I was very surprised to find a garden open for the NGS on Monday 2nd January. So on a bright but very cold day we set off to Cambridge to visit Robinson College, the first of my 90 gardens.
None of the usual yellow signs were displayed here, but as directed by the NGS booklet, we entered through the Porter’s Lodge. The gardens are actually open to the public most of the year and it is the proceeds from the garden guide that you buy from the Porter which are donated to the NGS. The guide is a joy and provides the history, a list of the plants and maps.
We walk around the courtyard, the entrance to the garden is not obvious and it takes us a little while to figure which steps to take.
Bright, but icy cold we enter the garden. Leaving the new college behind us the bridge invites us to cross over into what is an amalgamation of gardens from Edwardian to Modern.
It is not a winter garden as such but there are plenty of trees with colourful bark.
There are several shrubs which were looking good in the weak sunshine in particular the Mahonia with yellow flowers exploding like fireworks.
The Sarcococca or winter box was smelling a dream.
Throughout the gardens there are plenty of places for scholars to sit, think and dream. In perhaps a thought provoking way, the sail-like sculpture seems to imitate the Wellingtonia (sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Pendula’)growing across the flat lawn. Or is it the other way round?
Also called the Weeping Redwood, this mighty tree close up it looks as if at any moment it might pick up its branches and lumber across the lawn.
Seed heads of verbena bonariensis look good against the smooth green.
Even the unripened figs are a delight in the morning sun.
A metal fence with a moongate provides a climbing frame for newly planted ivy and divides an eating area:
The Bar tables seem refreshingly modern but somehow keep a natural feel. The giant golden oat softens the landscape in the distance.
Lutyenesque steps not only provide a feature but cleverly link a serious drop in levels.
Round the corner is a tiny drop of colour, so small yet so bright:
Not all the divisions are new. Old, old espaliered apple trees not only line the path:
but also separate the outdoor theatre which is just waiting for a performance:
Mistletoe(Viscum album) inhabits the trees growing on the outside of the college grounds, growing out of reach high up in the branches:
It also grows on the apple trees within the garden at eye level. Having never really looked at it growing in its natural environment I realise how pretty it looks; the opaque berries are enchanting.
We are the only visitors in the garden except for squirrels, a cock pheasant and to his surprise, a muntjac. However two ghostly objects sited by the pond appear in silent communication:
We return to the college and it is the juxtaposition of the old and the new which is so striking; an aged tree lies propped up in front of the modern red brick building.
It has been a revelation. We have enjoyed the sculptures and been totally absorbed by the many different areas of garden. Spaces both enclosed and open, wild and tamed, formal and relaxed. A perfect garden for the scholar not just to sit, study and contemplate but also to eat, watch and even to act.