Category Archives: Garden visits

Glorious Gravetye Manor

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This weekend saw the OH and me celebrating (a month early) our 30th Wedding Anniversary having decided just a few days ago to go to Gravetye Manor.

Gravetye was the home of William Robinson, who bought it in 1884 and lived there until his death in 1935.  At Gravetye he established the idea of the English natural garden, eschewing the ‘blobby’ Victorian bedding planting and,  instead pioneering sweeping, painterly drifts of herbaceous perennials close to the house, but also establishing wonderful ‘wild’ areas of naturalised bulbs and wild flowers.

As the website says “The variety and charm of the arrangements of trees and shrubs and the layout of the different types of garden at Gravetye is still his creation and memorial. Even when very old and partly crippled he would go out in his wheelchair and scatter bulbs and seeds from a bag on his lap; the garden room he built at the end of the formal garden provided him with a shelter from which he could watch his beloved flowers and trees from a fresh viewpoint.”

I’d read about Robinson and Gravetye in The Garden magazine a couple of years ago and it’s been on my list ever since.  Following the hotel changing hands in 2010 significant redevelopment work has taken place in the garden under the careful eye of Tom Coward (who had previously spent three years with Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter).

The gardens surround a wonderful hotel and aren’t available to just wander into, consequently our stay was planned as a special treat – to stay a night and enjoy the gardens as part of the visit.

Exiting through the bar you are greeted with the view above.  The view is north westerly across the flower garden.

The timing of our visit was pretty much perfect with not only the tulips at their peak, but the Azalea Bank too.  And you have to admire the backdrop of remarkable mature trees.IMG_2476IMG_2483

Further absolutely stunning displays surrounded the Flower GardenIMG_2462IMG_2520

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To the south of the Flower Garden is a huge Wildflower Meadow but there wasn’t a great deal to see at this time of year, but there were some lovely poppies!

Walking around to the orchard and then on towards the glasshouses, we passed this glorious sight

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and we weren’t the only ones enjoying it!  Can someone identify it please?IMG_2489

On to the glasshouses and there was a mixture of large scale production, IMG_2492

as well as rather more glamorous endeavours.  Look at these fabulous peaches!IMG_2493IMG_2494

From the glasshouses we entered the astonishing elliptical 1.5 acre Kitchen Garden. Not only is this the first kitchen garden I’ve ever been in that wasn’t square or rectangular, but it’s also on a proper slope – the whole thing slopes really significantly towards the south east.IMG_2496IMG_2502

At the back of the Kitchen Garden we came across this beautiful ‘Allium Gate’. Apparently it was only made three years ago by a local female blacksmith.  I haven’t been able to find out the name of the maker, but isn’t it wonderful?

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All in all it was an amazing garden, so thank you Gravetye Manor, Tom Coward and William Robinson.  Genius!IMG_2501

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech

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The house was originally constructed for Jacques Majorelle in the 1930s and from the beginning, the walls were painted in ‘Majorelle blue’.  He designed a garden around the Art Deco house with the rare and exotic plants he’d collected worldwide.dsc00128

The garden was first opened to the public in 1947, but fell into disrepair after his death in 1962.  It was saved from developers when Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent bought it in 1980 and since then the garden has been restored, with many plants added.

Following Saint Laurent’s death in 2008, the garden passed to a new non profit ‘fondation’ to ensure the conservation and maintenance of the property.  The fondation has already opened a fascinating Berber museum within the grounds and are currently working on the ‘Musee Yves Saint Laurent’ which is due to open later this year.

I previously visited this garden in 2006 with two primary age children in tow.  I remember worrying that a garden visit was likely to be very painful, but actually the combination of spiky cacti, bright colours and, most particularly, turtles in the pool proved a winning combination.

Fast forward to 2017 and the turtles have gone, but the other elements are still very much in evidence.

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Unlike the Jardin Secret, this garden is outside the centre of Marrakech and the entrance is off what feels like a residential street, but like the Jardin Secret, there is significant use of water in the design.dsc00135

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It doesn’t have the striking layout of the Jardin Secret, and is definitely busier, but its still a fascinating space with much to recommend it.  Perhaps I’ll return in another ten years to check our the new museum.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how they keep that blue paint looking so fresh…dsc00113

 

 

Le Jardin Secret, Marrakech

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If you want a wonderfully detailed account of this garden, including the history, do head over to the Frustrated Gardener who visited late last year (and in much sunnier weather!)

I realised when we were forced to land in Casablanca to refuel (due to a 40 mile wide thunderstorm sitting over the Marrakech airport) that the weather for our short trip was unlikely to be balmy, and indeed it wasn’t.  Having said that, by Saturday the weather had improved, and by Sunday (when I took my ‘Aloe Aloe’ Wordless Wednesday picture) the sky was a fabulous blue.  Sadly, on Friday when we went garden visiting, all was rather grey.

Le Jardin Secret is situated in Marrakech’s central souk and is an extraordinary oasis amongst the chaos.  It has been open less than a year after a redesign by Tom Stuart-Smith and a fabulous renovation.  It is an absolute triumph.

The space consists of two separate  gardens, the first square and the second rectangular which abut on a corner, each largely invisible from the other.

In this photo you can see the exotic garden to the middle right, with the second, larger, Islamic garden in the main part of the picture.  The link between the two is deliberately small, creating a contrast between the narrow link and the wider gardens themselves.dsc00221

The first photo is of the exotic garden, looking back to elegant reception building seen at the rear.  The view looking the other way, as you first enter the exotic garden, is below.dsc00264

Whilst not a huge fan of battleship grey, it makes a striking back drop for the wonderfully textured planting and the colourful Aloes.dsc00247

I love this Dasylirion acrotrichum – it reminds me of Heatherwick’s ill fated ‘B of the Bang’.dsc00257

Although the exotic garden is segmented and symmetrical, the larger Islamic garden is even more strictly laid out.  The rectangular shape is split into four quadrants, with each quadrant further split into four.

And whereas the planting in the exotic garden is contemporary and from all over the world, the planting in the Islamic garden is much more traditional with repeated planting of olive, pomegranate, fig and date.  Only the herbaceous planting underneath the trees is a modern interpretation of the original swept earth.dsc00156

The grasses really were extraordinary en masse like this.dsc00200

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Throughout both gardens are beautiful rills and fountains, with water being an essential element in Islamic gardens.

The original water system in Marrakech utilised ground drainage tunnels (established in the late eleventh century) which carried water from the Atlas mountains into the city’s mosques, hammams and some of the great houses, including Le Jardin Secret.dsc00238

An exhibiton shows numerous photos taken during the renovation, including this one of the painstaking tile workdsc00165

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From the Islamic garden we climbed up to first floor level above the Oud el Ward pavilion to lunch in the new cafe.

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From here we climbed a further beautifully tiles staircase

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to the top of the tower, from where the layout of the garden was clear.   As the website says “The garden is as a matter of fact a metaphor of heaven; it is a sacred place, laid out according to rigid geometrical rules, in which the Muslim order asserts itself over the wild disorder of nature.”  Heaven indeed.

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Just time to admire one of my favourite plants, Melianthus major, before running the gauntlet of the hawkers once more….dsc00148

Jardines de Alfabia

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So the Golf Captaincy has come to an end and all that’s left now is hosting the thank you dinner for 14 next Friday.  Not quite sure why we’re doing the thanking, but hey, what do I know?

Anyway, to celebrate the handover we’d discussed all sorts of potential long haul adventures but unfortunately, by the time we got to proper planning, it turned out I could only take a week off work so we ended up with five days in Mallorca!  Ah well, the sun shone occasionally, and it was definitely warmer.

The Jardines de Alfabia are situated between Palma (where we were staying) and Soller on the slope of the Sierra de Tramuntana.  img_1127

There is a beautiful old train which has been running between the two towns since 1912.  Apparently it will make a request stop at the gardens, but we wanted to go to Soller anyway so we took the train there and got a bus back.

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Clearly it was late in the season to experience a great deal in the way of flowers, but the garden, originally owned by the 12th Arab Viceroy, has a Moorish character and the associated design features were easy to admire without blooms.

The entrance to the garden was up this striking flight of steps

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At the top, a small fountain provided the source of the (limited!) water in the rills to either side of the steps.
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Looking right you see the ‘covered pond’ (shown in the first photo) and peering closer gives a glimpse into the rest of the garden – and a beautiful reflection.img_1093

From here there is an extraordinary pergola img_1103

which, in the further half, has twenty four inbuilt hydrants which erupt, after a 20 second delay, when a button is pressed.  There was a comedy moment when I was about to press the button, not understanding where the hydrants actually spouted, and a Spanish couple coming in the opposite direction made it very clear using sign language that I really shouldn’t!img_1107

Looking back from the far end showed a further pergola, this one at right angles to the first and absolutely smothered in Wisteria, Bourganvillea and Morning Glory.img_1129

Here there were two amazing trees, easily 25 metres tall – Silk floss tree or Chorisia speciosa.  Sorry not great photos, but the blooms were so high up and I only had my phone.

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And this was the extraordinary bark

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In the lowest area of the garden were some really ancient plants, including this oliveimg_1153

and this Wisteria.img_1154

Exiting via the house (which apparently has Arabic, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Roman, Rococco and even English in its decoration!) we spotted this fabulous palm, acting as eyelashes to the Ox Eye (ojos de buey) window.  There were (understandably) a pair of these windows and each had its own little staircase, I assume for mounting your house (or carriage).

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And to finish, ooh look – flowers!

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Wonderful Woolbeding

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Another off island adventure and so another excuse for a garden visit, this time to the National Trust Woolbeding Gardens near Midhurst in West Sussex.

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I knew we’d be coming down the A3 and would therefore be close by, but I also remembered the garden had limited opening times.  Amazingly, it turned out the day we were passing (last Friday) happened to be the last open day of the year!  The garden is now closed until next spring, when it will reopen, as before, on Thursdays and Fridays only.

As you arrive you’re welcomed by this wonderful formal water garden, designed by the Bannermans (of whom more later), which sets the scene for what is clearly going to be quite some garden.

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The Woolbeding Estate of over 1,000 acres was given to the National Trust by the Lascelles family in 1957, with 26 acres devoted to the gardens.  The house, below, is still in private ownership, and not open, but there are a whole range of similarly beautiful stone outbuildings and walls which help make the garden so special.img_1672

In 1972 Woolbeding was leased to Simon Sainsbury, and subsequently his partner Stewart Grimshaw, who developed it into the wonderful garden it is today.  Initially they focussed on the area closest to the house and, with the help of American garden designer Lanning Roper, they remodelled with ‘clear structure, elegance and restraint’, creating a series of garden rooms.

Looking west from the house are two herbaceous borders, still exhibiting plenty of colour in cool blues and purples.img_1674img_1675img_1677

Through the immaculate hedging to the hotter, more exotic feeling greenhouse gardenimg_1678img_1679

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And into the greenhouse, where they still had a voracious Ipom0ea flowering.img_1683

 

Crossing back across the herbaceous borders and into the herb garden, with immaculate trained apples.img_1688img_1689img_1690

Through to the orangery with views of a beautiful pool.

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There are stunning pots throughout the garden, including this one, with Anisodontea and matching Salvia, see below.img_1698

On to the veg area, which was huge, and, in keeping with the rest of the garden, immaculate.img_1700

I had to admire these Tromboncino (which I’d heard Charlotte Mendelson discussing in her hilarious interview with Jenny Murray on Thursday’s Women’s Hour.  I’m definitely going to read her new book ‘Rhapsody in Green‘)

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On to the well garden, where I admired this fabulous combination.img_1691

 

Away from the garden rooms the William Pye sculpture dominates.  I rather like it but the OH definitely didn’t.img_1673

Walking round the church and south takes you past this magnificent Cedarimg_1715img_1725

and the charming Tulip Folly.  The folly has been built on the site of a 100ft tulip tree.  It was felled by the great storm of October 1987 and apparently only missed the house by a couple of feet.img_1714

A further stroll takes you to the rather separate ‘Pleasure Gardens’ which were created later with the help of Julian and Isabel Bannerman.  (Coincidentally there was an interesting article in the Telegraph on the Bannermans this Saturday).

Here there is a ruined chapel, a rustic hermit’s hut,img_1718

wonderful bordered path leading toimg_1719

a glowing yellow bridge.img_1724

Back towards the exit you can’t help but admire all the wonderful structures – this gorgeous curved wall by the churchimg_1712

living buttresses,

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lovely stone buildings and attractive, classy furniture.img_1732

This really was a stunning garden.  So much structure which lent a real sense of discovery.  The formal garden isn’t that huge but as each area is so different it feels more substantial.

This has definitely moved straight into my top 5 gardens and I can’t wait to return in the spring.  Thanks National Trust and Woolbeding.  I’ll be back.

 

Oh and PS can someone tell me what this is please?  It was a good 6ft tall.img_1680

 

West Dean again :)

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I was back at beautiful West Dean on Saturday attending a one day course on Propagation.  Whilst it was interesting, I’m not sure I learnt a massive amount, but it is always such a pleasure to visit.  The grounds are immaculate whatever the time of year, and so it was on Saturday.

The glasshouses were full of fabulously ordered rows of this and that.  Here tomaotes,

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I took quite a shine to this beauty, ‘Monserrat’IMG_1524

and this enormous Snake Gourd.IMG_1522

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The smell in this glass house was unbelievable!IMG_1519

In the walled garden the purple and yellow borders were still looking fabulous.IMG_1529

Just look at this planting combination.

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I was particularly taken with this Verbena which was used repeatedly on the corners.  All of the plants were absolutely smothered in blooms.  I can’t help feel this would look a darn site more interesting in the front of my Swing Beds than the current geraniums with not a flower in sight!  (Note too the perfectly matched Penstemon)IMG_1531

Into the Cutting Garden and the colours are much hotter,IMG_1527

including a whole bed of stunning Zinnias.  Phwoar!

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These three particularly caught my eye – ‘Coral Beauty’, ‘Oriole’ and ‘Cupcake Lime and Lime Red’ (together).

Another fabulous bed, this time of Dahlias.IMG_1500

Clockwise from top left ‘Dark Star’, ‘New Baby’, ‘Summer Night’ and, very similar to ‘Dark Star’ but with rounder petals, ‘Bishop of Auckland’.

And finally a picture of the two plants I took cuttings from as part of the course – Salvia ‘Ember Wishes’IMG_1533

and Fuschia thymifolia.IMG_1534

If  none of my cuttings take I really won’t mind.  I still met some lovely people and had a fabulous day at one of my very favourite gardens.  Thanks West Dean, I’ll be back.IMG_1492

 

 

Mottistone revisited

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Mottistone Gardens consist of 6 acres of formal gardens within the wider 650 acre Mottistone Estate.  The name is taken from a 13 foot iron sandstone Long Stone, a standing stone situated on a ridge above the village, originally known as the Moot Stone.

The manor (still tenanted and only open twice a year) and gardens were bequeathed to the National Trust in 1963.

I’ve visited the garden numerous times and have already blogged about visits in both March and June.  This time though, it was looking so good I wanted to share another visit.

The herbaceous borders above are reached via some beautiful stone steps frothing with Erigeron karvinskianus.

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Here are the borders looking away from the house.IMG_1481

I find it fascinating comparing the picture above with one below from June 2015:

There were a couple of plants in these borders in two different colours that I’m sure I should know, but couldn’t name.  They were almost shrubby in size and both smothered in flowers.  Any clues?IMG_1484

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Right by the house the colour palette is much hotter, with wonderful bold planting in a daring but fabulous mix of blue and orange.IMG_1478

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Look at this scorching combination!IMG_1479

Walking in the other direction, south past the house, you pass the Monocot Border, laid out to show the great variety of monocots, including this wonderfully architectural Hedychium gardnerianum ‘Tara’.  I assume this is after the orange flowers have faded.IMG_1460

Beyond this border is the sheltered Lower Garden, planted with a number of tender plants including these fabulous Cannas.

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From here you can see out of the garden and over to the Norman Mottistone Church (where Benedict Cumberbatch was married in February last year).IMG_1467

Despite having been here many times previously I’d never realised that the large tree to the north of this area is a mulberry, Morus nigra.  I only noticed this time as there were hundreds of mulberries littering the lawn!IMG_1463

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And to finish, another mystery plant.  Any clues for this one?  I think it would look fabulous at the back of my Swing Beds.IMG_1471

So, thanks National Trust and thanks Mottistone, it really was a treat.