I could not resist visiting this garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith when it opened for the NGS back at the beginning of August. Surrounding a country house situated just north of Nantwich in Cheshire, Cogshall Grange was built in the 1830s and was purchased in 2004 by the present owner who refurbished the buildings. The first phase of the garden was completed five years later.
Parking the car in the field, I realised that I was not the only one keen to visit this garden. We then approached the house from across the lawn.
The solid walls of this Georgian house are grounded within a parterre; not your traditional design, but one that is contemporary and fun with rounded box balls separating the drifts of colour in the beds.
Cleanly laid York paving surrounds the parterre and plants spill over, but there is still plenty of space for access.
The box balls playfully roll on around the glass-fronted extension.
From this terrace a gravel path snakes its way narrowly through a medley of planting enriched with striking agapanthus providing blotches of deep blue.
We decide not to take this path but to walk further down the length of the wall where the gate, boldly framed in a black metal surround, is undeniably the intended entrance into the walled garden.
The spacious structure is mirrored on the inside of the wall where conveniently placed is a comfortable bench where we sit for awhile and survey the scene.
We feast our eyes not on military rows of vegetables growing upon brown earth, but a palette of perennial flowers swathed in front of us, not a patch of soil is to be seen.
Gravel paths weave in and out of Stipa tenuissima, Perovskia and Crocosmia, behind which climbers clothe the brick walls.
In the very centre of this walled garden is an elegant pool where circles of waterlilies float effortlessly. On one side the prairie-style perennials and grasses that we have just walked through are reflected in the dark water,
whilst the hornbeam cloud topiaries rising up above the haze of moor grass, Molinia caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’, are reflected on the other side.
It is not all prairie-style planting; Hydrangeas, Eupatorium and Anenome x hybrida fight for space in the corner.
Underplanted with Rodgersia podophylla, the hornbeam clouds formed from 30-year-old trees are trimmed 3 times a year whilst the Molinia standing to the right will be hand cut in late January. It is perhaps no surprise that there a 3 gardeners employed and we are grateful that they have given up their free time today to answer our many questions.
A simple oak door opens out onto a wild flower meadow through which meandering paths are mown.
Intensely planted with the wild and the almost wild flowers, it is an annual mix purchased from http://www.pictorialmeadows.co.uk. It will receive an annual cut at the end of the summer.
Here too is a naturalistic pond; the main gates to the drive in the far distance remain closed today.
We walk around the grange buildings and arrive at the back of the new extension. Hakonechloa macra grows exuberantly around the footings, like a deep pile carpet softly shimmering,
it gently moves in the light breeze and almost hides the paved pathway.
This grass, a native of Japan sweeps around to the front porch encircling a group of lilies,
and crossing the drive where it spreads under the trees.
In the parkland opposite and a little distant off is ‘Lover’s Seat’ by Sandra Bell. Cast in bronze, it reflects the courting practice of those Georgian times when lovers were always chaperoned.
There are no fixed borders; the mown lawn merges seamlessly into uncut parkland.
‘Blythe Spirit’ another piece by Sandra Bell is placed looking out to the uninterrupted view and hidden ha-ha.
No dark patches of thinning grass appear under the trees spread across the lawn, for they all have generous and attractive plantings of ground cover. We sweep past this red persicaria in the direction of the stables where teas and ice creams are being served.
And even here the planting does not end. Troughs overflow with soft subtle combinations of Helichrysum, Scaevola aemura and Verbena.
This happens to be my third Stuart-Smith garden in my Ninety, Trentham and Brockhampton Cottage being the other two. His gardens never fail to delight and here in six acres there is a mix of the formal and the informal. The beautiful contemporary prairie-planting blends effortlessly with the surrounding parkland and countryside beyond. Definitely plan a visit next year when the garden will open on the 8th July.