Just every now and then, the stars align, and you find yourself garden visiting on a one of the most glorious days of the year.
Thursday, saw me in Stockbridge, Hampshire, a beautiful town in the heart of the Test valley. (The Test is an English river well known for being beautifully clear and for the excellent quality of the trout fishing). There were four gardens open for the NGS, and I indulged in them all.
As ever with group openings, each had a very different feel and yet there were a couple of themes running through. Firstly, ‘light and shade’. On such a bright day one was acutely aware of areas of sun and shade, and all the gardens had some kind of pergola or shaded sitting area, as well as areas of shady planting, providing wonderful contrast to the brighter, sunnier areas. Secondly, brunneras. It took me until the last garden to realise what the attractive leaf was, which I think I saw in every garden – Brunnera Jack Frost below.
This Brunnera, (and the poppy, top) was in the garden of my first stop, ‘Little Wyke’, which was reached down a narrow passage to the left of the property. Anticipation was high as the scent of the roses was concentrated in the passage and acted as a wonderful hint of the joys to come.
As well as some gorgeous roses, including Generous Gardener, above, there were some unusual and striking planting combinations such as the artichoke with the daisy
as well as the Nigella and the (I think) yellow Dorinicum
There were also some beautiful old planting containers
and a potting shed resembling a work of art.
The second property was the Shepherds House, I think the largest of the four. The owners had been there eight years and in that time had made significant changes, including some serious earthworks to create not only a stunning pond, but also some really interesting levels. The garden was full of contrasts – not only the levels, but also really striking light and shade, made even more noticeable on such a bright day.
The perennial borders sung with colour, whilst the planting around (and in) the pond was more restrained and more foliage based.
The third property was The Old Rectory which had the Test (or a tributary?) running through the boundary. The river is incredibly clear and admiring the light on the water, with a halo of roses above, was just magical.
In addition to more restrained riverside planting, there was a pond with voluptuous waterlilies,
some lovely ‘pops’ of colour
and some fabulous pots.
Lastly, Trout Cottage, which I think was the smallest of the four but had some really interesting planting – especially vertical, to make the most use of the space.
The planting had only commenced in 2008 and it was incredible to see how established it all looked. There were some fabulous ‘plummy’ combinations reminiscent of the Stoke garden I loved at Chelsea – Astrantia Gill Richardson with Antirrhinum Black Prince
As well as numerous climbers. Below Rosa St Swithun (looking considerably better than mine!)
and Rosa Abraham Darby,
and Clematis Madame Julia Correvan, which apparently never sees the sun and is still thriving.
And lastly, the beautiful bright green foliage of Hydrangea Quercifolia, at the back of the pergola. Not only lovely now in the summer, but in autumn the foliage turns a lovely deep red.
So, what to take away from Stockbridge, other than memories of a fabulous day’s garden visiting? Well a wishlist for a pergola, a pond, a trout stream, oh, and maybe even a possible one, a Brunnera Jack Frost.
With many thanks to all the owners, not only for opening their beautiful gardens, but also for giving me permission to write about them here.