Category Archives: NGS

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.

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.

The Old Rectory, Kingston – just dreamy


The weekend before my own garden opening I gave myself the afternoon off to visit my friend Louise’s garden which was open for the NGS.

The Old Rectory is a wonderful garden, continually developing and always an absolute delight.  This visit was further enhanced by a spectacularly beautiful day.  The meadow above was added a couple of years ago, a second meadow to this longer established one below.

Louise loves roses and was definitely the inspiration for the number I’ve now planted chez Duver Diary.IMG_2729

There are always lovely planting combinations and new varieties to admire.

Thanks Louise, it was just beautiful.

As my neighbour said, who visited for the first time – “Best £4 I’ve ever spent!”

National Gardens Scheme – don’t you just love it?


The National Gardens Scheme, founded in 1927, now gives in the region of £2.5m to nursing and caring charities every year and has an incredible choice of 3,800 gardens to visit.  This weekend was their festival weekend, and although other commitments meant I wasn’t garden visiting this weekend, I thought I’d share photos three NGS visits I’ve made in the past week.

The first, above, was Mill Farm, in Bembridge, across Bembridge Harbour from where we live.  It’s a large garden which wraps around the property and its informal, cottagey planting blends beautifully with the stone walls.IMG_7633

The beds are generously filled and have a glorious abundance which contrasts with immaculately kept edges. IMG_7628

I’ve only visited Mill Farm once before, but one thing I’d remembered was an incredible array of aquilegias, and they certainly didn’t disappoint this year either.

And why Mill Farm?  Well, they get to see this from their garden. IMG_7641

From Mill Farm I returned to Nick Peirce’s garden, also in Bembridge but very different.  I wrote about it last year in some detail here, so this is only a glimpse.

Nick works full time but also breeds day lilies (see his website here).  Obviously it’s early for Hemerocallis, and whilst there were many waiting in the wings,


there was this stunner already in bloom.IMG_7622

Nick’s garden is long and thin and has a wonderful jungly feel, created with, amongst other things, numerous grasses.  I’ve been growing Carex from seed for my new Bronze Bed which I hope are as striking as these:


I’ve also got Libertia in the Bronze Bed but they’re rather weedy compared to these magnificent specimens.IMG_7624


Oh and I still LOVE his Buddleia  colvilei ‘kewensis’.IMG_7623

And the third one?  An evening opening at the private garden for the Brothers of Charterhouse in central London.  I persuaded a couple of work colleagues to join me and we had a very jolly time.  Perhaps the free glass of wine had something to do with that!2015-06-02 18.40.24

The site was acquired in the middle of the fourteenth century as a burial ground for the victims of the Black Death but as not all the space was used, a Carthusian Monastery was also established.

Do you think the burial ground explains these rather chilling stone carvings?2015-06-02 19.01.55

Under Henry VIII’s reign the monastery was suppressed and passed to the Crown, and then subsequently to Lord North, who constructed a Tudor mansion.2015-06-02 19.06.29

In 1611 the mansion was sold to Thomas Sutton, who used much of his wealth to endow a charitable foundation to educate boys and care for elderly men, known as ‘Brothers.’   Charterhouse School was moved to Goldalming in 1872, but the brothers remain, and get to enjoy this glorious oasis, tucked between Barts Hospital and the rather brutalist Barbican.2015-06-02 18.45.54

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So three very different and inspiring gardens in the space of three days, for a total of £11.  What a fabulous organisation.

Thanks NGS.

Taking stock in Stockbridge


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.IMG_3146 (2)

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 daisyIMG_3157

as well as the Nigella and the (I think) yellow DorinicumIMG_3148

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.IMG_3182


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,IMG_3214

some lovely ‘pops’ of colourIMG_3201

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!)IMG_3222

and Rosa Abraham Darby,IMG_3235

Clematis Niobe


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.