Staying close by we could not miss a visit to Hardy’s Cottage Plants Nursery in the village of Freefolk, Hampshire. My husband was absolutely right in thinking that although the entrance might be free, the exit may prove to be expensive. He was absolutely right! Rows and rows of healthy and many unusual plants, Rachel was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and helpful, and it was worth every penny.
With the car full we made our way through Whitchurch to the small village of Tufton. Here the gate of a small cottage garden and nursery was open. Great to find a garden open on a Thursday.
What better way to display the disabled parking sign positioned up against the fence close to the entrance.
It was a glorious sunny day and the garden owner sat under an aged apple tree. We were amongst several visitors walking up the path taking us behind the cottage. Around the other side pots of cheerful tulips greeted us.
The small garden was neatly arranged, slightly raised with the central feature of a large terracotta pot of tulips. Paved paths lead you either side.
There are splashes of colour and plenty of features and plants.
A wonderful tank for fish and water lilies is placed at a jaunty angle.
the flowing water coming through the old hand pump in the corner.
A stone fish seemed happy to be out of the tank.
Tulips of all colours grow in a variety of pots.
A large trellis divides the garden and just beyond the opening in the thick hedge we are beckoned through to the nursery area.
The blossom from the orchard behind lifts ones eyes from the raised stands, rows of pots and general workings of a small commercial nursery.
We pass through beds and it comes as a surprise to find a large open field; a small holding with sheep and hens.
Much work is in progress; a pond recently dug and a group of betula jacquemontii newly planted in the grass.
The owner is sad he has not sold last season’s hay stacked up high in the barn. By the look of the verdant meadow it could be another good hay crop this year. Up in the mature deciduous tree sits an owl nesting box undisturbed by the busy road in the far distance.
Tea is served in the room at the end of the wooden hay store. Appropriately we take our delicious apple cake into the orchard. We appear not to be alone.
Sitting on the bench and enjoying the sunshine, we decline having our photograph taken but are grateful to have been asked so politely by the photographer. He, we discover is part of the Hampshire NGS team, and will be opening his wildlife friendly garden and small holding in June.
Retracing our steps we walk back into the cottage garden and find more pots of tulips.
In the shady walk alongside the cottage, the scent of skimmia is overwhelming,
and a gnarled branch gives added interest.
The owner tells us she has opened for the NGS for three years now. She recognises the proactive approach of their advertising and signage. A selection of plants are for sale with 10% being donated to the charity.
As we are leaving we notice on the fence outside a charming pink alpina clematis growing through the stems of a rose.