Summer Gardens of Dorset – Day One

Last year in July I went on my first Saga holiday to the Peak District on tour of six restored gardens and blogged about it when I returned home: A Garden Restoration Story. This year I decided to book myself on another of their special interest breaks and am in Bournemouth visiting six Dorset gardens. Rather than write one long blog post at the end of the holiday I have decided to write about our visits at the end of each day.

  • Minterne Gardens, Minterne Magna, Nr Dorchester

Minterne House is a private residence and not open to the public. The garden, accessed by fairly steep paths, is a sub-tropical garden Himalayan and Chinese plants brought back by Victorian plant hunters. It is full of rhododendrons and azaleas, although sadly most of them are now over. There were a few spectacular clematis scrambling up supports which added colour instead.If you have visited Leonardslee Gardens in West Sussex (due to reopen again early 2019 after being closed for several years) I think you may see a marked similarity, I certainly did. There were patches down in the bottom of the woodland walk of the most beautiful delicately coloured Candelabra Primulas. Such a pretty sight amid all the greenery of the Gunnera and ferns. Our guide had the idea we should pretend we were also trepid plant hunters suggesting we keep an eye out for plants. In the sub tropical growth we were able find (clockwise) Tradescantia Virginiana, Cornus Kousa, Northern Marsh Orchid and Primula Vialii.

I enjoyed my morning walk around Minterne and could have spent more time there but time was running out and we had to be back on the coach for our next garden of the day.

  • Athelhampton House and Gardens, Puddletown (yes really!)

This is a 15th Century Manor House with a 19th century Arts and Crafts garden, consisting of various rooms. We had lunch in the excellent cafe/restaurant before setting off on our second garden tour of the day.

The pretty 16th century dovecot, complete with doves, is covered with the most wonderful small white roses.

As you enter the gardens, the first garden has 12 giant Yew pyramids carefully placed so you can see the next garden through the gate opposite.

The above coronet walled garden room was circular, very sheltered and would not have looked out of place in the Painswick Rococo Garden. The colours in this room were mainly shades of pink and maroon with astrantia and a magnificent deep maroon Sweet William. The iris were almost over and the dahlias yet to flower; I bet they are also in shades of pink and maroon.

There is a white garden with a mass of white lavender in the throes of flowering and a small but packed rose garden. Whenever I’m gardening I always have secateurs in my back pocket ready to prune and deadhead. I was just itching to deadhead the roses a job which was badly needed to be done. It was fortunate I didn’t have them with me as I would have had to be held back!!

The delightful cottage in the grounds, with roses around the door, could also be seen from another garden room framed by a wrought iron gate.

Each garden room was colour themed and the above was full of purple salvias and yellow alchemilla mollis.

I could wax lyrical for hours on the above borders with their bluer than blue delphiniums, stipa grasses and deep red monarda contrasting with the silver blue of the eryngium. There is some debate on the red flower which has a heuchera leaf and I think it’s a heuchera ‘ Tokyo’, our Horti guide of some 35 years experience said it was London Pride but I beg to differ – what do you think?

Needless to say although I liked Minterne House and Gardens given the choice I would return to Athelhampton like a shot.

Tomorrow we visit Abbotsbury and Bennett’s Water Gardens.

3 thoughts on “Summer Gardens of Dorset – Day One

  1. Those last three shots absolutely stopped me in my tracks! Before reading your comment I was wanting to know what the red flower is. Having looked it up I would go with Heuchera ‘ Tokyo’ as well.


    1. wish now I’d had the courage to correct her but in front of 28 people I bottled out. They were defiantly heuchera leaves and not saxifraga. That whole border was incredible, an inspired planting design.


  2. What a lovely holiday you seem to be on. I have a sister who lives in Dorset and next time I go for a visit I know where I’ll suggest for a day out. Hope you continue to have a wonderful time. I know what you mean about wanting to deadhead roses.

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