Category Archives: Garden visits

Old Rectory, Kingston – still glorious!


I’ve blogged about The Old Rectory Kingston previously here, but have absolutely no hesitation in also sharing today’s visit, two years later.

The gardens surround a beautiful stone rectory in the south of the Isle of Wight, and have been a work in progress for the current inhabitants since 2002.  Louise uses the stone to set off soft coloured planting near the house, with plenty of purple, pink, blue and white.IMG_4869


In the walled garden there has been a move away from edibles to flowers for cutting, with an explosion of far bolder colour here.IMG_4874



Above the house are two wildflower meadows.  A photo taken of one of them won a national NGS competition in 2017 – I blogged about it here when I went to the Garden Museum.   My photo isn’t in the same league, but it’s a stunning display, nonetheless.IMG_4853

Circling back down towards the house takes you past the formal rose areaIMG_4856

with more roses in the ‘Sunset’ border on the way to the potting shed.IMG_4858

Here I had definite potting shed envy, not only regarding these intriguing individual metal ‘pots’ (about 3 or 4cm across) on a metal tray


but even more so these wonderful drawers.  Sadly you can’t ready the ‘key’ sitting on top, but each drawer is named (‘Salad Leaves’, ‘Hardy Annuals A-M’ ‘Perennials’ etc. ) to help locate the desired seed packet.  What a fabulous idea – I want one!IMG_4862

Back outside and I’m just going to share some of my favourite views and planting combinations.IMG_4885










Wow!  Thanks Louise and Derek, and thanks too NGS for such a fundamentally brilliant idea.

End of month view – yearly round up 2018


As last year, rather than solely a December view, I’ve put together a round up of the whole year.

I struggled with the Isle of Wight garden this year.  There were a number of reasons – tricky weather (miserable early on and then so hot and very dry over the summer), too much time in London, too much work and lastly, the removal of the decking, which meant nowhere to sit out and made trying to keep the garden looking good all feel a bit pointless!

However, there were still highlights, and spring (above) was one of them.



Things were still ok in May IMG_4064

but by June everything was very parched,DSC01071

with only the Mediterranean plants enjoying themselves.



The dry weather meant all my dahlias were disappointing, and finished early, with even the stalwart ‘Happy Single Dates’ not happy for long.


Conversely, the Zinnias loved the weather, and filled out the Grass Beds with lots of pickable blooms.


Again, as last year, I had many pots IMG_3910

but by summer many were struggling in the drought, so I was glad a number of them were so large!IMG_4255



On the edibles front the only new variety I tried was the French Bean ‘Masterpiece’ which did well and was very tasty.  Otherwise we enjoyed the usual runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes, ‘Slim Jim’ aubergines, Ratte and Pink Fir Apple Potatoes and raspberries and strawberries.IMG_4275

I continued to enjoy joining in with Cathy’s wonderfully friendly and supportive ‘In a Vase on Monday’ meme, albeit a bit haphazardly.






I also posted the odd photo from regular walks on the National Trust’s St Helens Duver, directly opposite the house.IMG_3778

IMG_4464 (2)



As in previous years I was lucky enough to do plenty of garden visiting, both near and far – Villa Cimbrone on the Amalfi Coast DSC01001

and An Cala in Scotland in May,IMG_3777

The High Line, in New York,IMG_3911

Petersham Nurseries andIMG_4018

Kew Gardens (including the newly re-opened Temperate House) in June,IMG_4061

Castle House (just up the road) in August,IMG_4557

Church Gardens in Harefield, Middlesex in OctoberIMG_4557

and Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, still looking fabulous in November.IMG_5203

And lastly, the biggest development this year, was the purchase of a tiny terraced house back in Richmond, and the transformation of the garden from thisHF304_170626S_IMG_09

to this



Thank you so much for continuing to support Duver Diary and sharing your likes and comments.  They really are very much appreciated, even if I don’t always find time to respond.

I hope I can carry on sharing my ramblings and photos next year, and that you’ll all come along for the ride!

Wishing you and yours a fabulous, flowery 2019.

Abbotsbury Subtropical Garden


Last weekend saw us staying at the fabulous National Trust ‘cottage’ ‘Portland House’ near Weymouth with the OH’s family to celebrate their mother’s 89th birthday.

Those of you in the UK may remember the weather that Friday was absolutely atrocious and, as I was the one who’d come up with both the idea of a weekend away, and found the property, the sound of 60mph winds howling and rain lashing down while we waited for everyone else to arrive made me think I’d made a very big mistake!

However, unbelievably, the scene that greeted us the following morning was this:IMG_5162

And, although there was plenty of rain during the weekend, there were also fabulous skies and quite a lot of sun – even enough to prompt me to suggest a visit to the Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens on the Sunday.  This was another ‘bright’ idea I was starting to regret as the rain came down, but then the rain stopped, the sun came out and we all enjoyed some absolutely fabulous autumn colour in this really fascinating and well tended garden.

Unfortunately the ‘Magnolia Walk to views of the Jurassic Coastline was closed but, to be honest, there was so much else to see we weren’t perturbed.

The photos were only taken with my phone but I’m sure you’ll get the idea.

What an unexpected treat!IMG_5227









Church Gardens, Harefield


My sister was treated to a private visit for two to these lovely gardens, and I was lucky enough to accompany her.

Kay, the co-owner with her architect husband Patrick, opened the garden this August for the NGS for the first time and received 450 visitors!  They have now added a number of ‘private visits’ to their calendar and this was the first.

The NGS entry gives a really good summary, so I’ve copied it in here:

Harefield’s own ‘secret garden’. 17th Century Renaissance walled gardens on the outskirts of Harefield Village, next to the beautiful medieval church of St Mary’s and Anzac war cemetery. The gardens are the only remaining part of the Harefield Place estate and incl a traditional kitchen garden and orchard. The gardens are presently undergoing extensive restoration having fallen into neglect and disrepair since the demolition of the original manor house in 1813. The kitchen garden has been run as an organic vegetable garden for 12 years with 56 raised beds in a beautiful geometric pattern. Since 2015, two 60m herbaceous borders and one double 20m herbaceous border have been created. Most recently a herb garden of more unusual herbs has been added. The orchard is an incredibly rare Renaissance ‘pleasure’ garden, with the remains of a terrace and unique arcaded wall, which was replanted as a cobnut nuttery over 100 years ago.

I was a little concerned, bearing in mind the time of year (and the rather sad state of my own garden) there might not be much to see, but there was beyond plenty!  I believe, even in the winter, there would still be considerable interest because of the very strong structure.

This is an aerial photo Kay gave me as part of my ‘private visit pack’ and clearly shows the layout of the main walled garden.  IMG_5080

The top right quadrant (with the pallets) will house a new metal framed fruit cage and the area to the right of that, heading off the picture, will eventually have a large lean to greenhouse against the wall at the right hand end of the garden.

The garden has walls on three sides (in the picture above they are the top, bottom and right hand end, representing (very roughly) the west, north and easterly boundaries.

The beautiful wall below is on the eastern boundary, facing west. IMG_4534

I just adored the grass – Pennisetum ‘Red Head’.IMG_4535

The polytunnel, next to this wall, was still full of tomatoes, chillisIMG_4526

and an interesting take on greenhouse shading – a wonderful tangle of climbers:IMG_4528

And, in addition to work to be done,IMG_4530

there was a fabulous display of work successfully completed!IMG_4529

Outside to the two small herbaceous borders, together with their four matching pampas grasses.IMG_4524

Here I admired the elegant Acidanthera murielaeIMG_4537

and the rather more jazzy Gaillardia ‘Burgundy’IMG_4538

On to the 56 Veg Beds and they were a carnival of yellows and oranges due to the companion planting of Calendula (top picture) Borage and Nasturtiums.  Kay gardens organically and is a follower of permaculture and so companion planting is important for pest control, pollination (and it looks gorgeous!)IMG_4551IMG_4548


And of course, when I’d worried about there not being enough to see, I hadn’t envisaged such a magnificent pumpkin patch, clearly at its peak just before Hallowe’en.IMG_4557

Beyond the walled garden there is yet more interest.

Firstly, the extraordinary ‘Organ Pipe Bed’.  The pipes really are organ pipes from the church next door.  The bed is northerly and so planted with hostas and shade tolerant shrubs.IMG_5067

And further from the house still is this ‘arcaded wall’ which appears to be unique in England.  See description the below.IMG_4561


To finish I’ve got two questions – 1. how does Kay find time to work, tend the existing garden, continue with the restoration and read all these books?IMG_4564

And 2. does she ever sit down?


With thanks to Kay and Patrick for sharing their beautiful garden (and fascinating project) and to Elizabeth for treating us to such a lovely day.

Castle House Garden Opening


Not only do my lovely neighbours open their garden for the St Helens Secret Gardens event which takes place every other year, but on their year off, rather than put their feet up, they open in aid of the Red Cross – and not once, but twice!  I missed their opening in May and so was delighted to pop along this afternoon.

Castle House sits within a wonderful plot.  Above the house is a superb walled garden (where I used to borrow a small plot to grow cut flowers) and below, wonderful views over Bembridge Harbour.

The drive is walled on both sides and both walls are generously covered in various climbers including Wisteria on the left


and Clematis Tangutica on the right.


From the drive, into the walled garden to admire the old greenhouse – with wonderful tomatoes and a vineIMG_4542


as well as the outdoor veg.IMG_4547

Since I gave up growing my cut flowers here (the last year was 2015) J and A have done a lot of work in the walled garden, building raised beds and planting more flowers and fewer veg.

I just love this horned poppy – it’s absolutely one of my favourite plants and is clearly thriving here.  IMG_4546

And look at these fabulous Zinnias – these are rather more zingy than mine!IMG_4548

Out of the walled garden for a stroll past the house and down towards the southern boundary to capture the beautiful view.

Pictures I normally share of the Duver are taken from a rather more northerly and easterly position compared to these.

This first is looking east towards the SolentIMG_4550

the second, pretty much due south over Bembridge HarbourIMG_4554

and the third, looking slightly more westwards, inland towards Culver Down – you can see the Yarborough Monument on the sky line above the block of conifers towards the right of the photo.IMG_4551

And then it was back up the slope for tea and cake, and plant perusal time….IMG_4558

With thanks to J and A for generously opening their garden.

Kew Gardens – Birthday treat #2


My actual birthday was a Monday, so, having visited Petersham Nurseries the day before, I was back at work.  However, in search of a flowery treat on the day itself, I availed myself of a ‘Friends of Kew’ perk – being eligible to visit from 8am (ahead of the normal opening time of 10am).

I must have visited Kew Gardens hundreds of times having lived in the area for over 25 years, but of course visits have been much rarer since we moved to the Isle of Wight ten years ago.  This time I was particularly interested to see two things

1. how the ‘Great Broad Walk borders’ had filled out since a previous visit in 2016  and

2. to see the recently reopened Temperate House, which has been closed since 2013 undergoing significant restoration.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Not only was I blessed with the most glorious morning, but Kew was looking as beautiful as I think I’ve ever seen it, and there was an added joy in having it largely to ourselves.

We entered through the main, Victoria Gate, and walked first around the back of the Palm House through the rose garden.  Of course it was the perfect time of year for this as shown above.

From here we headed to the Great Broad Walk borders.  As the sign tells us, these borders are 320m long which trumps the fabulous double borders at Hilliers at ‘just’ 250m!


Just before the flaaars, see below the signage Kew has put in place to communicate the planting.  Whilst I completely applaud and appreciate the intention, personally I don’t find these the easiest to read – and I know what most of the plants look like!  I particularly don’t like the rather distorted photos for some of the blooms, but that’s a tiny niggle for what was an absolutely stellar display.IMG_4049





Whilst the planting was fabulous, I was also blown away by Kew’s amazing trees which make such a superb backdrop.  Obviously these have been there for decades, but it’s interesting that I seem to notice trees, on all garden visits, more than I used to.  Perhaps it’s an age thing!








From the long borders we walked back past the Princess of Wales conservatory to visit the spot where my mother’s ashes are scattered (officially, in case you were wondering!)IMG_4066


And then, as time was ticking on, a stomp the not trivial distance to the Temperate House, which was looking absolutely stunning.IMG_4070

It took a little while to gain access as it was largely still locked, but a walk around the back, past the turfing activities (!) and we were in.IMG_4071








It really was the most perfect start to a birthday ever, thanks Kew.



Petersham Nurseries – birthday treat #1!


I thought I’d posted about Petersham Nurseries before, but can’t see that I did.  It holds a rather special place in my heart – partly because it’s right next to the church where the OH and I (and my parents!) were married, and secondly I love its ‘accidental’ success.

My understanding is that the old, rather uninspiring nursery was bought by the owners of Petersham House (which is adjacent to it) as they were concerned it would be sold for development.  Fast forward twenty (?) years, and not only is it now a thriving foodie and lifestyle destination, but an off shoot has recently opened in Covent Garden.

As life continues to get in the way of blogging, the visit actually took place on Sunday 10th June when we went for lunch in the tea house.  The only purchase I succumbed to was a white passion flower – I think it’s Constance Elliot – but inspiration (especially for container planting) was everywhere – and free!









Thanks Petersham.  We’ll be back!






High on the High Line


Before we even start talking about the High Line, I just have to record my total admiration for Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who landed an Airbus 320 on the Hudson River (above), in which all 155 passengers and crew survived with only minor injuries.  It was an astonishing feat and, strolling along the High Line looking out over the Hudson and watching the helicopters buzzing about, reminded me of the film and brought home just what a feat it was.  It was properly choppy out there!  It’s not that wide!  And lastly, it’s a RIVER!  Hello!  What a guy.  If you haven’t seen the film (‘Sully’) just do.

I was in New York with my daughter to celebrate the end of her her degree.  I’d taken both ‘kids’ to New York for their first time a few years ago and she absolutely loves it.  She’s now been back twice without me and had, in fact, already walked the High Line.  However, bearing in mind I was (largely!) paying, she indulged me with another visit.  I have to say it’s been on my bucket list since I was first aware of it and it didn’t disappoint.  Having said that, the planting – designed by Piet Oudolf – is deliberately low key, with the aim to maintain a sense of the ‘feel’ of the line when it was abandoned and overgrown, and therefore it’s not ‘flowery’ in a conventional sense.IMG_3907

However, despite this, I loved it.  I loved the vision of ‘re-purposing’ an urban space (a disused railway) in such a bold way, and I loved the way it meandered above the city streets and brought greenery and beauty to what must previously have been an eyesore.  I couldn’t get over how many thousands of people now had this amazing green ribbon to admire.IMG_3886

The first section opened in 2009 and many trees are now becoming really mature adding shade, scale with some fabulous specimens of Cercis and Cornus amongst others.IMG_3903




In places, the original railway lines have been left, and the planting is around and amongst them.IMG_3892

There was planting for sun,IMG_3914


planting for shade,IMG_3901

planting that matched buildingsIMG_3913

and views of iconic landmarks.IMG_3911

Thanks High Line.  Now I know what I want to do when I grow up!

An Cala – a Scottish gem


Not long after my walking holiday to Italy, where I visited the stunning Villa Cimbrone, I headed to Scotland, staying with friends for a more relaxing holiday, walking and garden visiting.

My favourite garden was the privately owned ‘An Cala’.  The garden was established in 1930 by Colonel Arthur Murray who had inherited a cottage outside the village of Ellenabeich on the Isle of Seil in Argyll.  He decided (with his new wife, the actress Faith Celli) to commission Thomas Mawson to draw up plans for their 5 acre plot.

It took a year to convert the terrain into a garden, including dynamiting bedrock, importing thousands of tons of topsoil, and creating terraces, walls, steps, paths and lawns.

Once the structure was in place, the Murrays planted up the beds and woodland using the acid loving plants including azaleas, rhododendrons, Japanese ornamental cherry trees and their great love, roses.

Whilst I visited a number of gardens, all reflecting the acid soil, it was this one that I loved.   The plant palette had been broadened to include more herbaceous planting, as well as bulbs.  As I’ve noted before, I’m not a big fan of ‘stiff’ plants, and to me azaleas and rhodos fall into that category and therefore I did struggle to really love the other gardens.  An Cala was different, not least because of the incredible engineering feat to make it in the first place, but more especially because of the more varied planting – and the wonderful use of water, coupled with stunning views.IMG_3759










Pictures from the fir cone house!  The small building was built rather like a shell house, but instead of shells, there was an astonishing arrangement of different fir cones.



Fabulous peony.


The motto on this bench particularly struck me as our lovely hosts have planted some wonderful trees in their garden since they moved to Scotland five or so years ago.



With thanks to the Scottish Gardens scheme (the Scottish equivalent of the NGS) and An Cala for sharing such a wonderful Scottish gem.

Villa Cimbrone garden – un bel giardino!


I always try to ensure that posts are pertinent to the time the photos were taken, at least within a week or so, but we’ve been back from Italy for nearly a month and I’ve struggled to find time to pull this post together.  However, it really was a beautiful garden, so I hope you’ll  excuse this being almost a month late!

On the last day of our walking holiday on the Amalfi coast we were lucky enough to visit the gardens of the Villa Cimbrone.

Found on the outskirts of Ravello, the setting is absolutely breathtaking, on a south pointing ‘finger’ high above the coast, with sea views around 270 degrees.

The abandoned estate was rescued by Ernest William Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe after he discovered it as part of his Grand Tour when he came to Italy to get over the death of his wife.  He bought the estate in 1904 and, with the help of local Nicola Mansi, as well as Harold Peto, Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, the gardens were laid out in what the guide describes ‘a happy combination of traditional English and Italian landscaped gardens’.

I’d worried that we might be too early, even on the Mediterranean, for many flowers, but magically our visit coincided with two fairly fleeting blooms – both the Judas Tree, Cercis siliquastrum IMG_3595


and Wisteria.



Both were featured repeatedly and provided fabulous colour to clothe wonderful structures.

One plant that was new to me was the one growing vertically (above) reflecting the Wisteria hanging down.  Here it is closer.  I’d seen it on previous days growing wild and would love to know what it is.  Any clues?  We discussed it within the group and thought it must be bulbous and perhaps related to Muscari?DSC00981

The next few photos reflect the stunning views out over the Amalfi Coast.  DSC01001






as well as a few planting combinations which appealed.




And to finish, two charming ‘housekeeping’ items.  Firstly, one of the elegant rubbish binsDSC00982

and secondly, the most beautiful emergency exit!IMG_3599

With thanks to Villa Cimbrone – you made my holiday!