On Monday I took a trip up to Malvern to see Patient Gardener for a good old natter and to do a little garden visiting together. Naturally my first garden visit was Helen's own hallowed plot. Goodness knows why I left my camera in the car whilst I got the full tour. You'll have to take my word that her garden's looking on top form at the moment and it made a great start to the day. Next time, I promise you lots of photos...
Our first port of call was Hampton Court Gardens. No, not that Hampton Court, the Herefordshire one! Both Helen and Anna at Green Tapestry have enthused about this garden previously, so I leapt at the chance to see for my myself when Helen suggested it. Our first sight of this property was a most romantic castle, which predates Hampton Court Palace by about 80 years. The walled garden dates from Victorian times and we started our tour in the marvellous kitchen garden. This has lots of veggie beds edged with Lavender or Nepeta and the bees were in overdrive in spite of the dullness of the day. Trained fruit trees and supporting arches for beans and squashes were also in evidence. There's also a proper orchard with lots of heritage fruit trees plus a wildflower meadow. I was most envious of the greenhouses with their racks of onions set out to dry. There were quirky touches too: Lobelias interspersed with onions, plus large raised baskets in which the pumpkins were revelling. The produce supplies the onsite shop and organic restaurant :)
The flower gardens are mostly formal in nature using box edging plus lots of yew to give height. I was interested to see yew pillars were also used in the double border instead of the more usual structures with climbers. There's plenty of water too in the form of pools and rills. Beyond the maze - which we didn't tackle - is a rather tatty looking large pond, but the little thatched 'cottage' gives a more picturesque view of this area. Large pots are also used to lead the eye to some of the garden's main focal points. I was particularly taken with the ones shown in the lower right picture housing enormous Agapanthus. I'd also like to return in May to see the enormous Wisteria tunnel in full throttle. There's also a 1,000 acres of estate to explore - we just managed a tiny little bit of this area by finding a bench under a large tree for us to have our lunch. Definitely a garden to return to.
Keeping within Herefordshire, it was Hergest Croft's turn next, a short drive away and another garden which has been on my list for a while. I wasn't disappointed. Here, the influence is Arts and Crafts - the house is dated 1906 - and I loved the conservatory which served as both a welcoming entrance and to house a large collection of potted Fuchsia and Pelargoniums. The display of Cacti which reminded me of an Auricula theatre also made me smile. The house is set within lots of trees - over 5,000 - which gave it quite a different feel to Hampton Court. It would be best to visit in the spring to do these justice as there is an Azalea Garden and Maple Grove to explore.
A sharp shower sent us scurrying from one of the shrub areas back to the house for a well deserved drink and gooey cake. We were able to sit on the open verandah with views over the croquet lawn and beyond. A most delightful spot! We then decided to focus our attention on the kitchen garden and herbaceous border areas which are a little way from the house. It was well worth the effort: I was seriously coveting the many rhubarb forcers and the cold frame. Unlike Hampton Court, the kitchen garden was designed along more traditional productive lines, but no less beautiful in my eyes. Lots of flowers were incorporated into the veggie areas, plus the proximity of the herbaceous borders meant the bees were very busy in this garden too. Helen and I joked at the time how similar some of our photos would turn out, so I'm asking you to compare Helen's photo of the double border - my middle right photo in the above collage - and guess on which side of her I was standing at the time ;)
Three fabulous gardens in one day, in the best of company. Thanks Helen, for suggesting our itinerary and I'm already looking forward to the next time :)