There are 10 acres to see at Coton Manor, 10 miles North of Northampton, a garden considered to be one of Britain’s finest and one that is at its most magnificent in September when it is open for a day for the NGS.
Before entering the garden I cannot help but admire the medley of greens and yellows of the clematis and vine intertwined against the Northamptonshire brick.
What a joy to find an accessible ramp through the open garden gate.
Just inside there is the soothing sound of water trickling from a charming little fountain.
It is a welcoming terrace that stretches in front of the house; colours are gentle to the eye and there is plenty of space.
The low wall in the corner is a perfect height for pots overflowing with a variety of pelargonium.
The terrace sweeps elegantly left-handed around the house where more pelargoniums look as if they are best in show.
The popular garden school was started in 1994 and overlooks the old rose garden. Replanted in 2006 with selected plants that do not need feeding, watering or staking there seems to be plenty going on in this sheltered spot.
A fountain and pool is backed by the semi-circle border perfectly balanced with sedum and agapanthus.
Late roses gracefully climb the walls and for a moment you think it could be June.
We slip through the yew hedge into the woodland area where we find Pan with his pipes,
and return through the yew hedge to view the long border backed by the holly hedge. The guide book suggests it is at its best in July but now in September it is still a riot of colour.
There are a number of habitats here and we move out of the shade of the woodland and take the sunny steps down,
to follow the well-made paths through the water garden, where the verdant planting brings a feeling of peace and calm.
We can look back towards the house over the pond where the swimming ducks are hidden by Gunnera growing boldly by the edge.
There is plenty of natural water here and having walked through the bog garden we find water flowing through a rill in the centre of the orchard.
I was not ready for the spectacular sight of these two coming round the corner, accompanied by two small feathery outriders in stockinged feet,
With elegant steps they seem to want to show us the way.
But it has begun to rain heavily so we rush to take cover in the tea room where I am delighted to find a book about Coton Manor written by a one time fellow student Ann Benson.
An interesting read about how the garden has evolved and the families who lived here. It is a reminder that gardens are all about the people who make them. The plant lists at the back are useful too.
This is a garden that you just do not want to leave any part unseen, so when the rain has stopped we continue our exploration,
returning to the lawns and our pink-coloured friends. There is a lovely balance of open space, water and strong planting.
I wonder if this border which runs along the edge of the meadow, rich in colour, has been planted with flamingos in mind.
So amazed are we by the reality of the pink flamingoes we thought we’d better check out this chap as he stands so very still in the wild flower meadow.
Pictures show this is a bluebell wood, and at this time of year we have to imagine the carpet of blue covering the floor around the trunks that stand so silently tall.
Walking back over the lawns we admire the blue and yellow border
which merges into the red border. The planting is intense and I can’t help but admire the red clumps of dahlia ‘ragged robin’.
It is an inspiration to see what can be achieved in these borders in late summer.
The final burst of colour is in the ‘acacia border’ near to the house; the last acacia was felled in 2013 and facing south east this bed is right now a splash of pinks and purple.
Coton has its own nursery and that in itself is a delight.
Rows of high quality plants fill the walled garden, the majority of which are propagated here and taken from specimens growing in the garden.
There is the sound of water here too, flowing into an attractive pond.
I look for my dahlia ‘ragged robin’ and fancy this fuchsia paniculata,
but the gardeners have downed tools today and have gone on a visit ironically, to East Ruston in Norfolk (http://www.e-ruston-oldvicaragegardens.co.uk).
I will have to be content with some chicory I found amongst the dahlias being offered for sale under this huge Black Walnut tree.
It is the very same tree as in this picture taken some 90 years ago of the present owner’s grandfather.
Coton is a special place that I have wanted to visit for some time and no doubt I will return. It has evolved through three generations of family and with its high standard of horticulture it is evident that although open to the public, it is still a much loved private garden.