Is there a right time to leave a much loved garden?

I’m finding it quite painful receiving tempting seed catalogues in the post when, at the moment, it’s not clear where I am going to live and what type of garden I will inherit. Apart from committing ideas and plans to paper, I feel I can’t actively do anything practical yet for a garden in 2018. I am beginning to think that October, when the garden is preparing to go to bed, is the best time to move, not at the start of the year with Spring beckoning and an abundance of colourful brochures packed with goodies whetting the appetite.

Towards the end of 2017 I spent a fair bit of my budget buying spring bulbs, designing the colour schemes and adding to the pots I already have, which at the last count numbered just over 30! Some of you reading this will smile and think to yourselves “that’s nothing, you want to see how many containers I have”.

Last year along with Cosmos, sweet peas, calendula to name but a few, I also grew dahlias successfully from seed. The dahlias were planted out into the flowerbeds, I didn’t dig them up and the new owner of the garden may benefit from them in 2018, that’s if they get through the winter and recently waterlogged beds.

I defy anyone with a love of gardening, not to resist buying a plant, or even plants, as a memento of a happy time spent visiting other gardens, either NGS or National Trust/English Heritage properties. After 17 years, my garden is full of memories, many of which I know I have to leave behind. As much as I would love to, I can’t bring myself to strip the whole place – also I’m not sure the removal men will take too kindly to more than half a garden centre to move! It has been a very difficult decision to pick what to take and what to leave behind. The photo above is the Tree Peony I bought from Stanstead House in April 2017. I have always promised myself one of these and although it only produce one bloom, it was splendid and I have no intention of leaving it behind. It is now in a container by the back door and fingers crossed has taken the transition from flowerbed to pot in its stride.

Is there a right time to move, if you have a garden, let alone a much loved garden? I don’t think there is, it’ll be an emotional wrench whatever time of the year. With a bit of luck, all going well and conveyancers not dragging their heels, I will be in a new home by Easter and have plenty of time to sow seeds and nurture new plants, as well as enjoy my transported spring bulb laden pots.

Nine of 2017

Nine photos of many taken in 2017 of the flowers in my garden.

Top Row: Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’; Calibrachoa Can Can ‘Coral Reef’ a Begonia and Erigeron; Dahlia ‘Tsuki No Yori Shiska’;

Middle Row: Sweet Pea ‘Distant Horizon Mix’; Agapanthus; Echinacea ‘White Swan’;

Bottom Row: Alstroemeria; Rudbeckia ‘Rustic’; selection of Dahlias – ‘Crazy Love’ ‘Frank Kafka’ ‘Purple Gem’ and ‘Teesbrook Audrey’.

Book Review: Secret Gardens of East Anglia

Go West young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.” – Josiah Bushell Grimmell

After being enthralled and inspired reading about 22 very different gardens in 4 counties, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, it really is a case of “Go East”, a part of our country I rarely visit but am going to rectify.

The foreword is written by Beth Chatto who tells us she “…rarely had enough time to get out and visit other gardens, it is a pity since we can all learn from one another. Learning what to do is important, but learning what not to do is equally important.” How true that is!

Barbara Segall, a horticulturalist and garden writer visited each of the 22 gardens and has written about them so beautifully and enticingly it was a hard task to pick out just a few in this review, buying this book really is a must. The photographs taken by the late Marcus Harpur are a delight, he was a brilliant photographer who sadly died on the 6th August but not before he and Barbara were able to celebrate the arrival the first copies of the book in June.

The 22 gardens range from acres and acres of land to a very small town house garden – something for everyone. These are just four I have picked out, mainly because each one is so different in its own right.

Parsonage House, Helions Bumpstead, Essex

Photograph taken by Marcus Harpur

Annie Turner and her husband The Hon. Nigel Turner have lived at Parsonage House since 1990. It is an English country garden with mixed borders and a small kitchen garden. There are 3 acres of garden and then another 3 acres of wild flowers and woodland. A quote from Annie Turner in the book is something we should all try and follow but, if you are like me, you rarely do: “..having the discipline not to do too much too soon has it rewards.”

Photographs by Marcus Harpur

Above is an illustration of one of the borders at Parsonage Farm and a selection of the flowers grown there.

Silverstone Farm, North Elmham, Norfolk

Photograph by Marcus Harpur

Silverstone Farm is a very different garden. George Carter was inspired by 17th and early 18th century Dutch and English gardens. His garden is designed with hedges forming rooms, topiary and a fine array of structures around the garden as can be seen in the photograph above.

38 Norfolk Terrace, Cambridge

Photographed by Marcus Harpur

38 Norfolk Terrace is a tiny town house garden and goes to show that you don’t need a lot of space to create an enchanting garden. This garden is full of ideas for the use of space with raised beds, low growing shrubs and pots giving shape and height.

Ulting Wick, Ulting, Essex

Photographed by Marcus Harpur

I have to declare a personal interest with Ulting Wick. Although it is a garden I am yet to visit, it has been on my ‘must-visit’ list for a while. The owner Philippa Burroughs and I follow each other on Twitter and over the last few years I have seen some inviting photographs of her charming garden. Now I have read more about the history it is a MUST visit garden.

Photographs by Marcus Harpur

The tulips at Ulting Wick are a sight to behold, and Philippa told Barbara Segall that no plan is made on paper!

This review really is just a taster of this captivating book and I really recommend it. Some of the other gardens featured are:

COLUMBINE HALL – A moated garden with a series of green rooms
HELMINGHAM HALL GARDENS – A gem of a garden hidden in its own moated island
KIRTLING TOWER – A field of daffodils for a Tudor gatehouse
RAVENINGHAM HALL – Exquisite planting in the RHS president’s private garden
ULTING WICK – Thousands of tulips against a backdrop of black wooden barns
WYKEN HALL – Vines and roses around an Elizabethan Manor House

Just to finish off, I include a further quote from Barbara Segall’s introduction – “It’s only walking in a garden…you can really appreciate the picture that has been created.”

Secret Gardens of East Anglia A Private Tour of 22 Gardens
By Barbara Segall Photography by Marcus Harpur
Published by Frances Lincoln on 7th September 2017

A visit to the National Memorial Arboretum

On the way home from the garden holiday in the Peak District, (see earlier post), we passed The National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield, Staffordshire and called in for a quick visit. What an inspiring and emotive place! We only had just over an hour and it really is worth more than a quick visit; a full day would have done it justice.

Opened in May 2001, the 150 acre site has over 30,000 trees, almost every tree has a dedication plaque, and 300 memorials recognizing service and sacrifice. We mistakenly thought that it was solely war memorials, how wrong could we be. There are memorials to the armed forces, civilian organizations and voluntary bodies who have served the country.

The recently opened Remembrance Centre has 3 galleries, a restaurant, cafe and shop. As much as I have searched I can't find out who designed the gardens outside but they are planted in the prairie style and are quite impressive.

The majority of memorials have their own dedicated gardens, and the ones we saw had wreaths and little wooden crosses on them. The day before, 31 July, had been a commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele and I think a number of events had been held but clearly crosses and wreaths are left throughout the year by family, friends and colleagues.

If I had been more aware, I would have bought one of the small crosses on sale in the entrance, because the next memorial we came across was to the Auxiliary Territorial Service. The ATS was the women's branch of the British Army during the Second World War. It was formed on 9 September 1938, initially as a women's voluntary service, and existed until 1 February 1949, when it was merged into the Women's Royal Army Corps. My mum, who died in June this year, was a member of the ATS and I have photos of her in her uniform, seeing this statue really bought a lump to my throat and I had a few tears.

The next monument was to the Woman's Land Army. I loved this and stood in front of it for quite a while, thinking about all those hard working women. The sculpture by Denise Dutton and unveiled in May 2014.

The emotional, tearful, walk around the Arboretum was not intentional. However, the next onslaught of emotion was the Royal Artillery memorial garden dedicated to all those who have served in the Royal Artillery. My Dad, who sadly at 93 has advanced Alzheimer's, was a long term serving officer in the RA and he would have loved to have seen this.

Although the Arboretum is mainly to commemorate service men since 1945, there are some for the First World War. Above is the memorial for all those who lost their lives in Gallipoli, Italy, between 1915 and 1916.

Coming right up to date, the photo above is the SANDS Garden in remembrance of Stillbirth and Neonatal Deaths.

In the middle of the grounds is the spectacular Armed Forces Memorial, dedicated in October 2007. Made out of Portland Stone, the memorial is a tribute to over 16,000 men and women who have been killed on duty or as a result of terrorist action since 1948 to the present day. It is designed so that at 11:00 am on the 11th of November each year a shaft of sunlight beams between the two walls on to the wreath in the middle.

The life sized bronze statues were created by Ian Rank-Broadley. This one is a Serviceman raised aloft on a stretcher by comrades as family members look on. The information about this statue says: "It bears witness to the cost of armed conflict to those left behind – the families, loved ones and friends who live with the pain and consequence of their loss for the rest of their lives."

This one is the body of a warrior being prepared for burial by female and Gurkha soldiers. The figure before the double doors points to a world beyond where the warrior will rest as another figure chisels the name on the memorial.

During the Falklands war, I received an early morning phone call from my father in May 1982 to tell me that the son of close family friends had been shot and would not be returning home. As I looked on the memorial I found his name J A Barry – he was only 24.

There was so much to see, as I said earlier we only had an hour or two, but will certainly return. Not for morbid reasons, it isn't like walking around a graveyard, but to stand, recollect and pay tribute to lost lives. The whole place has a sense of serenity about it. There is so much to look at and in the new centre there are various exhibitions such as Victory over Blindness, an exhibition inspired by the Blind Veterans UK. Also there are audio guides you can take with you recounting snippets of history.

The National Memorial Arboretum is open daily, except Christmas Day, from 9am to 5pm and dusk in the winter months. It's an excellent day out and children would love it, there is lots for them to do and history learn.

A Garden Restoration Story with Saga Holidays

The 28th July was my birthday (66 – eeek!!) and my first Saga Holiday.  A Garden Restoration Story is a Saga solo holiday and I thought not only would be an interesting short break it was an opportunity to try out going on holiday by myself.  As the time drew near I panicked and asked a friend to come with me.  I know now that I would have been fine alone and will certainly go on another solo holiday. There were 21 of us, with a wide range of ages.  Saga advertise holidays for the over 50’s but I suspect that the majority of the party were in their 70’s and a few over that,  all were lovely people, who I got on well with. The first stop at all gardens were the loos, followed by coffee – just right by me!

THE HOLIDAY – Restored historic gardens, rejuvenated with inspirational new planting schemes

We were based just outside Derby in the Peak District, and the gardens were about a hour’s coach ride.  We visited 6 gardens, 2 a day, all very different but interesting in their own right.  The trip was made all the better with an excellent horticultural host, Sue Minter,  who has been the supervisor of the Palm House at Kew, curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden and horticultural director of the Eden Project and she gave us interesting evening talks before dinner.

DAY 1 (am) – Sheffield Botanical Garden


This is a Georgian Botanical Garden, opened in 1836.  Joseph Paxton of Chatsworth fame and Robert Marnock, a leading 19th century landscape gardener were involved in its creation.  In the late 1990’s the Friends of the Botanical Gardens applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the gardens to their 19th century condition and the gardens were officially opened in June 2007.   The modern touch is the prairie garden trialled by Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough prior to their “Fields of Gold” planting in the London Olympic Park in 2012.

I have to admit I was expecting a garden similar to that of Oxford Botanical Garden, but the fact that it is dependant on volunteers, as opposed to students studying horticulture at Oxford, it was clear it needed some tlc, especially the prairie garden which was completely taken over by the most enormous yellow prairie daisies, standing at least 7′ foot high.

DAY 1 (pm) – Renishaw Hall


This is a jewel of a garden, I could have stayed here all day.   Renishaw has been in the Sitwell family for 400 years.  The Italianate gardens were laid out in the late 19th century by Sir George Sitwell.  It is tranquil with distinct areas with formal clipped high hedges.  Beautifully cared for, even down to the pristine, sharp border edges it was obvious this is a well maintained garden.


The wide lawn is edged on both sides, with new borders full of romantic, ethereal pink, blue and white planting by award winning designer Arne Maynard.


Garden designer Lee Bestall has brought back to Renishaw Hall the ‘Experience Peak District & Derbyshire Garden’ silver-gilt medal winning garden at this year’s RHS Chatsworth show.

DAY 2 (am) – Trentham Gardens


Well, what can I say!!  Trentham is a 300 acre public park with an adventure playground, fairy trail, monkey forest and garden centre, to make it even worse it is entered via a shopping outlet along the lines of Bicester Village.   Once in the garden, the remains of the house at Trentham are still to be seen, most of it was demolished in 1911.  Trentham had a formal garden attributed to Charles Bridgeman, then Capability Brown  designed the landscape between 1759-1780 and this is the parkland backdrop.  In 1833 Charles Barry, a Victorian architect, created a formal Italian garden.  In 1996 Trentham was bought by an investor who wanted to regenerate and restore the gardens.   In Trentham’s favour and worth a visit is the major restoration including the Italian Garden planted by Tom Stuart-Smith and a wonderful prairie garden of two 120 metre long borders designed by Piet Oudolf.  There is also an annual and perennial meadow scheme designed by Nigel Dunnett, who had a hand in Sheffield Botanical Garden.

DAY 2 (pm) – Kedlestone Hall


Kedlestone is a National Trust property, the only one on our visit.  There is no garden, just a 18th century landscape created by Robert Adam an important Victorian architect.  Adam also built Kedlestone Hall.  This is another garden where a Charles Bridgeman  garden was swept away in favour of landscaping.  In 1920 there was a Gertrude Jekyll/Lutyens garden.  The restoration aspect of this garden is that when the National Trust acquired the property (the Curzon family still live in part of the house) they removed the Jekyll garden, reverting back to the Robert Adam landscape.  Visiting Kedlestone, after Trentham was like a cleansing of the palette!

DAY 3 (am) – Buxton Pavilion Gardens


Opened in 1871 this is a Victorian garden designed by Joseph Paxton.  I knew it about 40 years ago as The Winter Garden, but it is now called the Pavilion Gardens.  It was restored in 2004 after a 7 year restoration project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  It consists of 23 acres of grounds and a botanical conservatory.  There is not a lot to look at, but it made for a pleasant visit.

DAY 3 (pm) – Haddon Hall

1507eebb-a6ef-429e-aff4-5fe252ca6110Haddon Hall is a medieval manor house, which lay empty for 200 years and the restoration project began in 1920.  Haddon Hall is used a lot in films, including ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, The Other Boleyn Girl’ and historical ‘going back in time’ TV programs.  When visiting the garden I really recommend going into the house, the old stone kitchen is very evocative.  This is another garden which Arne Maynard has designed, replanting the Fountain Terrace. There is a Dyeing Border with plants that would have been used to dye silks for the tapestries.   In 2012 an Elizabethan Knot Garden was made using germander, lavender and rosemary.  We were all a little disappointed with the upkeep of the garden especially having seen so many wonderful photographs.  The roses were almost over and were in need of dead heading, and the flowerbeds needed a good tidy up looking as though they had been left a little too long.   As we looked over a wall on to another part of the garden closed to the public, we saw a well manicured lawn and flowerbeds, a marked contrast to the other part of the garden.

So that was my 6 gardens in 3 days holiday which I thoroughly enjoyed and I have come away wanting to know more about the history of gardens.