Tag: gardening

Biddulph Grange gardens

Biddulph Grange gardens

Which other gardens can you visit and find yourself walking leisurely from one country to another? Biddulph Grange is that garden. Of course, all gardens in modern times are a journey across continents. Even our most pedestrian suburban plots probably have several international guests. Rudbeckia […]

Villa Reale di Marlia

Villa Reale di Marlia

If you’ve read my post Olives and vines you’ll recall the point before the wedding where four of us visited La Villa Reale di Marlia. It was fortuitous – the villa stands mere minutes from the vineyard and olive groves where we were staying. I […]

Not enough hours in the day

Not enough hours in the day

How can we add more hours to the day? A question I keep posing to myself regularly at the moment – the answer, of course, impossible.

The reason for this pondering: I’ve found a new lease on life and there’s just so much out there to be enjoyed! I guess I could just as easily ask “how to add more money to my life to do these things” too. However, then one risks losing even more time, by living to work and not vice versa.


Renishaw Hall

I stole 20 minutes or so on Friday while doing work experience to wander round a Renishaw Hall’s gardens. Of course, not much had altered since my visit the previous Sunday, except for a lack of visitors in comparison. I always love having somewhere more to myself on day trips. Selfish of me, I know. I managed to stumble into Renishaw’s small white garden: simple but satisfying, with its paired arbours and slightly different sundials.

Renishaw’s gardeners were employing that useful tactic – which I never manage – of growing plants in lightweight containers, and then dropping them into less mobile pots around the garden to eye catching effect. Take for example the Agapanthus:

Laskey Farm

Open gardens are becoming a teeny bit of an addiction for Matt and me currently. There were a couple of delights to be had by legitimately snooping around others’ gardens this weekend.

The first visit was on early Saturday afternoon, at Laskey Farm in Thelwall. It’s an odd place to turn up to. You feel you’re driving into a farm, in that it seems to be a working site, which it is. But it doesn’t have tractors and pigs everywhere. Instead its smaller outbuildings are offices and workspaces.

The garden belongs with the main property – the owners of the whole place. One of the owners is an ex-teacher who retrained in garden design and who now works with a friend as the Secateurs Sisters. The garden is on the whole very attractive. I particularly liked the Mediterranean courtyard when you first walk through the gate, and the small prairie garden is pleasing too.

There is a koi pond which struck a chord with me for two reasons. The first was that it was cleverly fed by water undulating down from a terrapin pit, through a bog garden, before entering the pure fish pool. Secondly, and more straightforwardly, is that my dad built a koi pond at the house I spent my primary years in. I loved those fish. Soothing to watch, and beautiful.

I did find the clear glass and chrome finish barrier around the koi pond a shame, though. I got it from a safety point-of-view, but in my eyes, it clashed with the traditional materials and informality elsewhere, and detracted from the scenery. It was a shock to the senses.

All was followed up with Campari, prosecco, cake baking (Nigella’s lemon polenta and a giant Jaffa cake) and Moulin Rouge at Matt’s, taking us through to more-or-less midnight.

Abbeywood Estate

On to open garden number two: the eight manicured and 37 wilder acres of Abbeywood Estate. This felt more like stepping back into the 20s or 50s, with the style of the stunning house and the woodlands dotted about. It’s the prairie garden and the outdoor exotic garden which brings one back to modernity.

It’s hard to know where to start when describing the highlights of Abbeywood. It has to be my favourite garden visited so far in life. For a couple of years now that title has been held by East Ruston Old Vicarage in Norfolk. They’re neck-and-neck, but Abbeywood has clinched it by the sheer exuberance of its tropical garden. This is what smacks you in the face when you walk out of the cafe doors. It’s stunning in its own right, but even more importantly, it’s a brashly embroidered curtain over the rest of the land beyond its borders.

We walked around to the hen coops and veg-cum-cutting garden (they run a cut flower shop). Wow. A sea of dahlias, herbs, and cottage garden plants. The polytunnel houses some fantastic and inviting tomatoes, and short coppiced eucalyptus with arrow- and saucer-shaped leaves.

The prairie garden, overlooking some lovely hills beyond, is artfully shaped and stuffed full of grasses big and small. These support the varied flowering perennials like rudbeckia, helenium, echinacea and verbena. Brilliant.

The pool garden is serene and stately. Nothing over-the-top. It was a marvellous melange of Edwardian herbaceous beds and Moorish water and symmetry. One other point to note: their pots were planted up fantastically! I had container envy…

We topped off our Sunday by dashing over to Offerton for the “after party” of Teddy’s christening (the little boy of Matt’s friends, Becky and Dave). The cakes I’d baked seemed to go down nicely, and I’ll readily confess that the buffet food and glasses of prosecco went down well with me!

Here’s a quick question for you all: which aspect of the two gardens shown above do you most admire? Exotic, prairie, or pool garden? How about Renishaw’s Italianate style, or Laskey Farm’s Mediterranean courtyard?

An eternal outlook

An eternal outlook

How often do you find yourself retracing steps from an earlier part of your life, sometimes without even realising it? Last weekend I met Matt out in Tideswell where we’d had our very first date. This Saturday I ended up taking Troy for a walk […]

Gardening addictions

Gardening addictions

How does your garden grow? Full of spontaneous plant purchases? Despite not having my own garden at the moment, I’m still dabbling with plants and produce in my poor parents’ outdoor space. They’re inundated with plant pots, and I’ve only gone and picked up even […]

Lymm Open Gardens 2017

Lymm Open Gardens 2017

Do you ever yearn to know what is going on behind closed gates? Maybe you’re an avid gardener like me, and wonder what others do with their own outdoor spaces? I have the perfect remedy…

An open garden event. Each year since the 1920s, British gardeners have opened their inner sanctums to the outside world through the National Garden Scheme. I have recently visited a couple of examples of this contradiction to “Britishness”, where a stiff upper lip hidden away gives in to a knee-trembling voyeurism of floral proportions.

On a more intense scale was the Lymm Open Gardens Day, on Sunday 02 July 2017, part of the wider Lymm Festival (most of which I missed unfortunately). All ticket proceeds went to charity at St Rocco’s Hospice, while each garden offered up refreshments (food and drink, alcoholic and non-alcoholic) for a small price that went to charities of the owners’ own choice. It was all exceedingly good fun with fresh air, exercise, chit-chat and warmheartedness.

We followed the accompanying brochure in an extremely higgledy piggledy fashion, beginning with (7) No 16 Burford Lane. I was simply astounded by what a winding little oasis of calm and colour there was flourishing behind the hedge, right beside the road!

Next we wandered our way onto the Transpennine Trail to (2) and (3), gardens off Green View, whose gardens looked over open fields in the height of summer. Both plots were very different, number 7 bursting at the seams with plants of all varieties, number 8 more restrained and selective with the contribution of the owner’s own artwork (Paul Scates, for those who would like a look). They just go to show that you don’t need a vast area to do a lot.

There were several other brilliant gardens, including (5) Lucas Croft, The Avenue, with its “traditional” suburban lawn and flowerbeds concealing a magical shady spot complete with fish pond, arbour and acers, and (6) No 64 Crouchley Lane, home to a more Arts & Crafts feel cottage garden. Also outstanding was (1) 20 Pepper Street, near the heart of Lymm village: a more modern residence backing onto a sophisticated, whitewashed LA-esque garden which I was thrilled to hear incorporated reused elements of the owners’ own Tatton Show show garden. It was the perfect place to end our tour of Lymm’s private outdoor spaces, with a young DJ, proseccos and beer, and plenty of cheer. Sadly, I didn’t get a picture..!

I have to say though that my absolute favourite was (8) No 10 Statham Avenue, at the opposite end of the Transpennine Trail through Lymm. I was utterly unprepared for this work of art and technical wizardry. A steeply sloping garden rising up to the Bridgewater Canal, it had carefully and considerately been carved into paved terraces, plentiful seating areas and abundant flowerbeds since the early 1980s. There are veg patches – by the kitchen rather than stuffed away down the garden, practical and endearing – and social spots, the latter of which we’re getting much use, and rightly so!

All I can say is… A job very well done to the event organisers and participants, and I look forward to future occasions! I only wish more villages and towns did such wonderful, sociable and charitable open garden days.

Does your locality hold a similar event regularly? If so, do let us know – I’m always game for a visit!