Caldrees Manor, colourful with a touch of humour.

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.

*******2022*******

The Royal Trinity Hospice

Hospice gardens do not immediately spring to mind as ‘must go to visit attraction’. However while on child care duties in south London last weekend I took the opportunity to visit The Royal Trinity Hospice, Clapham Common which kindly opened its gates to the public in aid of the National Garden Scheme.

The Hospice, with its elegant facade situated on the north side of Clapham Common is the oldest hospice in the UK and was created in 1891 with thanks to the generosity of William Hoare who donated £1,000 of the £2,000 needed to set up what was known as The Hostel of God, the remainder of the funds being raised by public subscription. Originally situated around the corner in The Chase, the hospice by 1894 had 10 beds and patients were cared for by an order of nuns. In 1899 the hospice moved here to Clapham Common Northside, where it has expanded and evolved over the years with the late 1970s – 1980s seeing a significant rebuilding programme in order to improve the facilities and patient care environment.

It was during this time that the renowned landscape architect Lanning Roper visited the site and, waiving his fee, drew up plans for the 2 acre garden.

Photo borrowed from Lanning Roper and his Gardens by Jane Brown

Roper did not live to see his plans carried out, dying in 1983. So landscape architect John Medhurst was commissioned to lay out the garden, and included in his design such details as Roper’s generous curving brick paths which not only gently lead you to a hidden area but help those in a wheelchair glide seamlessly through the garden so as to enjoy the planting.

The majority of hospices rely on an army of volunteers, several of whom last Sunday gave up their time to greet us at the gate, directing us in through a side door. An easy access, with neither gravel nor steps, a joy for wheelchair or buggy users and something many garden owners where possible, might seriously think about.

You might be forgiven for expecting an uninteresting hospitalised space, a touch morbid even; instead however, you would in that first moment immediately feel that this is indeed a very special green space.

The raised beds on either side are well planted and display a rich variety: aromatic herbs mingle together along the left hand side,

on the other, a rose defies the approach of autumn and flowers steadily as if it is June

whilst the rugosas are into their autumn hips.

There is even a touch of wilding to be enjoyed.

Paths bend and flow, and as in life, choices need to be made….

it is the benign sound of water trickling down into the ornamental pond that beckons us round to the right.

Climbing up the steps it is the generous colourful pots which bring a splash of joy to those hard landscaping areas,

and from the balcony above the circular pond there is an opportunity to look out and take in the serenity and size of this mature two-acre London garden.

Descending the steps we begin to explore the many hidden areas. A substantial clerodendron grows beside an intimate area. This shrub is very happy here sending up suckers across the path; a native to China it is a quirky coincidence that the roof behind has a slightly oriental feel.

A grassy enclave is home to a fine Catalpa tree , its trunk needing support, it happily grows on.

The gardens were very dilapidated before Roper was involved and his first priority were the trees. This old Horse Chestnut tree provides not only a point of interest but also a marker between two separate areas. Its branches must hold many a secret of those conversations shared beneath on the deep seated benches.

Beyond the tree there is quite a different feel as we enter the pond area. Hospices are not just about the patients who are dying but also for those who remain to live on. Here is a perfect place to absorb all the many emotions that go with that unknown future. This afternoon it is pure joy for the first time in weeks, to benefit from the sunshine and the dappled shade.

Situated on one side of the pond is the kinetic sculpture entitled ‘Four Open Squares Horizontal Tapered’ (1984) by George Rickey, its subtle movement by the breeze from time to time provides an absorbing distraction,

whilst a monster lurks in the deep below.

There is a high standard of horticulture here and the Head Gardener has 28 volunteers to keep in order; it looks a serious business.

Behind the pond stands a substantial greenhouse,

next to which is the productive area providing an air of home-grown; the runner beans are prolific,

and strawberries too, in their own patch.

There is even an active and busy bee hive which produces Trinity House Honey.

Roper suggested the paths be kept clean with neatly trimmed hedges enticing you to journey into the next space.

He also suggested a palette of soft blue, silver, pink and white which continues to this day. Patients can enjoy the mix from their rooms.

The site is divided in two parts with the modern inpatient complex at the centre. We walk up the steps to where mature trees dominate a fine circular lawn. The Plane tree provides a good meeting place,

with elegant circular seating around its base.

The circular theme is echoed in the perimeter path from where

you can glimpse through the shrubs and trees the sun shining down onto the mown lawn where stands the round pleasing pebble sculpture.

Completed after his death the garden became a memorial for Lanning Roper and has been open every year since for the National Garden Scheme.

The Scheme is the largest funder of Hospice UK and has donated more than £5 million since 1996. To understand a little more of the work of Hospice UK click on this link and have a listen to the video too: https://www.hospiceuk.org/support-us/work-with-us/corporate-partnerships/our-corporate-partners/the-national-garden-scheme

Our local hospice in West Norfolk has only recently been built and with it, a beautiful garden planted by volunteers. Let us hope they will sometime soon find a way to open their gates so that visitors can not only appreciate the valuable contribution that hospices make but also help raise funds for the National Garden Scheme.

——-2021——-

The Sculpture Park at the Sainsbury Centre

The other evening I was invited through an alternative Garden Gate, to a special tour of the Sculptures sited around the large campus of the University of East Anglia. Situated in a landscape of some 350 acres, a large lake and the river Yare, this is remarkably, an unknown delight, except maybe to those who are former students.

We met at the Sainsbury Centre, and for those who don’t know, this is not another supermarket but an amazing building designed by the then relatively unknown architect Norman Foster in 1974, which houses an extraordinary collection of art. Our tour began at the west end of the building where woodland curves round behind a grassy area. Four magnificent sculpture are sited here and you might be forgiven for thinking with such an acreage why are they not more spread out across the rest of the landscape. The simple answer is that it is only on this small site that no planning permission is required but because it is a public park, planning permission is needed anywhere else. It had never occurred to me before that you might need planning permission to erect a piece of art.

All the pieces are on loan and it is the bronze head created in 1997 by John Davies (b1946) and positioned just at the edge of the woodland that you first see. By the nature of its position you feel it must be looking towards the glass facade of the building,

however on closer inspection the eyes appear from this monumental head to be looking at nothing in particular.

Nearby is a Henry Moore; surely no sculpture park is complete without one and perhaps it was through Moore’s sculptures that so many of us were introduced to the abstract art world. ‘Draped reclining woman ‘ is cast in bronze and dated 1957-58.

So utterly different from Moore’s familiar form is ‘Sun’s roots II’ by Phillip King (b1934) who actually spent a year as an assistant to Moore. Over the course of his career he exhibited all over the world and worked in a variety of media;

this is painted steel and is influenced by his time spent in Japan. Sun meets earth and as you move round …

… the piece seems to flow, move a little and bend too.

There is also movement from this static couple, ‘Pair of Walking Figures – Jubilee’. They are the final sculpture in this space created in 1977 by Lynn Chadwick (1914 – 2003). Walking towards the Centre,

together they seem intent on visiting the exhibition, currently Art Noveau, and I know they will enjoy it, for it is a dazzling display. Their cloaks ruffle and flow behind,

abstract but expressive, their flat faces are expressionless whilst their bodies hold an air of elegance, perhaps best not to step in their way.

We walk along the south side of the exhibition centre. It is empty of people right now but during lockdown the park became a delightful escape for many Norwich residents. As a consequence the university is having a rethink about the park and its sculpture and an exciting new project is in the planning to increase the number of exhibits and ultimately create the best sculpture park in the country.

Tatlin’s tower stands prominently. After the Russian revolution Vladimir Tatlin (1885-19530) was charged by Lenin to implement his campaign to replace monuments reflecting the Tsarist period. Tatlin proposed an abstract design that would not only commemorate the revolution but also to serve as the headquarters of the Third International or Comintern. The monument was never realised and this is a reconstruction ‘Model of the Monument to the Third International’

We have arrived at the east end of the Sainsbury Centre where we find Lynn Chadwick’s three beasts captured in various states of action; on the left is ‘Crouching Beast II, in the middle ‘Beast Alerted I’ and on the right ‘Lion I’

They were made in 1990 from welded sheets of stainless steel. Chadwick is said to have delighted in the properties that steel afforded, feeling that no matter how dull the weather some facet of the sculptures would catch and reflect the light. As the sun fades the beasts certainly demonstrate that quality.

How fortunate these students are to be able to gaze upon these sculptures as they go about their studies on campus. Moore’s ‘Reclining Figure’ was acquired in 1962 and I am sure has enjoyed many an undergraduate’s prank.

Sir Denys Lasdun designed the Ziggurats which were completed in 1968. They are unique, pieces of art in their own right, and nestling into the landscape, they are in fact the students’ residential quarters. Placed in front of the Ziggurats is the large tubular metal structure painted in matt black and created in 2006 by Ian Tyson it is appropriately named ‘Proximity’.

I had never been down to the lake; it is a vast expanse set below the Ziggurats.

At the water’s edge are Dame Elizabeth Frink’s ‘Mirage I and II’ (1969). These extraordinary shapes were inspired by seeing the heat hazes and flamingoes in the south of France. No heat haze this evening but these part-bird and part-human structures still appear to shimmer.

Looking back towards the university buildings there on top of the central library is Sir Anthony Gormley’s figure ‘Another Time II’. Gormley might be considered as a local now that he lives in Norfolk.

There are actually three of these cast iron figures which were created in 2007, but before we ascend the stairs up to the library level in search of the remaining two, we encounter ‘ Extrapolation’ a structure of ascending steel plates which was originally created for Norwich Central Library in 1982 by the American born artist Liliane Lijn.

At the top of the winding concrete stairs we are met by a little surprise of ‘Another Time IV’.

and over up on the roof of the Biology Department is ‘Another Time II’. Using casts of his own body, Gormley personally selected the locations around the campus.

The pamphlet describes these figures as ‘thought-provoking and uncanny offering spectacle and surprise’, it is a description that could be afforded to all the sculptures in the park .

We end our tour, and close by the car we catch sight of the third Moore ‘Two Piece Reclining figure No 3’. Solid and familiar it is indeed thought-provoking.

The sculpture park is open to all and is free. It is a space to visit and watch with interest. The Sainsbury Centre is a spacious building and for this reason was the first gallery to re-open after lockdown. For further information https://sainsburycentre.ac.uk/

5 Burbage Road, Herne Hill; a tiny touch of Spring.

Following the book launch of the National Garden Scheme’s Gardens to Visit at the Royal Festival Hall last Thursday I decided to walk along the Thames, jump on a train at London Bridge and travel to North Dulwich. As I walked the 5 minutes down Half Moon Lane the sun came out and there was a feeling of Spring in my step.

The garden, situated behind an Edwardian-style house is just 150 ft x 40 ft, but from the terrace it looks so much bigger.

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Rosemary and her husband have lived here for over thirty years, so the garden is well established. On the terrace there is every sort of container, pots, watering cans and old-fashioned sinks.

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White Bergenia, blue rosemary and pink hellebore provide a welcome splash of Spring colour.

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Rosemary is a botanical artist and there is definitely a touch of artistry in the garden. Positioned on the side wall, the iron stag’s head with antlers twisted into holly leaves has a good view.

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Lawn, trees,  topiary and euphorbias are combined to provide shape and form, a rich tapestry of green.

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I take the path that runs down along the left side of the garden; in just the first few steps there is a delightful variety of shrubs.

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The sunshine is pushing open the new leaves of this Photinia glabra, although not as red as the more commonly seen Photinia x fraseri ‘red robin’,  it is a delightfully rounded evergreen.

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A bee is really getting into this pretty camelia.

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The squawk of a parakeet can be heard as it flies overhead, no doubt keeping his eye on the raised bird baths. The garden is cleverly divided, whilst remaining ‘open plan’. Divisions are not oppressive but subtle allowing the eye to see over or through. The lawn appears to squeeze through the line of rounded box balls,

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and moves towards a fountain gently bubbling over the rim of the tall jar. Fritillaria gracefully grow from tubby twin pots placed at the corner of the paved surround.

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Three mature apple trees grow in the centre of the garden; below this one is a daphne and the scent is a delight.

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More box balls intermingle with shrubs and perennials, and the brick path behind brings you into a bricked area.

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The mood changes with a medley of metallic containers; nothing is left unplanted. Even the tree in the centre is not as natural as you might think.

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Opposite, the wave bench by Anthony Paul marks the gravel garden. Surrounded by wooden sleepers the idea of this dry area was inspired by the great Beth Chatto.

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Up through the gravel grows this little gem; at first glance I think it is a crocus but on closer inspection I realise it is a tiny species tulip.

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Carrying on down the path towards the end of the garden I look back at the skilfully pruned apple tree,

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the prunings of which are used to line the woodbark path that leads across to the bug hotel at the end of the garden. The garden is open in three days time and Rosemary is concerned that it is nearly a month behind.  She worries that some of the daffodils are tightly in bud,

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but there are splashes of Spring, such as this Pulmonaria pushing up through the ivy,

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and a pink patch of cyclamen.

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Brilliant hellebores, pink, red and white are out all over the garden.

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Plants are positively thriving here, the result of well worked soil, and there can be no doubt that compost bins are clearly an important ingredient in this garden.

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In every inch of this garden there is so much variety, and returning along the opposite side of the garden is a cloud-pruned Phillyrea latifolia, its dark green glossy foliage so striking in the afternoon sun.

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For a moment there is a strong scent of fox; it is a curious coincidence as from out of the border Charlie appears…

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… he is in pursuit of the goose on the lawn.

 

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This tender sculpture can’t bear to watch and ever so gently turns away.

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Back just below the house there is a ‘plank of pots’ with the suggestion of an alpine collection.

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Against the garage wall is a decoratively trained climbing rose, a sort of final swirl to this creative garden.

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I am itching to return home to pick up my secateurs but before I leave I am amused at the idea that these happy plants have moved to the windowsill to gain a better view of this delightful garden.

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The weather forecast for the weekend is not great but this should not prevent an enjoyable visit to this treasure of a garden. Keep calm and visit a garden.

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——-2018——-

Houghton Hall Walled Garden; all wrapped up and waiting. (3/18)

 

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Last month Norfolk NGS was privileged to be invited by the Marquess of Cholmondeley to launch the 2018 booklet in the Stable Cafe at Houghton Hall. Nationally the NGS is the single biggest donor to Marie Curie and over delicious plates of sausage rolls and cake we listened to eloquent speakers from the charity who endorsed the very great need for us all to continue to open our gardens for the scheme.

There had been a light dusting of snow that morning and the stable block appeared to have been built from gingerbread rather than the local carstone. Set in an arcadian parkland the naturally white deer roam freely.

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Houghton has been supporting the NGS since 2004, closed during the winter it was a great opportunity to gain an ‘out of season glimpse’ at what goes on in the old kitchen garden behind the closed garden gate.

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It is seemingly the dormant period and head gardener Ollie was away on holiday but there was much industry behind the high walls.

At the entrance the wall flowers are biding their time, embedding the wheels of the cart into the gravel; it is a gentle reminder to us all that access for wheelchair users is not as easy as it might be. However here at Houghton they provide electric buggies.

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I usually begin my visit at Houghton by turning left but today I headed right drawn by the clumps of large snowdrops,  their flowers dropping like pearl earrings, elegantly white against the rich dark soil in the border.

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Within these walls Lord Cholmondeley, helped in the early years by his then head gardener Paul Underwood and later by the designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman, has created a living memorial to his grandmother, Lady Sybil Cholmondeley.

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Sybil Sassoon, Countess of Rocksavage by John Singer Sargent, oil on canvas, 1913

The five acre garden is situated just south west of the stables; the bold and beautiful architecture has a solid presence throughout the garden.

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Divided into different gardens, hedges of beautifully kept beech and yew act as the inner walls. Peering through into the formal rose parterre the central statue is shrouded as protection from the Norfolk winter. Imagine the work in pruning those one hundred and fifty glorious roses.

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The olive trees collectively stand by, waiting to be positioned for the summer visitors, their clean terracotta pots soak up the weak winter sun and some warmth from the greenhouse.

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Inside there is much being propagated. Overlooked by the outrageous Strelitzia reginia, is it a wonder that this is called a Bird of Paradise, you might be forgiven for thinking it really is an exotic bird.

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The double sided herbaceous border looks spectacular in the summer;  this morning the clean lines, smooth chunky buttresses, razor neat edges,  and the well-mucked brown earth are testament to the bold design and high standard of horticulture. The lawn is rolled out like a spotless carpet before me, little wonder  I have been requested to keep off.

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Ragged yew balls atop the clipped pillars,

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the box is unclipped too, the idea to help prevent the dreaded blight.

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Less susceptible to pathogens and pests is the Holm oak Quercus ilex, clipped into shapes reflecting the fine finials on the stable roof.

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The long oak pergola covered with wisteria is being pruned today ready for that dramatic display in April and May. To the side are peony borders mixed with regale lilies, an idea the Bannermans reproduced from a visit to the grand chateau Vaux le Vicomte.

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Pruning is cold work but it is coffee time and I am honoured to be invited to join the team in the sheds, secretly hidden behind the greenhouse. No boys shovelling coal here now,  just a myriad of lagged pipes.

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Even the area behind the sheds is a delight and although the Cholmondeley family have a private garden north of the house, it is through this gate that his Lordship enters the garden.

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Another hidden area beyond the walls; is this what makes the garden a horticultural triumph? The tops of the fruit cage are showing above.

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Rustic and strong, the netted structures house a selection of fruit bushes,

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and a clematis softly clambers over the aged wood the wispy seed heads look lovely against the blue sky.

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Green corridors separate the garden spaces. The long vista provides another view of the shrouded statue in the rose garden, and to the left

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is the croquet lawn where the Houghton Cross  has come to rest; made of slate it is a creation by Richard Long.

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Stepping back into another space I find each compartment has different styles of planting, contrasting textures and a change of atmosphere.

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I am surprised to find rabbit guards in here but gates can be left open, and we know it does not take long for our furry friends to find their way in. This is the productive area; on the ground are step-over apples,

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trained against frames are apple tunnels,

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and in the orchard are the old apple trees.

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The thin layer of ice formed on the water surrounding the meteorite fountain shows it is a cold but clear morning,

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and in the corners of this area, swirls of box encircle the outstretched arms of the lime.

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This is the most southern path along which is placed the rustic summerhouse,

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which has fine views back down the herbaceous border towards the greenhouse. How can that grass look so good in February?

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Just when you think you have seen it all, through the horizontal branches the vertical trunks signify there is yet a further space;

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with pleached limes and obelisk, I can feel that formal french influence again.

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A muddle of ghost-white stems of rubus cockburnianus is the only disorder in such a perfectly ordered garden. In spite of it being winter there has been much to enjoy; the pleaching, the pruning, the twining and twisting, the structures and textures. The peace.

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Returning to the entrance the inanimate ancient stone lying heavily on the ground appears today to have almost human features.

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This of course is only one part of this beautiful estate. I leave slowly via the back drive and admire the natural drift of snowdrops, early signs of Spring and only a matter of time before the gate is open in time for Easter and we can explore the rest of the gardens and the park. Houghton Hall.

 

 

 

 

Pembroke College, a peaceful and pretty peramble. (1/18)

It is just over a year ago now that I began to blog about my garden visits. The first was Robinson College, Cambridge and I remember being surprised it was open on 2nd January. It is still very much open for the NGS and I thoroughly recommend a visit:  Robinson College

However finding myself back in Cambridge in that awkward time between Christmas and New Year I stumbled across yet another college garden. Having spent a happy morning in the excellent Fitzwilliam Museum I was just wondering what to do next and how to avoid the throng of ‘salesaholics’, when I found the 14th Century gate of Pembroke College conveniently open.

The site is made up of a series of interconnecting enclosed spaces and the well established gardens are very much part of the fabric of the college. I  entered via the porter’s lodge on Trumpington Street (just left of the horses below).

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Bird’s eye view by David Loggan 1690

Pembroke is the third oldest College in Cambridge and I began in the medieval Old Court. It was indeed a haven of calm, away from the jostling crowds of shoppers.  The lawn, like green baize, stretched out serenely, so smooth it was of course strictly out of bounds.  So I followed the paving  right handed and walked towards the chapel.

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A group of agaves huddled together seem to wave at me, and cause me to pause for a moment to read the many names on the war memorial tablet. The chapel here was Christopher Wren’s first building.

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The upright growth of the Juniper ‘sky rocket’ seems to echo the tall chimneys, and although the little gate is closed,

 

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access to the next court can be gained via a ramp; a simple feature and one I wish more gardens would employ; unless you have a wheelchair you have no idea of the importance.

So many roses are still flowering in December and will look even more colourful together with the catmint during the summer months.

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Behind the chapel is the Victorian Red Building; four petalled flowers in stone grace the lower parts of the building,

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whilst in the border across the lawn the real white petals of the hellebore are bright against the dark soil.

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The crab apples of Malus robusta Red Sentinel look as fresh as they might in the autumn.

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Moving round to the library lawn, I should show you the entire fine statue of William Pitt, who sits with his back to the library, but it is his foot that fascinates me pointing as it does towards the neat square turf.

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The gardener has been here for 50 years and the many varieties of well-tended shrubs cheer up a corner here and there and providing interest during these bland winter months; either grouped together,

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or planted singly, like the bold and trusty evergreen Aucuba japonica, with its splattered leaves… did someone once spill their cream?

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Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ illuminates a shaded pathway,

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and the bluish-leaved melianthus major makes a handsome combination with the purple-leaved pittisporum.

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Nearby the berries of Nandina domestica are abundant and joyful. This is a plant that I had never previously come across, and am grateful for the coincidence that it is profiled in this month’s The Garden magazine.

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I thought these were outdoor decorative christmas baubles until on closer inspection I realised that they were the dried fruits of the pomegranate, punica granatum. 

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Moving northwards away from the library court is an informal area, known as the Orchard.  Medlars and mulberry grow behind the viridescent round pond which was created from a wartime water tank,

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A great avenue of mature London Planes, their upper boughs a tangled pattern against the wintry blue sky.

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An arbor provides a little mystery to the entrance of the Master’s Lodge. Whilst the nearby Fellows’ Garden remains closed today,

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the Foundress Court bordered on two sides by the newest accommodation, is wide open and the Henry Moore Figure in a shelter 1983 is for all to admire.

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Foundress Court has a strong connection with Nihon university in Japan, something which is perhaps suggested in the design of the inner courtyard.

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A simple pot, almost a modern still life, does much to break the monotony of the smooth walls.

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Leaving the new build I walk towards the ancient bowling green; considered to be not quite the oldest in Europe it is however unique in having a ‘rub’, that is the ridge that runs down the centre. The green is only for Fellows to play which they do with wooden bowls that go back to the 18th century and are sliced rather than spherical. Notices implore us not to walk on this precious ground but there are plenty of benches placed all around for those of us who must be content to sit and admire.

The aged tulip tree Liriodendron tulipifera is bursting out of the paving.

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Over the hedge is New Court, originally built in the fourteenth century when it was known as First Court, where students play croquet on the lawn. A delightful area, it is surrounded on three sides by a low stone wall border made up of many unusual plants complimented by a delicious variety of decorative shrubs against the court walls:

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The graceful catkins hang down from a Garry elliptica, 

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and the silvery grey Teucrum fruticans flows down to the paving.

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A splash of colour is provided from the bright berries of cotoneaster.

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Ridley’s Walk is named after Bishop Nicholas Ridley, one time student, Fellow and Master who was martyred in 1555 for his faith. I am sure the Bishop would be pleased with the diversity of plants growing along the walls which even includes a mature banana tree, Musa basjoo; obviously happy in the warmth of this corner it has  been known to have borne fruit.

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The walk leads into the final garden, Ivy Court. Simple in its layout with ten clipped yew, and four grass quads, there is in fact not a single leaf of ivy.

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Another cunningly devised ramp takes you up into the arch.

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Disabled access in fact ends here but it has been a delightfully easily-accessible garden, with it gentle ramps and smooth paths of generous width.

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I am back at the beginning in the Old Court. Many Abutilon grow against the warm walls of this ancient college, and on this chilly but bright day this little gem looks particularly charming as it grows through the branches of a ceanothus.

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And finally, there is the Solanum jasminoides, a member of the potato family; it looks most decorative on the window ledge under the reflecting pane of glass.

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So much there has been to enjoy in this garden in mid-winter, and it could be said that if I had been allowed, I would have found many flowers to pick for a fine ‘nosegay’ today.

With new notebook in hand and a camera from Father Christmas I am all set to visit the many gardens to be open in 2018…

 

——-Jan 2018——-

The Manor House, Bledlow; sculpture and setting (89)

Back in May we stayed with friends in North Buckinghamshire and they suggested we might visit Bledlow Manor, the home of Lord Carrington. A beautiful drive through the Chilterns brought us to this lovely estate and we were able to park under the line of flowering chestnut trees.

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The house had been in the family since the end of the 18th Century and when the Carringtons moved here in 1946, it was in need of much renovation. There was no garden of mention at that time and work did not begin in that area until 1969. Created together, it was Lady Carrington who had the interest in plants; her obituary in the Telegraph in 2009 reported “My wife,” Lord Carrington always said, “is the plantswoman,” adding (in a reference to her encyclopaedic knowledge of botanical names): “She doesn’t really talk English, she talks Latin.”

Lord Carrington, the last surviving member of Churchill’s cabinet, and just short of age 98 was standing outside the front door ready to greet visitors. After exchanging a few pleasantries we slipped through the tall pineapple-topped gate posts to the right of the house.

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We decided to head straight down to the water garden, known as the Lyde Garden, and just for the moment snatching a view of the terrace running in front of the house,

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and swiftly passing the armillary sphere to the right, with the intention of returning to this part of the garden later on. The yew and box are trimmed like perfect cut slices of cake.

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The Lyde Garden is situated across the road and is actually accessible at all times of the year. Well-made steps guide us down through the leafy wilderness,

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and at the base level the path bends gently round and through an oriental wooden structure,

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from where you can sit awhile and enjoy the peace and the circular pond, the centre of which has a group of metallic flowers poking up above the still waters.

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The river Lyde rises here and is a tributary of the Thames. Originally watercress beds, it is now planted with ferns, gunnera and hostas.

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Cool and watery, the weeping willows have now replaced the diseased wych elms.

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Crossing back over the road we arrive onto the lawn in front of the charming Adam house which sits gracefully amongst low summer borders.

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At one end of the lawn are crisply cut buns of yew,

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and at the other, ornamental fish ponds surrounded in brick, a design which perhaps reflects the time of construction.

The garden is not just about the plants but is a glorious setting for a fabulous collection of sculptures which the Carringtons began collecting in the early 1990s.

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The first piece of art, strategically placed and called ‘Primitive Form’ is by the Italian born Marzia Colonna. Today it has been enhanced by outstretched arms.

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Purchased in 2005 it fits perfectly amongst wedges of box where it can be viewed from all angles.

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The brick pathways lead out into an open, less structured area. Mown lawns sweep around borders packed with a huge variety of shrubs.

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Then around the corner we meet gorgeous ‘Gorilla’ by Michael Cooper and made from Belgian fossil marble commissioned in 1993. Lord Carrington explains how it came about:

“Michael Cooper is a friend and near neighbour of mine and, some years ago, I asked him whether he would be prepared to do a piece for a new garden I was making at that time and in which there was an empty plinth. ‘I will do you a gorilla’, he said and there it stands, or rather sits, today – greatly admired and loved by all the children who visit the garden during the summer. Michael has the most wonderful talent for portraying animals, as those of you that have seen his sculpture in many public places will know .”

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The Carringtons were keen to support young artists, and this piece was commissioned in 1991 when Alastair Lambert was still a student at The Royal College of Art.

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Paul Vanstone was also still a student at the Royal College of Art.  Vanstone recalls that following a visit to the College in 1993, Lord Carrington invited him to the garden and after spending a day there he commissioned Fallen Angel.

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In 1998 Barry Mason’s Water Sculpture was added to the collection. Mason’s early work was conceived to be installed in landscape settings rather than art galleries. This catches the sunlight as it magically spins around.

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Some way from its homeland and happy amongst the cow parsley, “Rainbird”, a Ground Hornbill is by the Showa sculptor Saidi Sabiti. It was purchased in Harare in 1993.

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It was a charming moment when I saw a child hop up and sit for some time on one of these ‘Three Fruits’. Enjoying their natural shape, he rubbed their smooth surface with his hands. No restrictions of an art gallery here. These were created by the British artist Peter Randall-Page in 1991,

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who also produced, four years later ‘pomegranates’.

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Sheep can be heard grazing in the field beyond, and Red Kites fly overhead. John Robinson’s (1935 – 2007) ‘Immortality’ in polished bronze was purchased in 1992. Robinson describes its conception:

“Soon after my mother’s death, our eldest son married, and as these things go, after a while his wife was expecting a baby. My position had suddenly changed. Instead of being the middle generation, I became the older one, a grandfather. I began to think of doing a sculpture that would capture the passing on of the precious flame of existence within a family, and I needed a symbol.

I believe that Immortality is made up of one’s memories of the past, as well as those one leaves behind. I see this Symbolic Sculpture not only as a continuous journey through generations, but also the scroll on which all of life’s experience (DNA) is recorded. “

 

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‘Rondo’ is by Charlotte Mayer and was acquired in 1997, A Fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors,  she says:

“A work of art should speak for itself. It should need no verbal description although a title may give a subtle hint of what is in the sculptor’s mind”.

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I never discovered who this was by, small but not insignificant nestling by a buddleia; perhaps its identity will be revealed.

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Nestling amongst the shrubs since 2006 is ‘Torus’ a piece by Jonathan Loxley, who usually now works in marble.

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Perfectly positioned in a small clearing is the serene ‘New Renaissance’ created in 1993 by Patricia Volk, the Belfast-born ceramic sculptor.

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Terence Coventry’s ‘Avian Form’ has stood here since 1999. Lord Carrington happened to be nearby when we were admiring it, and jokingly he said ‘he doesn’t like you, you know’. And perhaps he was right.

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Oh, and this little figure is actually alive. Lord C names his wire-haired dachsunds after prime ministers; having already a Margaret but before Theresa, he decided on Dame Norma Minor, ‘”well, she couldn’t be Major” he laughed.

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A fleet of wheelbarrows raised against the hedge are almost an art form.

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Skirting around the tennis courts we come into the south garden. A magnificent metal bowl decorated with swirling fish stands at the head of a double row of viburnum carlesii which lead up to a sunken pond,

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where ornamental herons are enjoying an afternoon’s fishing.

DSCF0949.jpgOver the hedge is the two storey gazebo; made of Buckinghamshire material it was inspired by a visit to Hidcote.

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Steps lead up from this south garden to a small enclosed area. From the raised urn you walk diagonally across to arrive at the front of the house where we originally entered.

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Tea is served in the open cart sheds and today there is a specially large cake in celebration of 50 years opening with the NGS.

Time is running out and we have not seen half the garden yet. We race back across to the armillary sphere where we turn right through the archway in the yew hedge. Here is ‘Coracle’  by William Pye commissioned in 2001. Its gentle ebb of water is mesmerising.

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In the next section of garden this unidentified piece at the end of the brick path seems to dance, its outline lifted by the dark background hedge.

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We wonder at the rhythmical design of this slightly oriental trellis.

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The map describes a snail garden and we think we have found it.

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Another set of pineapple-clad gate posts welcome us into the walled garden where a haze of lavender lines the path up to the gazebo.

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It can’t all be works of art; there is a practical side to this garden too. Over to the left rows of vegetables, not yet in full production, are being prepared, and over to the right the alliums are flowering with the peonies still tightly in bud.

In the centre of the wall is the a mural of  Vertumnus, God of Vegetation: painted in the manner of Guiseppe Archimboldo, it is by Owen Turville.

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Out onto the lawn near the main entrance is Barry Mason’s Oculus. Originally commissioned by English Heritage as part of the ‘Year of the Artist’ celebrations it was sited in the ruined nave of Hailes Abbey near Cheltenham and was donated to Lord Carrington in 2003.

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Photo taken from https://www.ngs.org.uk

Only 2 gardeners look after these noble acres and it really is time to go now for they are sweeping up behind us and the shadows are long. We purchase some honey and say our goodbyes. The great man is still here and must be pleased with his 350 visitors or so,

I say once again ‘you don’t have to be a gardener to enjoy a garden’. Here the garden is not without its many features of herbaceous borders, mature shrubs and hedges, fine lawns, ornament, parterres, topiary and water but it also combines as a gallery.

An inspiration and a visit hard to beat.

——-89——-

 

 

Ramster, open for 90 glorious years. (86)

I cannot draw to the end of my ‘ninety’ without including the historic rambling wooded gardens of Ramster in Surrey.  It was one of the original 609 gardens that opened for the NGS back in 1927 and has opened every successive year since. It is the only other garden along with Sandringham to hold such an impressive record.

Originally named Ramsnest, the garden was created out of an Oak woodland in the 1890s by the then owner Sir Harry Waechter, a British businessman and philanthropist.

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The local nursery of V. N. Gauntlett & Co Ltd., specialists in all things Japanese, conveniently adjoined the garden and their influence is very much in evidence today.

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In 1922 the property was bought by Sir Henry and Lady Norman and has remained in the same family being passed onto the fourth generation in 2005. Ramster Hall tucked away in the Surrey Hills is a private home but earns its keep by hosting weddings and corporate events.

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At the annual NGS conference recently Miranda Gunn (third generation) gave an amusing account of the garden. She explained how in the early years an honesty box sufficed at the entrance, but times have changed and on arrival the driver of the coach full of visitors asks three simple questions: Where are the loos, where are the teas and what is the name of the dog!

Wooden obelisks mark the entrance to the 25 acres and the map shows plenty of meandering paths to explore and helpfully outlines the hard path route giving some access to wheelchairs.

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A fallen Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii, has been turned, actually chainsawed, into this porcine family by Simon Groves http://www.grovessculpture.co.uk/home.html.

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Opposite, a redundant tennis court has taken on a new lease of life,

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a quiet enclosed flat area where a gentle fountain plays into the dark waters of the raised pool,

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with a variety of pots, and places to sit. It is a contrast to the wooded undulating 25 acres  yet to come.

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There is a gentle unhurried atmosphere here, a place to wander with plenty of benches along the way,

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placed strategically under trees such as this deciduous conifer the Swamp Cypress Taxodium distichum,

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or tucked in under what is known as the ‘Grouse Hole’. From here you can sit for awhile

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and admire the ‘Gauntlett’ Cranes standing still in the green lagoon.

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Seating is also made simply out of fallen trunks,

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or enriched by the chainsaw of Simon Groves.

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From the winged back log you can look down on the bog garden, where an acer is acquiring an autumnal glow and tall thin purple verbena bonariensis rise up in front of the fat green gunnera manicata leaves.

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Logs are used on the walkway; neatly sliced, they allow the children to experience the Gunnera jungle.

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Following a rough woodland path clearly marked as unsuitable for any type of wheels I reach the lake, the furthest point of the woodland. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like in those early years with something like 40 gardeners.  I am reminded of the story Miranda recounted; remembering the days when a team of gardeners was employed in the fifties and false teeth were all the rage, her mother would go out into the garden calling them and have to wait a considerable amount of time while the team would rush back to their potting shed to be reunited with their teeth and so appear with a gleaming white smile!

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Throughout the woodland, autumn tints are creeping in particularly amongst the acers; the large leaves of this young Acer palmatum Osakasuki, have nearly all turned,

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while this mature Acer rubrum ‘Scanlon’ has just a very few leaves. It amazes me how on one specimen the change is so varied, a breakaway branch so brilliantly red whilst the rest of the tree remains determinedly green. 

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Liquidamber styraciflua ‘Elstead’ is beautiful too, a fine tree it is also noted for its deeply ridged bark.

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However it is the rare Castor aralia Kalopanax pictus var maximowicizii that wins the prize for its glorious bark, the wondrous patterns of nature.

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Ramster is not only famous for its autumn colour but also for Rhododendrons and Azaleas, and many readers will have seen the wonderful display shown on Gardener’s World back in May. Not a flower to be seen now it is the naked limbs which still have such beauty; the tri-trunked specimen of Rhododendron Loder’s White.

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and a frenzy of multi-stemmed Rhododendron ‘Cynthia’.

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Some ‘naked’ trees are put to good use; a support for a beautifully scented honeysuckle Lonicera ‘Copper Beauty’ which flowers from June to September.

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Another member of the honeysuckle family and still in flower is the Heptacodium miconioides known in N. America as Crape Myrtle or seven son flower.

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There are the mighty giant trees such as the towering Sequoia giganteum Wellingtonia,

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and the straight Atlantic cedar Cedrus atlantica glauca. The couple seated below are season ticket holders and share their love the garden by showing me photos of the past seasons.

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It is near here in a clearing that Miranda Gunn has positioned her grandchildren.

A delightful arrangement in bronze resin titled Oranges and Lemons it is by Christine Charlesworth. Lola, Nessa, Ollie, Tom and Bethan were not an easy commission and took two years to complete, finishing in 2011. There is such rhythm and movement in this piece that it is no wonder that Charlesworth was selected as the official artist for the 2012 London Olympics.

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Behind the group of figures is the glow of a red Acer, contorted with colour,

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it is part of the Acer walk, the Japanese influence incorporated a century ago.

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A lantern is poetically placed amongst shrubs and contributes to the Anglo/Japanese feel.

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I meander for sometime past lakes and ponds,

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down steps and over bridges; it is a fun place for children to explore.

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Returning to the car park I pass under the deliciously-looking but inedible baubles of the Dogwood Cornus porlock ‘Norman Haddon’,

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and then quite out of the blue, and it is out of the blue because everything is red, is a lonely hydrangea, a reminder of the acid soil that lies below and I envy hugely.

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Back in the car park the peculiar fruits of the Medlar Mespilus germanica are yet to blet,

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and a Red London Bus awaits the next party of wedding guests.

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Ramster is closed now until the Spring; its very informative website boasts of it providing the best cake in Surrey. I should check it out when it opens for the NGS on Friday 11th May 2018.

——-86——-

Robinson College: Old with New and Mistletoe too. (1)

I was very surprised to find a garden open for the National Garden Scheme on Monday 2nd January.  So with Christmas and New Year safely over for another year we set off on a bright but very cold day to  visit Robinson College, Cambridge. The first of my 90 garden challenge.

None of the familiar yellow signs were displayed because this is a garden open most of the year. Directed by the NGS Gardens to Visit book, we entered through the Porter’s Lodge.  It is the proceeds from the garden guide that you buy from the Porter which are donated to the NGS.  The guide is a complete joy and provides the history, a comprehensive list of the plants and maps:

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Entering the very modern courtyard we were disappointed to find the chapel with its John Piper windows was not open.

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The entrance to the garden was not terribly obvious and it took us a little while to figure out which steps to take.

Up and over a stairway we found ourselves in the college garden. It is icy cold and the bridge is a touch slippery. Leaving the main building behind us we crossed over the Bin Brook into what is an amalgamation of gardens from Edwardian to Modern.

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It is not specifically a winter garden as such but there was plenty of interest, either in the form of colourful bark,

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or winter flowering shrubs such as  Mahonia with yellow flowers exploding like fireworks.

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The Sarcococca or winter box generously lining the path was smelling a dream.

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Throughout the gardens there are plenty of places for scholars to sit, to think and to dream. Was the sail-like stainless steel sculpture meant to imitate the shape of the Wellingtonia (sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Pendula’) growing across the flat lawn. Or is it the other way round?

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“Sailing into the future’ by Philip de Koning

Also called the Weeping Redwood, this mighty tree is almost human in form and looks as if at any moment it might pick up its branches and lumber right across the lawn.

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A beautiful vase stands in front of an older college building,

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and to the side is a cluster of seed heads of Verbena bonariensis which add a little interest and highlight the smoothness of the green beyond.

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Even the unripened figs are a delight in the morning sun.

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Not all the buildings are modern and at the entrance to this house is the inevitable bike with a Jasmine nudiflorum growing magnificently.

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A metal fence with a central moongate not only provides a frame for the newly planted ivy Hedera hibernica to climb but also divides an eating area:

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The Bar table seems refreshingly modern but somehow keeps a natural feel. The giant golden oat Stipa gigantea brighten the border behind.

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Lutyenesque steps are an striking feature and also cleverly link a serious drop in ground levels.

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Round the corner a splash of colour catches my eye, cyclamen so small yet so bright:

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Old, old espaliered apple trees stretch their boughs along the straight path.

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The outdoor theatre was created in memory of Maria Bjornson a celebrated stage designer. The empty stage now waits for its next summer performance:

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Mistletoe Viscum album inhabits the surrounding trees growing on the outside of the college grounds; always so high up in the branches and out of reach,

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within the garden it grows on the apple trees at eye level. You just don’t appreciate how very pretty it looks; the opaque berries are enchanting.

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We were the only visitors in the garden that morning except for one Japanese student,  the odd squirrel, a noisy cock pheasant and much to his surprise, and ours, a muntjac deer. Sited on the other side of the pond and viewed from many angles are two ghostly objects apparently in silent communication:

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“Conversing Figures” by Christophe Gordon-Brown

We return to the main college building. 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.

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The sound of rushing water can be heard as it travels under the many levels of brick  passageways,

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and it is the many layers of gardens that have been so absorbing. We have enjoyed the sculptures and the spaces throughout the garden; the enclosed and the open, the wild and the tamed, the formal and the relaxed with a huge variety of plants and trees. It is  a perfect garden for the scholar not just to sit, study and contemplate but also to eat, watch and even to act. We look forward to returning in the summer.

——-1——-