Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Odyssey: Where Next?

The Courts, Holt, Wiltshire.

I have been on something of a garden visiting odyssey over the past year. I have delighted in discovering a whole range of gardens across the England. Garden visits have been my way of escaping the stresses of real world. Whenever I have needed to chill out and relax a little or fancied an adventure and the chance to play with the camera I have visited a garden. This year I hope to continue to be able to do that and have already managed an afternoon's stroll around Rousham.

I have been trying to decide what my favourite garden visits of 2008 were. Some gardens I adored, others were a surprising let down. A few gardens really stood out for me as places I could visit again and again. Infact one of them I did, it was my regular haunt. It is a garden bursting at the seams with  character and a tantalising range of plants throughout the seasons. The Courts is just a few miles down the road from my Wiltshire home. I first visited it about 18 months ago with my non-garden loving partner. I was amazed that even on a very hot summers day he managed to make it around this gorgeous little garden without too much complaint, and as we sat on the lawn slurping our ice creams we decided that it really was an excellent way to spend a summers afternoon (I have yet to do a blog about my visits but may just slip one in soon to add a bit of colour to a very slushy brown January).

 Hidcote Manor, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire.

Knowing how much I adored The Courts I made it my mission to take in a few more "Arts and Crafts" style gardens. Last summer I lapped up the picturesque gardens of the eccentric Snowshill Manor and merrily trotted around Great Chalfield Manor but thought I better make a concerted effort to visit the "Holy Grail" of Arts and Crafts style gardens: Hidcote Manor. Again this is a garden I have not yet blogged about even though I went to visit it last May. I think I have probably delayed the task, as my first impressions of it were rather disappointing. Perhaps some of that is my own fault, as I visited it on a very hot bank holiday Sunday and the garden was packed. It was also quite early in the year. However, I must confess I was completely unexcited by it, after hearing so much about this garden and the echoed "Oh, you must visit Hidcote" I was expecting to be wowed. I wasn't. The planting was uninspiring; swathes of sweet rocket lounged around smelling rather good, acres of alliums were their usual fuzzy purple selves, there were great drifts of blue forget-me-nots with jolly yellow poppies poking through them, lots of pink cow parsley and clouds frothy wisteria dribbling all over twee barns and arches. I kept telling myself I should like it but I didn't. I think perhaps it was all just too Barbara Cartland obvious. Hidcote to me was trying to scream "look at me, aren't I beautiful?" whereas The Courts and Snowshill were a little more earnest, politely charming without the need to be brash. I know I will probably get shot down in flames for admitting this, infact it has taken me nine months to finally make this confession to you, but I needed to get it off of my chest. However, I am not adverse to giving Hidcote a second chance and will perhaps add it to my list of places to visit again this year to see if my impression of it is still the same.

The Old Vicarage, East Ruston, Norfolk.

Right at the top of the list of places I fell in love with last year is The Old Vicarage at East Ruston. This for me truly was a WOW! garden. A veritable banquet of plants and gardens I just did not expect to find in the middle of rural Norfolk. It is one I shall without doubt be re-visiting !

 The Peto Garden, Iford Manor, Bradford on Avon.

The Peto Garden at Iford Manor is another real gem of a garden. I was surprised just how much I enjoyed it. I had not considered myself a fan of formal gardens until my visit to Iford, but I really did bond with this garden. Perhaps it was the archaeologist in me that enjoyed the eccentric collection of antiquities dotted all around the garden. But I think it was more than that, this place was special, it was alive with butterflies and wildlife, the planting kept me on my toes and the design was clever and exquisitely beautiful. Iford deserves it's tag as one of Britain's most "iconic gardens."

 Special Plants, Cold Ashton, Chippenham.

There will always be a special place in my heart for Derry Watkins' garden as it is partly responsible for kick starting my obsession with plants. It is also a garden I return to again and again for pleasure and inspiration.

 Another of my favourites from the summer was the Piet Oudolf Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe, Norfolk.

I am not committed to visiting just one type of garden; I have taken a great deal of pleasure over the past year from getting the opportunity, whenever possible, to discover for myself a number of gardens with very different styles and planting schemes. 

So my dilemma is where should I go this year? I have two absolute must sees that I am itching to visit, one, having heard Fergus Garrett talk about it with such passion a couple of months ago is Great Dixter and the other is The Beth Chatto Gardens. I have also pencilled in a visit to The Exotic Garden after hearing some Mutterings in the Shrubbery and a visit to Laskett after The Galloping Gardener recommended it to me. I am very fond of Potager gardens, my copy of Joy Larkcom's Creative Vegetable Gardening hasn't been far from me this year when I have been working on the veg plot, so perhaps I should try and visit some inspiring veg gardens too?

What others should I add to my list I wonder?
Is there somewhere you think I should see on my odyssey?
What are your favourite gardens and why? What's top of your list to visit this year?
Do let me know, I am really keen to know what you think.

RO xx


Noel Morata said...

wow...i'm really envious at all the amazing gardens that you have at your disposal....i'm also very eager to be one of your first virtual guests on your visits....lets do it soon please?

Unknown said...

I love the variety of gardens you've visited! I think that given what you show of Hidcote, I wouldn't much like it either. I despise topiary except as something to chortle over (thank Edward Scissorhands for forever colouring my attitude towards it). When I think of Hidcote I think of lavender, and I didn't see any in those photos (probably because it was far too early in the year.) I was very gratified to notice Anagallis in the Derry Watkins collage, though.

Carol said...

Incredible post RO! What wondrous gardens you have nearby!! I love the 'Courts', Ilford Manor and Chippenham. Piet Oudolf's is smashing too! What inspiration. I shall have to return often just to view these luscious gardens as seen though your great eye! Fabulous photographs! I am overwhelmed. ;=))

Noelle Johnson said...

Your pictures of your garden visits are so beautiful and makes me wish that I lived closer. Like you, I prefer subtle and understated beauty of gardens instead of those that are shouting "Look at me!" I look forward to your next garden tour.

Amy said...

Those are very relaxing and beautiful places. I love the way you placed your photos! -Amy

Unknown said...

I have so many of those same questions as you! I am planning my first English trip in many years, and am desperately trying to refine my list of 200 "possibles"!

debsgarden said...

All of these gardens are fantastic; I can't wait to visit virtually along with you. I think, if I had the chance, I would visit Nympha near Rome. And, of course, Monet's Giverny. But there are also many beautiful gardens in the USA, and I think I want a job where I get paid to visit them!

Aspidistra said...

Perhaps we should have a competition this summer to see who can visit the most gardens? But I expect you will win hands down...

Great Dixter you mention. You know you want to. But keep it for later in the summer, when the plants are fat and argumentative in the August sun.

Anonymous said...

I am entranced with this posting for it brings back so many very happy memories.

The Courts I visited many years ago. Then it was somewhat neglected but had just been taken in hand by a new Head Gardener. I was captivated by its atmosphere and knew it had the potential to be remarkable. Somehow the National Trust has never advertised it extensively.

I am sorry you did not like Hidcote, a sentiment shared by my friend T who refers to it as Hideouscote. Bank Holidays must be avoided. Try arriving early in the season and late in the day. After closing time you can still continue to wander and then make your own way out.

Snowshill I have never cared for but think the Peto garden at Iford simply divine. Rousham, too, although closer to a landscape than a garden.

Beth C's garden I am confident you will love for its planting combinations, which are superb, although for me the garden lacks structure. Two gardens I strongly recommend are Wollerton Old Hall in Shropshire and Tintinhull [NT] in Somerset. Both combine formal structures with great plantsmanship.

I should love to have your comments on What Makes a Garden Great? - my current posting.

Deborah at Kilbourne Grove said...

Thank you for allowing me to "visit" these gardens with you. The Laskett has always been the Holy Grail, for me. I hope you do get there.

Barry said...

Dearest RO:

You've definitely covered a lot of coveted ground in the past year! I am so pleased to be able to traverse the gardens with you, albeit vicariously by means of this blog!

I am especially fond of Rousham, and was estatic to see you post earlier in the month - sublime - and consider The Beth Chatto Gardens perhaps my favourite.... albeit vicariously again, as I have never been. I so look forward to your take - especially the Woodland section. I'm all for rare and choice selections, even at the expense of losing structure. For me the plants dictate the evetual garden structure. We need a bit of garden chaos every now and then! Keep up the fabulous effort.... it is greatly appreciated!

Dan said...

Oh wow, what fantastic photos, and so many different gardens. I love your honesty when you say which are not quite your thing!
Gardens to visit - well we are not so lucky to have many fantastic ones near here, but Bodnant Gardens near Llandudno is a definite must!
A bit closer to you, I would also dearly love to go to The Manor at Hemmingford Grey, so if you get around to going to this one before I do, please share your pictures! Just make sure you read The Children of Green Knowe before you go.
I really enjoy reading your posts and looking at your pictures, English summer days are just the antidote for grey and misty January!
best wishes

VP said...

I love The Courts too and the HG will be speaking next at Bath Uni Gardening Club :)

After this week's talk, you must add Keith Wiley's garden at Wildside to your list if you find yourself in Devon. You'll be able to preview it on Channel 4's Landscape Man soooooon.

If you ever go up North, give Alnwick a whirl and I loved Chatsworth - so much garden history at the latter. I think the archaeologist in you would like Hanham Court too as there are all kinds of relics dotted about the garden.

I'm interviewing Derry Watkins for t'blog next week BTW :D

Joanne said...

I would recommend a trip to see the Cornish gardens not Eden and Heligan the modern day theme park gardens, but Trebah, Trellisick and Lamoran at St Mawes(may have the spelling wrong)

Anna said...

A great post and oh so beautifully illustrated RO. The Old Vicarage is high on my list of gardens to vist. The garden that made the biggest impact on me last year was Wildside in Devon. We visited last August and I still have to do a post about it. I started one but could not narrow down which photos to include :) Will have to put something together very soon. Visited Hidcote a few years ago but preferred the nearby Kiftsgate.

D said...

They are all so beautiful and different. We were fortunate to visit Hidcote and Stourhead when we were in England years ago, and loved both, but especially the latter.

Anonymous said...

RO, Your reaction to Hidcote reminded me of the time I got to London in May and went to the Chelsea Flower Show. I was glad I had done it once, but it was packed and hard to really see anything, and it just didn't knock my socks off the way I had expected it to. When I'm traveling, I find that the really WOW!! experiences are almost always things that I didn't even know existed until I happened to stumble upon them -- like Barbara Hepworth's studio and garden in St. Ives. Thanks for sharing all your garden travels with us. -Jean

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

It's absolutely wonderful! I enjoyed every picture, every image. So many ideas! Thank you so much for the inspiration!

Kyna said...

Those are such beautiful gardens! I hope I get to visit them one day.

I'm kind of impressed by the Hidcote garden by it's pictures, even if you weren't lol. Maybe because I don't get to see that kind of thing very often here...:) But then again, I loved all of the gardens you posted pics of lol.

Cenya said...

I opened your blog and fell in! I could spend hours just drowning myself in your pictures. Thank You so much!

Anonymous said...

Hi Orchid, I am spellbound by the gardens you have shown, and those mentioned in the comments. Perhaps next year I will be visiting England for the first time, and deciding which gardens to visit seems overwhelming! Great Dixter for sure. Is it true that some gardens are better in certain seasons, and to plan for that, also avoid crowds on holidays too, that would certainly dampen the experience of any garden for me. I look forward to seeing what you will show us next. :-)

Andrea said...

Your gardens are always enchanting, and you capture them visually to satiate our appetites.

Karly said...

Your visits and reviews are delightful! I'm thinking that I should start doing some in Aus to convince people to come down here on gardening tours :-)
We lived in the UK for two years and in that time my favourites were
- Great Dixter (love Sir Christopher Lloyd)
- Sissinghurst (of course)
- The Lost Gardens of Helligan in Cornwall (its just fascinating!)
- Bodnant Garden, Wales - wild garden particularly
- Stourhead in Wilshire was quite nice and a little quirky
I have to admit, I liked Hidcote! But maybe because I'm Australian and am not tired of the classic English garden look yet :-)

Anonymous said...

Traveling to these gardens vicariously via your photos is a thrill and inspiration for me. No matter where you choose to visit next I know I will enjoy through your lens!

Jess said...

I would love to visit those places. Though I don't live in the right climate, and will never be able to successfully cultivate it (plus there are zero stone buildings here!), in my minds eye the perfect garden is the english cottage garden and english formal garden. Too much Secret Garden and Agatha Christie as a child.