Category Archives: Garden Tours

The Beth Chatto Gardens

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Home of Beth Chatto, with the water garden in the foreground.

Not long ago I remarked how nice it would be to have a snowy day on the sunporch and today my wish was granted, although it is sleet and ice that blankets the Upstate. For company, I choose The Shade Garden by Beth Chatto, a best-loved book I’m revisiting as I formulate plans for a renovation of the back garden.

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A view of the gravel garden.

In September, I visited Chatto’s renowned gardens for the first time. In addition to her own books, much has been written about the gardens, so I won’t attempt to explain what others have already expressed better than I can, other than to say I’m thankful I was able to visit the gardens in her lifetime and that they are even better than pictures can possibly show.  For those not familiar with Chatto and her method, often called “ecological gardening,” I recommend a short collection of notes on a 2008 exhibition held at the Garden Museum, found here.

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Called ecological gardening, Chatto’s method matches plants to conditions where they can thrive.

The main object of my visit was the woodland garden, but I found its late-summer charms were overwhelmed by those of the gravel garden and water garden. In fact, I’m afraid shady spaces were mostly overlooked that day, which adds to my impatience for another visit.  Since the gardens are only a short train journey from London, I hope, with time, to enjoy them in every season.

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Korean reed grass, Calamagrostis brachytricha, adds interest with striking foxtail-like flowers.

Tomorrow’s column in the Greenville News features a small handful of grasses grown in the drought-resistant gravel garden and the photos on this blog fulfill a promise to show more views of Chatto’s landscape.

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The scree garden.

Without a doubt, British gardens are among the most beautiful and noteworthy in the world. The best, such as the Beth Chatto Gardens, exhibit the highest standards of horticulture.  And, in general, British gardening professionals have been the primary leaders in both design and plant cultivation for the past 400 years.

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The nursery at the Beth Chatto Gardens.

If you haven’t noticed the Hortitopia Tours page, take a peek every once in a while. Currently, I’m featuring a June 2016 garden tour to southern Wales and England.  Among other highlights, the trip includes Cothay Manor, distinguished as one of the “20 Best Gardens in Britain;” Montacute House, featured in the recent BBC production of Wolf Hall; Veddw House garden, a celebrated contemporary garden and favorite of Piet Oudolf; the National Botanic Garden of Wales, a nearly 600 acre garden that looks clearly to the future; and a visit to the home of Dylan Thomas.  For details, click here.

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One of Somerset’s finest historic houses, Cothay Manor is surrounded by 12 acres of magical gardens.

 

 

Auld Lang Syne

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Bodnant in June

The title “Auld Lang Syne,” a Scottish tune written by Robert Burns in the 1700’s, translates to “times gone by” and is about remembering friends from the past and not letting them be forgotten.

I finished editing photos from the June, August, and September garden tours just yesterday.  Sitting at the computer for hours on end can be exhausting work, but time spent on these photos was also a trip down memory lane as I reminisced over the many adventures shared with travel friends in past months.

Here are a few highlights, followed by the lyrics to the English translated version of “Auld Lang Syne.”  You’ll also find a link to the first bit of the song on the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” so if the chance comes up, you can sing with brash enthusiasm tonight.

Happy New Year and all the best to you in 2016!

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Levens Hall, June

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Gresgarth Hall, June

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Arley Hall, June

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Chatsworth, June

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Scampston Hall, June

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Hancock Shaker Village, August

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Stockbridge, August

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Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, August

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Kiftsgate Court, September

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Iford, September

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RHS Wisley, September

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Sissinghurst, September

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Great Dixter, September

You’ll find the movie version of the song, “Auld Lang Syne,” here. 

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and days o’ lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!

We two have run about the slopes, and pulled the daisies fine, but we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since days o’ auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine, but seas between us broad have roared, since days o’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend, and give us a hand o’thine! And we will take a goodwill draught, for auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!

And surely you’ll buy your pint, and surely I’ll buy mine! And we will take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!

The Savill Garden

The Savill Garden, considered the most important natural garden created in England in the twentieth century, comprises 35 acres in Windsor Great Park.  On my recent tour, it was the garden that most distinguished itself by its plants.  Not only was the quality of horticulture exceptionally high, the plants were showcased with both originality and style.

A view of Windsor Castle from the Long Walk, north of the Savill Garden.

A view of Windsor Castle from the Long Walk, north of the Savill Garden.

In the early 1930s, Eric Savill, then the Deputy Surveyor at Windsor, fashioned a remarkable landscape despite the site’s low rainfall by making the most of good soil and natural springs. Today, the garden is a testament to Savill, as well as those who continue to nurture and refine it.  In fact, much has been done to enhance the garden in just the last few decades.

A magnificent herbaceous border leads the way to the Queen Elizabeth Temperate House.

A magnificent herbaceous border leads the way to the Queen Elizabeth Temperate House.

In 1995, the Queen Elizabeth Temperate House (named for the Queen Mother) opened as a shelter for tender plants, while the Golden Jubilee Garden marked the 50th anniversary of the accession of the current monarch in 2002.  The stunning Savill Building, featuring a gift shop and café under an undulating, leaf-shaped roof, was opened in 2006.  And more recently, the Rose Garden was redesigned to feature these prized shrubs in an innovative display.

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden

In the new garden, roses are planted in a swirling pattern, with color and scent concentrated as visitors move towards its center.  Pale flowers, including my favorite of the day, ‘Pearl Drift’, give way to pinks such as ‘Ballerina’, while reds like ‘Munstead Wood’ provide a crescendo at the center of the scheme.  A raised walkway, angled upwards and jutting towards the heart of the garden, provides a unique view and allows the design to be seen to best advantage.

Rosa 'Pearl Drift'

Rosa ‘Pearl Drift’

I have to admit, however, it was the Golden Jubilee Garden which really made my heart leap.  A modern interpretation of the much-loved cottage garden, this space is designed as an enclosed, sunny area that intensifies the fragrance of flowers and encourages visitors to linger on a nearby bench.  Concentric rings, mainly of yew and boxwood, create a contemplative mood and provide a foil for the brightly-colored flowers.

Between paths and enclosing hedges, large beds are planted in the prairie-style popularized by Dutch garden designer Pete Oudolf.  Bold sweeps of perennials, created with hundreds of harmonizing plants, are arranged in a color wave that progresses from one bed to the next.  In early September, I found a planting of purple geraniums, salvias, and veronicas, offset by a weathered teak bench, to be especially lovely.

Purple bed of the Golden Jubilee Garden.

Purple bed of the Golden Jubilee Garden.

A big part of the excitement of touring a garden, though, is finding a new plant.  Here are a few that that caught my eye on that fabulous, late-summer morning in the Savill Garden.

Hypericum x inodorum ‘Magical Pumpkin’:  Growing to roughly 30-inches tall and wide, this small shrub offers the familiar yellow flowers of St. John’s wort in summer, followed by pea-sized, coral berries in autumn that turn black as the season wears on.

Hypericum x inodorum 'Magical Pumpkin'

Hypericum x inodorum ‘Magical Pumpkin’

Echinacea purpurea ‘Virgin’:  An introduction from Pete Oudolf, this new coneflower grows in compact clumps featuring 4-inch wide flowers distinguished with a prominent green cone and brilliant white petals which are fringed on their tips.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Virgin’

Veronica spicata ‘Purpleicious’:  A major component of the purple bed in the Golden Jubilee Garden, this spike speedwell offers intense purple flowers and dark green foliage on a vigorous cultivar that grows to 20-inches tall and wide.

Veronica 'Purpleicious'

Veronica ‘Purpleicious’

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Ferner Osten’:  More compact than many of its kin, this introduction from the esteemed German nurseryman Ernst Pagels reaches just 5-feet tall and provides a jolt of color with deep burgundy flower heads in late summer.  In the Savill Garden, the grass was planted in drifts among the outer borders of the rose garden, where it complimented a variety of soft pink flowers.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Ferner Osten'

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Ferner Osten’

Acer x conspicuum ‘Phoenix’:  It’s not often that a tree stands out from the crowd in a garden of exceptional plants, but this unusual maple lives up to its cultivar name with orange bark that becomes more vivid in cold weather.  A hybrid between the American Acer pensylvanicum and the Chinese Acer davidii, the small tree grows 20-feet tall and nearly as wide and will brighten the garden in fall with gold foliage.

Acer x conspicuum ‘Phoenix'

Acer x conspicuum ‘Phoenix’

Whichford Pottery

I’ve been a fan of Whichford Pottery since its handmade flowerpots first caught my eye at the Chelsea Flower Show more than a decade ago.  Sadly, shopping at will was curtailed by the expense of shipping, but I tucked away the surprising news that the family-run business is open to visitors.  It was a no-brainer, then, to add a visit to this celebrated workshop to the itinerary of my recent garden tour (Late Summer Gardens coordinated with Discover Europe), which included a 6-day stay in the Cotswolds.

Whichford Pottery is located near Shipston-on-Stour in Warwickshire.

Whichford Pottery is located near Shipston-on-Stour in Warwickshire.

Established in 1976 by Jim and Dominique Keeling, the pottery is internationally renowned for its handsome, durable, and frostproof flowerpots.  The business is, in fact, the largest handmaking pottery in Europe, with a team of 25 craftsmen creating traditional and bespoke ceramics inspired by British, Greek, Italian, and Asian designs.

Some of the large flowerpots available in the stockyard between the Pottery production building, shown here, and the Octagon Gallery.

Some of the large flowerpots available in the stockyard between the Pottery production building, shown here, and the Octagon Gallery.

Our morning at the pottery was extraordinary.  I was amazed we were able to observe every detail of the process, beginning with the three types of locally-dug clay and ending with a wide array of finished products, including numerous small items which were carefully wrapped and stowed for our trip back to the US.

Kylie explains how raw materials are mixed. Notice the red tray of clay lumps on the extruder that produces square logs of finished clay.

Kylie explains how raw materials are mixed. Notice the red tray of clay lumps on the extruder that produces square logs of finished clay.

Our tour, led by Kylie, began in the clayroom and while I can’t begin to describe the process in detail, here is what I remember in short:  the three clays are mixed with grog (previously fired clay that is ground up and incorporated to reduce shrinkage) to make a slurry that is piped through a machine which removes stones and other bits that are too large.  Then, the clay is squeezed through an accordion-like device to remove water, pumped into a machine that shapes it into logs, and cut into lengths that are wrapped in plastic and stacked for a minimum 8-week resting period.

This device squeezes water from the clay mix.

This device squeezes water from the clay mix.

Mixing is probably the most important part of the process and yet most would imagine it a thankless job.  The craftsmen in the clayroom were high spirited, however, with radio blasting and obviously enjoying their work.  Perhaps a nearby ceiling painting keeps them inspired.

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After a quick look at the kilns, we were treated to a demonstration in the throwing workshop by Joe, Kylie’s husband, and within minutes saw a lump of clay transformed into a flowerpot with a pie crust edge.  In the same studio, we also marveled over the application of a variety of finishing details, such as basket weave and other forms of ornamentation, as well as personalization with names and dates to mark special events.

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Each flowerpot is marked with a “Whichford England” stamp at its base and some are further distinguished with a makers mark, or a rolling mark that circles under the lip of the pot noting, “Whichford Pottery*Warwickshire*England.”

Whichford Pottery's destinctive hallmark.

Whichford Pottery’s destinctive hallmark.

Before departure, we did our best to spread joy in the stockyard and Octagon Gallery where a selection of pottery and other gift items were offered.  

The tempting Octagon Gallery.

The tempting Octagon Gallery.

Limited by packing space, I chose a small longtom fired with a moss glaze for my new porch. Though my Wichford flowerpot may not always be dressed with such fanfare in the future, for its first outing it is graced with a selection of lady slipper orchid commonly called a Venus slipper (Paphiopedilum). 

Wichford flowerpot, now sharing its charms in the Upstate of South Carolina.

Wichford flowerpot, now sharing its charms in the Upstate of South Carolina.

To see more about Wichford Pottery, enjoy this 4-minute video clip of Adam Keeling at work.

Or, click on the photo below of the courtyard garden to examine a small selection of various flowerpots created by these talented craftsmen.

Courtyard garden at Whichford Pottery.

Courtyard garden at Whichford Pottery.

Great Dixter

In September, there’s no better garden in England than the one at Great Dixter, the family home of gardener and garden writer Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006).  Today, the garden is cultivated in the spirt of Lloyd by Head Gardener Fergus Garrett and a team, including interns, which never hesitates in a forward-looking approach that embraces new plants and fresh ideas.

In today’s garden column in the Greenville News, I use Great Dixter’s pot displays as a lead in for information on creating fall containers, so it’s the perfect time for a closer look at this iconic garden. Details and a map of the garden can be found on Great Dixter’s website, but here, I would like to let the photos speak for themselves.  Enjoy!

Pot display at the home's front door.

Pot display at the home’s front door.

The Sunk Garden and Barn Garden looking towards the house.

The Sunk Garden and Barn Garden looking towards the house.

The Sunk Garden and Barn Garden looking towards the White Barn.

The Sunk Garden and Barn Garden looking towards the White Barn.

The Sunk Garden and Barn Garden looking towards the Meadow Garden (beyond the yew hedge).

The Sunk Garden and Barn Garden looking towards the Meadow Garden (beyond the yew hedge).

The Walled Garden looking towards the enty into the Sunk Garden and Barn Garden.

The Walled Garden looking towards the enty into the Sunk Garden and Barn Garden.

The entry from the Walled Garden into the Blue Garden.

The entry from the Walled Garden into the Blue Garden.

The Nursery Sales Shop.

The Nursery Sales Shop.

Exiting the Nursery, looking across the Topiary Lawn towards the house.

Exiting the Nursery, looking across the Topiary Lawn towards the house.

The stairway entry to the Exotic Garden.

The stairway entry to the Exotic Garden.

Planting detail.

Planting detail.

The Long Border seen from the Orchard.

The Long Border seen from the Orchard.

The grass and meadow of the Orchard from the Long Border.

The grass and meadow of the Orchard from the Long Border.

The vegetable area within the High Garden.

The vegetable area within the High Garden.

Overlooking the Peacock Topiary from the High Garden.

Overlooking the Peacock Topiary from the High Garden.

One last glance...

One last glance…

Some of the Best Views of England

As you would guess, the itinerary of a garden tour includes lots of gardens, but every once in a while it’s exciting to do something a bit different.  On the recent tour of the Cotswolds, our guide, Ian, suggested a visit to Broadway Tower, a Capability Brown folly on the second highest point of the Cotswold escarpment, 1024 feet above sea level.

Sharon was the first up the hill to Broadway Tower.

Sharon was the first up the hill to Broadway Tower.

Completed in 1798, the Tower was designed by renowned architect James Wyatt with an eclectic mish-mash of elements including turrets, battlements, balconies, and gargoyles.  In fact, it has everything an American tourist could ask for on a first-day out in England, complete with a gift shop on the ground level.

Long before the Tower was built, the location was a vital communications center known as a “beacon hill,” where messages of urgency could be conveyed by lighting a fire that could be seen for miles around.

Later, during the World Wars, the Royal Observer Corps used the Tower to track enemy planes, and during the Cold War they constructed a nuclear bunker where they could report nuclear attacks.

Here are a few of the amazing views from the tower today…

In the far distance looking west, the counties of Hereford, Worcestershire, and Powis, with the Malvern Hills 25 miles distant.

In the far distance looking west, the counties of Hereford, Worcestershire, and Powis, with the Malvern Hills 25 miles distant.

To the Northeast, looking over Hereford, Worcester, Worcestershire, Leicestershire, and Northampshire.

To the Northeast, looking over Hereford, Worcester, Worcestershire, Leicestershire, and Northampshire.

In the near distance, pasture lands and villages.

In the near distance, pasture lands and villages.

And here’s a good part of the group, with smiles…and are those shopping bags I see?

Marian, Dick, Sharon, Marcia, Sarah, Gerald, Suzanne, Martha R., Karen, Beth,  Eugenia, Jennie, Joan (hiding), Kathy, and Martha S.

Marian, Dick, Sharon, Marcia, Sarah, Gerald, Suzanne, Martha R., Karen, Beth, Eugenia, Jennie, Joan (hiding), Kathy, and Martha S.

Another important part of a tour is the accommodation and in the Cotswolds we were fortunate to stay at The Wood Norton, a boutique hotel built as a hunting lodge for European Royalty in 1897.  I can’t imagine anything more perfect–the rooms were lovely and comfortable, the food (and wine!) outstanding, and the staff superb in every way.

Here’s another handfull of views we all came to love…

Wood Norton Hall, our home away from home.

Wood Norton Hall, our home away from home.

A small sampling of Wood Norton's beautiful garden and landscaped grounds.

A small sampling of Wood Norton’s beautiful garden and landscaped grounds.

And if you didn't have enough excitement during the day, you could book a balloon ride for the evening!

And if you didn’t have enough excitement during the day, you could book a balloon ride for the evening!

Almost Wordless Wednesday–September 16, 2015

Great Terrace at Iford Manor

Great Terrace at Iford Manor

Just home from London last night, so no time to write yet, but wanted to share this image of one of my favorite gardens–Iford Manor–with its recently redesigned borders on the Great Terrace.