The garden at Caldrees Manor is one of the last in the season to open for the National Garden Scheme. Situated not far from the A11 in Cambridgeshire it was the ideal place to meet up with friend Leslie.
Although parking was in a field away from the house, we could not help but admire this welcoming driveway with its elegant centrepiece situated in front of the house and surrounded by a delightful planting of shrubs.
We had come for a guided tour with Will who with the garden owner John, has been responsible for creating this large garden over the past twenty years. He takes us through the gate and around to the other side of the house.
A verdurous space appears before us framed by the rose arch; there is a lot going on, but instead of descending through and down the steps, we turn right towards the summer house.
This ornamental folly with its generous door surround, and windows seemingly wide-eyed, is surrounded by a rich planting of summer flowers now coming to an end but there is still a good display for the time of year and we particularly commend the combination of michaelmas daisy, hydrangea and pennisetum.
Brunnera is such a good plant, its blue flowers on show for weeks in the spring and the silvery leaves continue to be a beauty defying any attack from slug or snail.
Will and his wife Jacqueline https://www.jwlandscapes.co.uk/ have their own landscape business and this is their flagship garden. This brick bridge was one of the first features that Will built.
Pergolas bring variety and height, and act as partitions from one area of the garden to another. We leave the more formal area and enter the acer glade,
where a great variety of specimens are grown, some still green whilst others are on fire with colour.
The leaves are as beautiful on the ground as they are on the tree. We follow the path through the metalwork arbor into the hydrangea area unperturbed by the summer’s drought.
The air is filled with the scent from a viburnum; it’s a wonder that this insignificant flower produces such a fragrance.
Here too is the sound of rushing water, its source not apparent at first, until we find it gushing from a pipe. There is no shortage of water here as we are apparently standing on a giant lake and the water is being pumped from a borehole.
Wooden signposts guide the way, beautifully carved; we love the papilionem touch at the top.
Silver birch planted in a group is an acknowledged theme and it works well here underplanted with cornus sanguinea ‘midwinter fire’ and bergenia.
As summer flowers fade, the sculptural blooms become more pronounced.
There is a touch of humour in this garden as the quite unexpected appears through the jungle of greenery,
and is that really a water buffalo I see at the side of the pond?
From the winding paths in the old wood we enter an open space where a new wood has been planted. It is pretty impressive seeing that it is just three years old. How will it look in another twenty?
This new wood has such a different feel and we love the splash of sculpture at the end.
Returning towards the house we walk through the fairly recently created Japanese garden; plants, rocks and gravel carefully considered in the design.
From here we can go towards the orchard, along the drive which is neatly edged on one side with silver lavender, and on the other, scattered seedlings are allowed to grow but carefully controlled,
and return to end our tour between the Japanese garden and the pond at these beautiful carved wooden conkers; smooth shiny polished surfaces, there is an irresistible urge to run your hands over them.
Heading back for the much needed coffee and cake we pass the quirky topiary, and then there is a sudden sound of a distant crash. Will looks concerned.
Despite there being no wind, the noise is of a fallen tree that has crashed across the path. Not what you want on an open day but no harm has been done and there are plenty of other paths to take, and different areas to explore. Such a variety of species to admire, and sculptures to search out, we have enjoyed our time, and it has been a great place to meet; why don’t we do this more often ? We both agree and promise to meet up in another garden next year.
You can find lots of lovely gardens by ordering a copy of next year’s garden visitor’s handbook https://ngs.org.uk/shop/books/garden-visitors-handbook-2023/
Caldrees Manor opened for the first time in October 2020 and by opening its very private gates has raised a trug-load of funds for the National Garden Scheme. It is taking a year off but am sure it will open its gates again for many more visitors to enjoy in the future.