute drive away at most. With it being so near I decided this year as I was living at Tumbledown again that I would have to make my way back to North Brink and visit the walled garden. I made my first visit on my Birthday in June but it was a short one as the weather was overcast and grey and soon erupted into heavy rain. So I made a second visit on a glorious August afternoon and explored this small walled garden at my own leisure.

Summer house and lily pool.

Within the walled garden I discovered that it was divided into several smaller gardens. In June one of the most beautiful was a small walled garden that had a circular lawn with a lily pool at its heart. A circular gravel path ran around it and several varieties of big beautiful frothy peonies effervesced from the borders surrounding it.

Pink Peonies.

Lily pool near summer house.

Rose Garden.

After delighting in so many delicious peonies (they really have to be one of my favourite flowers even though they only flower for such a short time) I discovered that Peckover was crammed to the hilt with roses. Everywhere I turned there was another rose, climbing up an arbour or obelisk, scrambling through a tree or just quietly nestling next to a wall. Absolutely heavenly for a hopeless romantic like me who can't resist shoving her nose in every new rose she spots and taking in the dreamy scents.

Smell me!

Rose Garden.

Archway with rose.


Cup and Saucer Plant -Cobaea scandens.

A number of beautiful annual climbers smothered poles and obelisks around the garden. The purple flowers of Cobaea scandens caught my eye in one border and contrasted wonderfully with the obelisk in the border opposite it that was filled with jolly orange and yellow Spanish Flag flowers (Ipomea lobata) waving in the breeze.

Cabbage White butterfly on bench.

On my August visit to the garden I sat down in a little shaded corner on a beautiful white bench. Golden afternoon light streamed through the trees and lit up the area that was full of swathes of Japanese anemones. It made the garden feel quite magical and lived up to my childhood imaginings of a beautiful secret garden hidden behind that wall that was just too tall for me to know what mysteries lay within.

White Japanese anemone.

Japanese anemone.

Morning Glory.

Yellow cutting border.

Tortoiseshell butterfly on Verbena bonariensis.

Spanish Flag -Ipomea lobata.

For a small garden there were many beautiful plants, again the bold colours of the red border appealed to the inner Sarah Raven in me (oh heck!) with its dark red Dahlias, Amaranthus, Astrantia and Gladioli. A Victoria plum tree sat in the middle of them and the deep purple skin of the plums dangling from its branches made them look like opulent jewels next to the rich burgundies of the flowers.


Gladioli and Amaranthus.


Dragonfly on Dahlia.

View of Peckover House from garden.

As usual I took a 101 photographs on my visits. There was a beautiful little orangery crammed full of Abutilons, Pelargoniums and Hippeastrum that made a very useful retreat from the rain on my first visit. I have put some extra snaps in a slide show for anyone that needs cheering up from the grey skies and rain currently lurking outside the window. Just click for the show!

CLICK for the slide show

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Tickled Pink!

I have been a bit blue lately so it cheered me up no end to be the recipient of a "Best Blog Award" earlier this week. It was most kindly presented to me by Anna at Greentapestry and Tatyana at My Secret Garden. I am tickled pink that they thought Wisteria and Cow Parsley worthy of such an award and it has made me smile through the howling storms and rain of the last few days.

I must now pass this award on to other blogs who I think deserve such an award along with these instructions ~

Post the award on your blog along with the name of the person who passed it on to you and link to their blog. Choose blogs which you have recently discovered and you think are great and pass it on to them.

I am going to nominate blogs that I have discovered since I started blogging at the end of February this year and have been enjoying immensely. If you have not already come across these blogs I hope that you will visit them soon. They are:

A Photographers Garden Blog

An Artist's Garden

Blogging from Blackpitts Garden

Elephant's Eye

Esther's Boring Garden Blog


Going to the Dogs

Mutterings in the Shrubbery

Plant Tips and Guidelines for the Desert Garden

Ryan's Garden

Teza's Garden

The Galloping Gardener

The Inadvertent Farmer

The Inelegant Gardner

Transatlantic Plantsman

Veg Plotting

Victoria's Backyard

The End of the Line.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Great Chalfield Manor: An English Country Garden.

Great Chalfield Manor

Last month, on a deliciously crisp and sunny October morning I went to visit the gardens at Great Chalfield Manor. I knew nothing about them except that they were supposed to be in an "Arts and Crafts" style. The Manor was in quite a remote part of the Wiltshire countryside. My journey took me along narrow tree lined lanes until I was beginning to wonder whether I had taken the wrong road and then suddenly the lane opened out and there was Great Chalfield; an extraordinarily breath taking 15th century manor house with sunshine dancing off its bull rush edged moat.

Entrance with Parthenocissus.

After I had admired the quite unexpected beauty of Great Chalfield Manor and its very striking Gothic windows from the front I made my way through an arched gateway dripping with rich red Parthenocissus vines. The Manor sits in a small estate comprising of an active parish church, gardens, woods and farmland. The estate was left to the National Trust in 1943 by Robert Fuller but is still home to his grandson Robert Floyd, his wife Patsy and their family.

Church Spire

The current gardens at Great Chalfield are based on designs drawn up in 1907 by Alfred Parsons. Patsy Fuller is a keen gardener and she has played a significant part in helping to rejuvenate the gardens in recent years. In fact she was out working in the garden with her two dogs keeping her company when I visited.

Topiary yew 'house'.



Lunaria annua.

The Paved Courtyard was one of my favourite spots. Although it was the end of the summer, and the roses were beginning to tire a little, it felt like a special spot. The four beds in the court are planted with the pink flowering polyantha rose "Nathalie Nypels". Self seeded Campanula pyramidalis, wild strawberries and Mexican daisies poke through every available gap in the walls and flagstones and an old rocking chair sits on one side looking out into the courtyard. I fancifully imagined myself sat there on a warm summers evening with the sweet aroma of the roses and a glass of wine.

The Paved Court.

Nerine bowdenii.

View of one of the yew 'houses' and the church.



One of the borders was spilling over with white Gaura. Amongst it was a pinky orange Potentilla cheekily smiling though the sea of icy white. I really enjoyed the contrast, it was particularly striking even though the border was in shade during my visit.

Gaura and Potentilla.



Japanse anenome, Verbena bonariensis and Tithonia rotundifolia.

Another area of the garden that really appealed to me was full of rich oranges and purples. Tithonia rotundifolia with Verbena bonariensis weaving through it, dark leaved smoke bushes, Amaranthus and Dahlias all exuded sumptuous colours.

Painted Lady butterfly of Verbena bonariensis.


Whilst the gardens were not particularly large, there was a lot to see, even in October. Great Chalfield is a garden I will most certainly be returning to if the opportunity arises. It was full of English charm, dew covered roses, quirky topiary and happy insects. I spotted countless ladybirds, butterflies and bees. And all of this was presented with the back drop of some of the most delightful architecture I have seen in years.