Autumn Colours – NT Property: Sheffield Park East Sussex

I am over a week late in posting this but several boxes of tissues, copious amounts of Vicks Vapour Rub and cough linctus I am now back in action.

Sheffield Park, East Sussex, is a National Trust property near Haywards Heath, West Sussex.   With its four lakes, Capability Brown and Repton influences and the River Ouse running through, it is a magnet at this time of the year for photographers.   The trees turn fabulous russets and on a still sunny day the reflections in the lakes are magnificent.

To appreciate it to the full, you really need it to be clear, no wind for the reflections and a blue sky for the contrasts of colour. Saturday the 1st of November was one such day when I went with my friend Kate to view the autumn shades.  We were there for several hours drinking in the views and colours, and in particular the Swamp Cypress which adds fabulous tones of rust and orange throughout the estate.

Rather than post a number of photos I have decided on this occasion to make a small movie for you to watch.  Somehow I believe it gives more of a feel of being there for you.   It’s just under 3 minutes long, so sit back and please enjoy.

The music is from the Ultimate Wellbeing Album and called “Fluorescent Glimmer” by Floetry Faction.

Visitors Appreciate Explanations: Tyntesfield, Somerset

My fellow garden blogger Helen at Patient Gardener put into words in her last blog post exactly how I am beginning to feel about visiting and writing about gardens.   Jaded (a description used by Helen) is the correct way to describe my frame of mind at the moment.     I have a photo library full of photos taken at recent gardens I am yet to blog about.  There are times when carrying a camera and looking for the best way to capture the garden takes away the enjoyment of the garden itself hence some recent visits I have not used my camera at all.

I did have my small Fuji camera with me last week when I went with my daughter and grandchildren to the National Trust property at Tyntesfield, in Somerset.  With lots of parkland, its terraced lawns and only a few flowerbeds, Tyntesfield is a great place for the children to run around.

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What is of interest at this property is the established Kitchen Garden and I always head down the hill towards it on every visit.  It has been a while since I was at Tyntesfield and was delightd to see that someone had the brilliant idea to turn a building near to the Kitchen Garden into a tearoom.   This gives a much needed respite without having to walk up the steep hill back to the main restaurant.

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Just in front of the tearoom and before you enter the Kitchen Garden is the restored Orangery.  I wrote about this in November 2011 and you can see how much work has been done to get it to be looking so good.

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Guaranteed never to fail to delight, the Kitchen Garden was not only bursting with colourful, exuberant and blousy dahlias, the vegetables also looked as though they had been fed some sort of ‘mega grow’.

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The gardeners at Tyntesfield have clearly given a lot of thought to information that visitors often crave and miss when wandering around gardens.  It was good to see little slate notices around the Kitchen Garden with explanations of what they are doing and trying to achieve.

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As I said earlier, Tyntesfield doesn’t have vast expanses of flower beds but what it does have is pockets of interest you come across as you walk around the grounds.   Halfway down the hill from the house is the Rose Garden with low box hedging which my grandchildren enjoy running around – like  a mini maze where you can see over the top.   Here I also came across slate information notices – I am really quite taken and impressed with this idea.

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I’ve been to NT properties where there is clearly something happening in the background with the management of flowerbeds and/or the garden in general, but no reasons given, such as why the roses look so manky – sorry Nymans but please take note!

Thank you Paul Evans,  Head Gardener and his Gardening Team for being so thoughtful, keep up the slate info boards and I hope the idea spreads to other NT gardens.   Many of us don’t just visit gardens for walking around, we also visit for ideas, suggestions and explanations of why things are the way they are.

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The Glory of the Garden: Bateman’s, Nr Burwash, East Sussex

This wonderful poem was written by Rudyard Kipling.

Today I visited Bateman’s, a National Trust property, in Burwash, East Sussex. This was the home of Rudyard Kipling from 1902 until his death in 1936. Along with a number of famous poems and books, he also wrote the poem “The Glory of the Garden”.

I felt rather than write a lot about this interesting house and peaceful garden, the poem and a small selection of the many photos I took this afternoon would do it better justice.

Bateman’s, Burwash West Sussex : Rudyard Kipling’s Home 1902 – 1936

OUR England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.
For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You’ll find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dung-pits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts, and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.

The Mulberry Garden – Batemans

And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise ;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.
And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows ;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

Sweet Williams growing amongst the vegetables

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:-” Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.
There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

The wild flower meadow by the old mill

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner In the Glory of the Garden.
Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden that it may not pass away!

And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away !

Bateman’s, Burwash


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An Elephant in a NT Garden? – Woolbeding, nr Midhurst.

Until last week I had never heard of Woolbeding Gardens, near  Midhurst in West Sussex. Although owned by the NT since 1958, Woolbeding has been leased since the early 1970s to the late Sir Simon Sainsbury and his partner Stewart Grimshaw, and they created the garden as it is today.  When Sir Sainsbury died in 2006 his Will provided that the Trust opened the garden to the public.  The 26 acres of garden opened for the first time for National Trust visitors in April 2011.

I read that it was a 20th Century garden so on arrival, when met with a modern pond layout, I thought this was setting the theme for the whole garden.

This seemed all the more enforced where on the lawn at the front of the 17th century house there is a tall, stainless steel, water feature. William Pye was commissioned to designed the feature, erected in 2011, to replace an old Cedar tree. The feature represents the cedar tree.

My friend made no bones about the fact he found it jarred with him and he clearly did not like it. However, I found the contrast between the modern and the Norman church behind it appealed to me.

Almost in line with the water feature at the other end of the house, there is a folly, which apparently was erected to take the place of the biggest tulip tree (100 ft high) in Europe which blew down in 1987.  Two very different tastes of two men who together created a beautiful and interesting garden.

As we turned towards the garden, I was struck by the neatness of the well-manicured and colour co-ordinated borders.  Somehow, to me, it was just a little too clinical, personally, I prefer borders that look as though they have been packed with lots of exciting different things, without too much planning. Fortunately, for me anyway, this neat format did not follow through the whole of the garden.

Every time you turn a corner or walk through the hedging you come across something different:-

  • The immaculate herb garden with its trimmed box balls enclosed with yew hedging.
  • The old walled garden which is subdivided into room all with box hedges and spiral topiaries.
  • Even the potager has a topiary in the middle of its circular planting of vegetables.

I particularly admired the Italian Garden, with its four corners of different colour.  Everything ranging from white to pale pinks and lilacs are in one bed, purples and burgundies in another, peaches and ambers in the third and shades of red in the fourth.  A lot of care has clearly been taken to ensure that the flowers are in the right colour spectrum.

Beyond the gardens with fabulous views over the River Rother, which runs through the land, we took the Woodland Walk, passed a field of the most gorgeous black lambs, and down to a “pleasure ground” complete with a ruined abbey, built in recent years, a grotto, a Gothic summer-house and Edyth the Elephant, painted in strawberries.  Apparently this was a present from Stuart to Simon, (it may be the other way around!).  Not what you would expect to see in a National Trust Garden, but this garden is different to say the least.

From my initial impression at the entrance to Woolbeding and the stainless steel water structure, through to the borders cared for to perfection, on to the lovely Italian Garden, and finishing with the lake and the strawberry elephant, there is a lot to take in and I can understand why everyone who has visited said how much they liked it.  “A gem of a garden” was one comment.

Woolbeding Gardens is open to pre booked visitors only.  The garden is open on Thursdays and Fridays. ALL visits must be pre booked on 01730 716304 option 1.  There is NO parking on site or in the locality.  The nearest car park is in Midhurst and a free mini bus service for visitors runs from Midhurst to Woolbeding Gardens.

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It’s Busy Busy Busy at Nymans

Yesterday visited the National Trust garden at Nymans, near Handcross, West Sussex.   I was last there in November when there was a lot of exciting renovation work going on (see link below).

Nymans was busy, no wonder, it really is a lovely and interesting garden – the tree surgeons, the gardeners and even the birds were busy going about their business.

I arrived at lunchtime, so stopped to eat first.  Homemade Watercress and Potato soup was on the menu and wished that rather than chosing a small bowl, I had opted for the large one, it was delicious, as is all the food at Nymans restaurant.

Armed with my map,  I made my way down towards the  house, through the lovely Acers which are just as red as they were in November, the Pinetum and the entrance to the Woodland Walk.   If you have the time, take the walk through these ancient woods, you will be pleasantly surprised.

In the 1920’s the  Gothic styled house burned down,  the shell remains giving an eerie backdrop for many an event.    The Wisteria is out and the heady perfume was wafting around in the sunshine.  Yes, the sun did shine yesterday!

Life is beginning in the Walled Garden and it looked very different to the bare garden in November.  This time of the year you can see the structure of supports and in the height of the Summer the display of annuals is breath taking.   If you look at the soil carefully, you will see the green manure used at Nymans.

There was a Robin darting around but it was camera shy, however the Blackbird, stretching its wings in the sun, was not at all perturbed at being photographed.

As I headed towards the Top Garden, I turned into the Rose Garden (bottom right of the photo below).  There was only one rose out, most were still  in bud and it will be absolutely beautiful when they are all in bloom.   A few years ago when I saw it in the Summer, the roses were under planted with Nepeta, it looked wonderful.

By now you will realise that Nymans is full of plants that you could easily grow  in your own home,  I find it a great source of ideas.  This is especially so in the Top Garden, which has Fuchsias on either side of the entrance. At the moment is full of Aquilegias, fabulous Tree Peonies, Hardy Geraniums and Geums.   The gorgeous dark Tree Peony is Paoenia Delavayi.

The greenhouses and nursery are here and, as with everything at Nymans, information is everywhere.

I particularly wanted to see the renovated Rock Garden, which was being dug out in November and  is part of the Rediscovery Project.  Two of the female gardeners were busy preparing one of the beds and they told me that they had plants ready to put into place and mountains of bark to place around them.   Some of the beds were already planted up so it was easy to see what it will look like.   The Rock Garden is looking really good with its restored paths and rocks.

Just beyond the Rock Garden is the Wisteria pergola, which was not advanced as the Wisteria at the house.  When it is in full flower it really is spectacular.

Nymans is constantly evolving and on your visit you will discover beds being replanted with plants as seen in 1930’s photos and new areas being designed, as well as the evolution of the Rock Garden and, of course, the Walled Garden in glorious technicolor.

You can probably tell that I am a big fan of Nymans, and I am lucky that it is almost on my doorstep too.

A camera and comfortable shoes are a must, and I would recommend that you give yourself a whole day, if possible,  because there is a lot to see.   Also don’t forget to visit to the Restaurant and the packed Plant Sale area.

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An absolute delight: West Green House, Hartley Wintney

I visited two gardens on Saturday,  Dunsborough Park, which I have already written about and a dream of a garden at West Green House, near Hartley Wintney in Hampshire.

You will find West Green House in the National Trust handbook, but it is an oddity, it is not owned by the NT.  When they decided to sell the house and garden in 1993, it was bought by Marylyn Abbott –  a lady with a passion for gardens, gardening and garden design.  She has made the historic walled garden what it is today and although it is privately owned it is open to National Trust members from 7 April until 30 September 2012 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 11am – 4.30pm.

This is a garden that I had never heard of before last week and what a delight it was.   The garden is entered via The Dragon Garden, and both sides of the path were packed with peonies.  I can imagine that in the Summer when they are in full bloom, against the red garden ornaments and bench,  these two beds are sight to behold.

Beyond the Dragon Garden you come to the Lake Field with fields around a lake which, at the moment, are a mass of Fritillaria, daffodils, with bluebells just coming through.   I see Fritillaria everywhere in Spring and always tell myself  buy the bulbs for my garden, but never do, this year I will.

As we walked around the path of the lake, there is a smaller pond bordered with wonderful display of Forget-me-nots and Pulmonaria – the bees were having a wonderful time.

This was my kind of garden  to enjoy, full of different areas of interest.    The next part of the garden is split into two sections,  one  for herbaceous plants, although there is nothing much to see at the moment and the other is a potager with an Oliver Ford fruit cage in the middle.   There were tulips and Spring flowers scattered about  and I suspect this part of the garden is going to look glorious and colourful in the Summer.

I took the photo above from the top of steps that have water flowing down either side,  these led up from a circle in the wall, which I understand is called a  Victorian moon gate – a great photo spot.  The photos below were taken either side of the wall and if you look carefully you will see the water edging the steps.

There is a lot to see and it was great just to wander around, coming across something new and different at each turn.    What I was not expecting to see were fountains and waterways on raised ground which is called The Paradise Garden.  I am still not sure what I feel about this, I liked it, but not certain of its place in this garden.

Having said that, Marylyn Abbott is a garden designer and that is the beauty of West Green Garden, her use of imagination throughout the garden is evident.    This can also be seen in the Alice Garden below with a variety of clipped topiary shapes around the borders.   Red is a colour that you can’t miss and it certainly stood out here, there is also a seating area with tables and chairs painted red – all very Alice in Wonderland all it needed was a pack of large cards.

I particularly liked the Walled Garden below and, again, this is going  to be one to revisit in another few months.   The clematis supports placed around the garden were an indication that this is going to be a part of garden crammed full of colour and plants.   The hues are gentle and pleasing to the eye at the moment and after the red of Alice’s Garden, I hope when I come back  here it remains gentle.

I am told that there is also an abundance of Alliums which are a sight to behold when they are all out , although at the moment, this is where most of the tulips are to be found.

West Green House Garden is a gem and if you have the opportunity to visit, please do go.  I will certainly visit again, because it has whet my appetite to discover what colours and plantings await me in other seasons.

Before I leave you I have to share what I can only describe as “Garden Art”.   I came across them hanging on the wall in the Orangery, I suppose like any art you either love it or loathe it, but I thought they were great, probably because I like quirky things.   I looked around for some idea of who made them but there was nothing, which was a shame.

The other love  Marylyn Abbott has is opera and West Green House with its purpose built auditorium must be a splendid backdrop with its lit garden at night.  Dinner and opera on a Summer’s evening in a beautiful garden, what a wonderful combination.