Garden blogging, Garden visiting

RHS Wisley in a Brown Winter Coat

It’s been quite some time since I made a visit to RHS Wisley, so when my friend suggest we went to Wisley on Sunday I was more than happy.  The weather, however, was not on our side and it was drear and dank with that horrible drizzle which is quite wetting.  I have been using my iPhone for taking photos so I decided to give my Nikon DSLR an airing.


After re-fuelling with coffee and shortbread we started in the the Winter Walk  which starts at the Food Hall and takes you pass beds of Hellebores and Witch Hazel (Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Robert’, ‘Jelena’, ‘Sunburst’, ‘Aphrodite’ (below) and ‘Barmstedt Gold’).


Someone said that at the moment the witch hazel looked as though someone has been busy with the marmalade and I had never thought that before but now that’s all I see!

dsc_0071 As I have already mentioned it was a dismal day so the photos are indicative of the low light levels.   We went pass the lake with the impressive different flaming colours of the Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willow).



We called into the magnificent glasshouse, as did most people, wanting to get out of the rain.  Wisley was definitely wearing a brown winter overcoat with the pillars of brown leaved beech standing tall through the grasses. .


The minute we entered the glasshouse, frustratingly, my camera lens misted up so I had to resort to my iPhone.  Going into the butterfly section was like entering a children’s playground and a buggy show, it was packed (no exaggeration) with double buggies and a fair share of crying children!

It is still too early in the year for most of the butterflies but there were a lot of the beautiful Blue Morpho.  Most were feeding with their wings closed so capturing their open wings showing why they are called blue, was not that easy.


The Glasshouse Border, based on an original concept by the Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, was also an abundance of brown, looking even darker because of the wet day.  Lots of structure was there still, and I expect a return in February will see it all cut down.


This was the view from the rock garden, again lots of brown, but we could see tiny green shoots of bulbs coming through  – signs of Spring.

We paid a visit to the Alpine House and were a bit bewildered by the array of narcissus all looking the same but actually different varieties. The only difference we could see was a slight variance in shade.


RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, is open all year except Christmas Day an.d is free for RHS members.

Monday – Friday 10am-4.30pm Sat – Sun & Bank Hols 9am-4.30pm

The Butterflies in the Glasshouse event – starts 14 January.



Garden blogging

Osborne House, IoW and Coleus Overload

I recently had a wonderful and happy weekend on the Isle of Wight with my cousin.   We took the bus on Saturday morning to Osborne House, owned by English Heritage, the holiday home of Queen Victoria, which later became her reclusive home following the death of her husband Prince Albert.

The house is in grounds planted with many specimen trees sought by Prince Albert and makes for a very pleasant walk along the drive to the front of the house, which is painted a pale ochre yellow, I wonder if it was that colour in Victoria’s day?  It looks cream in the photos but was quite a strong colour in reality, and one wall was covered in Daddy Long Legs (Crane fly). They must have been attracted by the colour, thinking there was pollen to be had.

Prince Albert was involved in the Italianate design of Osborne House, as well as the gardens which include terraces at the rear of the house, facing the Solent.  As I walked around the corner of the house to the Upper Terrace I was knocked back in horror by the strong dark colour of the formal bedding set in geometric patterns.   This is one garden where I can honestly say that I did not like the planting in this area.   Each bed was formed of concentrated rings of different planting,  framed with tightly packed Coleus (horrid – Coleus overload),  with dark leaved Dahlias, and in the centre were very dark purple Perilla (which I particularly disliked in such large amounts) with the only redeeming feature being the Sunflowers still, surprisingly, in full flower.

We are lead to believe that the planting on the Upper Terrace is in keeping with the type of planting that Prince Albert and Queen Victoria would have had in their time.   Queen Victoria wrote in her journals of plants such as roses, stocks, heliotrope, jasmine and orange blossom.

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It was a relief to look beyond the Upper Terrace to the Lower Terrace.  Here it was much kinder on the eye, especially with  the grounds beyond sweeping down to the Solent with Portsmouth and Southampton on the other side of the water.   It is with no surprise that Queen Victoria loved Osborne, the view is spectacular.  I don’t expect, however, there were as many little sailing boats during her time.   It was somewhat hazy, and later in the day the sun broke through.

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We walked down the hill towards Queen Victoria’s Private Beach.   She loved to bathe and the children spent many happy hours playing on the beach.   In July 2012, the beach was opened to the public and here you can see her Bathing Machine.   Prince Albert, a man with very strong beliefs, thought that bathing in the sea was very healthy and had the bathing machine installed 1846 so that Queen Victoria could partake in the healthy experience.   The machine ran on tracks down into the sea, so that she could emerge from it straight into the sea.

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As I stood looking out to the sea I tried to imagine all the Royal children running up and down on the beach, collecting pebbles and shells and swimming. I could almost hear their laughter and chattering, just like any modern child having fun on the beach.

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Down here, also is a cafe, selling drinks, ice-creams and cakes, always good news as far as I am concerned.  What would Queen Victoria and her family have made of a cafe on their private beach.    I expect, though, that they may have sat on the grass with a picnic once in a while.

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We ran out of time and sadly didn’t get to visit the Walled Garden, which I have been to before.   If you get the chance to take a trip to the Isle of Wight, either by ferry, hovercraft or catamaran, of all places to visit may I suggest that you find time to visit Osborne House.   Give yourself about an hour to walk around the house, which is fascinating, but also make sure you have time to go to the beach.

Opening Times:

Garden blogging, Garden visiting

The Grass is as High as an Elephant’s Eye… Nearly

There is something special about having an interesting, and different, garden near enough to be able to visit it regularly.   Sussex Prairie Garden is certainly different and interesting.   I have written a couple of posts about this garden, mainly because of its development throughout the year.  It never looks the same from one visit to the next and I like to be able to share my visits with you.

The enormous variety of grasses in the six acre prairie garden will be as high as an elephant’s eye within the next month or so.

The other exciting, and unusual, thing about Sussex Prairie Garden are the sculptures from local and international artists that you will find displayed around the garden, within and on the edges of the beds.   As the garden grows through the season the artwork is enveloped by the planting and when walking around you suddenly notice pieces carefully placed.   There is always something new, such as the coloured lambs and the sheep with its wire coil springs  for a fleece.   Click here for more information about the Art in the garden.

On my first visit, one  piece of artwork that amused me was the “flying tea set” in the grass.   From the photo below you will see how the grasses grow making  it look as though it has grown in the garden, rather than being placed there.

Paths meander in and out of the borders and at the far end of the garden, there are two mounds with benches at the top.  I love to sit up there and survey the garden from a higher level, and just contemplate on how lucky I am.

This is usually followed up by a lovely cup of tea in a decent sized mug, from a proper teapot, sitting outside and viewing the garden again, from the other end.  The home made cakes are excellent too!

Sussex Prairie Garden, near Henfield, West Sussex is open 1pm until 5pm from June 1st until October 14th 2012.

Garden blogging, Garden visiting

Great Maytham Hall, Rolvenden, Kent : A Secret Garden

Two months ago, I re-read  ‘The Secret Garden’ written by Frances Hodgson Burnett.   At the same time I did a spot of research into the writer, and discovered that Great Maytham Hall was the inspiration for her famous book and that the gardens were open to the public through the National Garden Scheme on 20 and 21 June.   I also wrote a post in April called ‘The Secret Garden and my Discovery’ and said that I intended to visit the gardens at Great Maytham.

I went to Great Maytham Hall on Wednesday.  As everyone knows the weather has been pretty dire, with wind and rain most day so I couldn’t believe my luck  that it was a fabulous, sunny, June day for my visit.  I discovered a beautiful garden which was well worth the drive.

Frances Hodgson Burnet, lived as a tenant at Great Maytham, a Grade II listed building in Rolvenden, near Tenterden, Kent between 1898 to 1907.     It was the discovery of an old door in a wall and a garden hidden behind, that became the base of  her book, although she set it in Yorkshire and not in Kent.

Frances lovingly restored the garden,  planted it with hundreds of roses and spent many hours sitting in the tranquil garden writing her stories.

In 1909, Sir Edwin Lutyens was commissioned by the owner to redesign Great Maytham Hall, a house originally built in 1721.   He landscaped the terraced lawns in partnership with Gertrude Jekyll.   Although Lutyens retained the old walled garden he removed an old gate, the one that Frances had found, replacing it with a wrought iron one.

The lovely gardens at Great Maytham have several walled gardens including a walled pond garden,

and, a typical Lutyens pergola covered in roses.

In recent years the property has been converted into expensive apartments.  The pristine and tranquil gardens, have one full time gardener and the residents assist with jobs such as weeding and dead heading, as well as their own allotment area and greenhouses.  I couldn’t help thinking, as I walked around, what a magnificent place it was to live – a Lutyens/Jekyll garden, beautiful views and the history that goes with it.

Although the gardens are only open to the public for two days in June through the NGS, it is open for private viewings by appointment so if you want to see it for yourself this year, just give them a call.

© Hurtlingtowards60 and Hurtled to 60 and Now Beyond. ©AarTeePhotography Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited

Garden blogging, Garden visiting

Open Gardens Weekend, Henfield, West Sussex

There are different types of gardens we can visit, those belonging to friends and family, gardens opened on occasions through the National Garden Scheme, National Trust Gardens and then we have small private gardens opened perhaps only once a year for events such as the Henfield Gardens and Arts Weekend.

I first visited the Henfield Gardens about 3 years ago and was impressed, leaving with some great ideas. These are ordinary gardens, not huge, some are really very small, but are all proudly shown off to the public.

Having waxed lyrical about the Henfield Gardens , I persuaded a friend to come with me last Sunday. We didn’t visit all 32 gardens and some were only opened on the Saturday. It is always a problem when reality doesn’t match up with expectation. Maybe we were unlucky, but in general the majority of the gardens we did visit, I found disappointing. Most were full of tables and chairs and people eating, I began to wonder if it was an open gardens or a food event. When I visit a garden, I want to be able to wander around spying out new plants and different planting ideas, not negotiate the eating public. One garden was impossible to walk around, with people sitting on the ground, in picnic fashion, eating barbecued burgers, so we departed quickly. Were they there for the food or were they actually interested in viewing gardens?

Having said that, there were a few that were worth spending a little time in and I came away with a short list of “Must Have” plants such as:



The last garden was a happy find. The small garden was on three sides of the bungalow and it was clearly a gardener’s garden. The owner had found room for a vegetable garden, a wildlife pond with decking and bridge, and lovely planting on the south facing side. This was the first year she had opened her garden and was clearly taken aback by the praise she had received from visitors, and it was well deserved.
A final mention must be made to Red Oaks Care Home. Entering the Home at the side of the expanse of lawn we were met by a row of greenhouses. It was an unusual and interesting sight, this was going to be a garden tended with love. The flowerbeds were striking, especially the one full of foxgloves and the brightest of poppies.
The other borders were packed with orange Geums and Salvia Jamensis “Hot Lips” – another plant that will go on my “Must Have” list.
Red Oaks used to be a care home run by the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society, and I thought how lovely it was to continue your love of gardening once you have moved into a care home and felt happy for the residents living there.
© Hurtlingtowards60 and Hurtled to 60 and Now Beyond. ©AarTeePhotography Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited
Garden visiting, National Trust Gardens

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.

© Hurtlingtowards60 and Hurtled to 60 and Now ;Beyond, 2011 – 2015. ; ©AarTeePhotography 2011 – 2015 ;Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.