Garden Portrait: Trebah in winter (or A Walk to Alice’s Seat)

Garden Portrait: Trebah in winter (or A Walk to Alice’s Seat)

As the weather hasn’t been too bad recently I took the opportunity in early February to drive the 30 miles or so to the Helford river and pay a visit to Trebah gardens. Many of the Cornish gardens (and this is classed as one of the greats) are famous for their spring planting so I was interested to see what they had to show during the winter months. The colour is not always in the form of a flower – this month highlights the various tones and hues of brown, green, grey.

Starting at the Lawn Path I made my way in an anti-clockwise direction above the wooded valley before going downhill to join the Davidia Walk which leads to the beach, passing meandering streams and peaceful pools; Dinky’s Puddle, Azolla Pool and Mallard Pond, as well as the Gunnera Passage which were just stumps today, and Hydrangea Valley, the colours of summer now a faded, dusty brown.

The Lawn Path
The Lawn Path

Sub-tropical succulents still provide colour and form above the Lawn Path.

And pops of colour stand out from among the greenery.

I must remember to return to this garden in late summer and capture the four acres of blue hydrangeas in flower.

Davidia Walk
Davidia Walk

Stopping briefly at the beach to take a photo or two of the Helford River down the eastern side of the Lizard peninsula, I returned along the Beach Path taking in the clumps of pure white snowdrops planted on the banks above me.


At Radiata Path I wandered uphill again seeking out the winter-flowering Hellebores and Hamamelis mollis (Witch Hazel) with its spidery ribbon-like flowers and spicy fragrance. The air was pervaded by the heady perfume of the Sarcococca confusa (Sweet or Christmas Box) close to Alice’s Seat, its tiny starry white flowers are almost unnoticeable among the dense green foliage, but boy can you smell it!

Alice’s Seat

Fox Path and Camellia Walk took me back to the entrance/exit passing by a few Camellias that are already flowering such as the rich red ‘Macdonald’s Seedling’ with its distinctive bright golden stamens.


The café was still open and serving so I popped inside for coffee and cake and to look through the photos on my camera, before heading back home.

Take a look here if you want to see the garden in spring.


Garden Portrait: Bourton House

Garden Portrait: Bourton House

Bourton House Garden is one of the best kept secrets of the Cotswolds. The most famous garden in this region is Hidcote which attracts coach loads of visitors from London so can often be a little overcrowded. No problems here. This 3 acre garden surrounding an 18C Manor House is much quieter. Located only a short distance out of Moreton-in-Marsh it is also close to the Batsford Arboretum and Sezincote and a very decent pub.

bourton house
Manor House

The entrance to the gardens is through a magnificent Grade I listed 16C Tithe Barn where you will find merchandise for the home and garden and a pretty decent tea-room.

tithe barn

My visit to this garden was in early June in a year when spring was late in arriving, so there were lots of spring flowers in bloom. It is a plantsman’s garden with unusual, rare and exotic delights. Deep herbaceous borders highlight textures and colour combinations and there are terraces and topiary to provide interest. The Topiary Walk leads into the White Garden, attractively designed around a shallow square pond.

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The White Garden
Deep herbaceous borders

Pathways  lead you through to the lawn behind the early 18th century house facing the beautiful raised walk which in turn provides panoramic vistas over the Cotswold countryside. Deep herbaceous borders surround the lawn area.

cottage garden border
18th Century Raised Walk
apple blossom

From here you wander past a Shade House and splendid Knot Garden complete with 19th century statues.

knot garden
The Knot Garden

In the centre of the Knot Garden is a pretty basket-weave pond from the 1851 Great Exhibition, complete with two more elegant herons by Michael Lythgoe. A pretty Fountain Garden brings you to the front of the house and a parterre.

topiary at the front of the house
Parterre with Gazebo by Richard Overs

With lots of interesting plants and features to explore your visit can be much longer than you might expect for a small garden. And in addition to the gardens themselves there is a small glasshouse containing succulents and a Brewhouse with containers and more topiary outside.

Late summer is supposed to be a good time to visit as the garden flourishes when many have run their course, but spring certainly has its own beauties to enjoy.

More lovely walks can be found over at my friend Jo’s place.

Garden Portrait: Knightshayes Court

Garden Portrait: Knightshayes Court

Driving back from West Penwith to Shropshire takes around 5 hours. It’s a long journey and we usually stop after a couple of hours to stretch the legs and grab a coffee. Gilly the Lucid Gypsy who  lives in Exeter once suggested that we might like to stop at Knightshayes Court, a house and garden run by the National Trust which is about 5 miles off the M5 near Tiverton in north Devon. So far during our forays south the car has been full of ‘stuff‘ and on the return journey the weather has not been conducive to more than a quick pit-stop.

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However, last Sunday the weather was perfect albeit very hazy. I love the drive through Cornwall and Devon – Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor (which two weeks ago was dusted in snow) rolling countryside and glimpses of the coast. Time to visit Knightshayes. Arriving there we were surprised to find that they serve a Sunday carvery (between 12 noon and 2:30 pm) so of course we ordered one and devoured it with pleasure. Then time to walk down to the house and have a quick look at the gardens close to the house. Two hours later we returned to the car to continue our journey home(?) – at the moment neither house feels quite like home, more like impersonal hotels without the luxuries and with the hazards of falling over boxes!

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Apologies for the quality of these photos. For once I didn’t have my camera with me, but I did have a new phone and one that has a camera (My daughter is so pleased that I have finally got a ‘proper’ mobile phone and is already instructing me about ‘apps’) so I attempted to capture some of the delights of this place. The views in the distance over Exmoor, I imagine, were hazy but beautiful.

The house is beautiful with honey-coloured stonework around the pretty leaded-windows and the bright red doors and gates make quite a bold statement.

Spring flowers were out – purple crocuses, snake’s-head fritillary, blankets of pretty blue scilla verna and dancing daffodils of course.

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The light was clear in the woodland garden and backlit the hellebores perfectly. One or two magnolias were in flower too, though it is still early in the season for them.

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And the most fascinating aspect was the abundance of quirky animals in the garden

OK. I admit to breaking my own rules, but blame it on the restless one who challenged me 🙂

Thanks Gilly. A perfect stopping spot ❤

And more lovely walks can be enjoyed over at my friend Jo’s place.

Garden Portrait: Croft Castle Walled Garden

Garden Portrait: Croft Castle Walled Garden

I love visiting Croft (Herefordshire). There are nice walks around the parkland and even longer walks through the woodland or up to the iron-age fort at Croft Ambrey. My main reason for visiting though is to see what is going on in the walled garden and have a stroll through the ancient trees. The walled garden lies behind the castle and slopes gently uphill towards the old glasshouse which is currently being renovated.


Every time I visit I see new additions and improvements and this month (late October) I was surprised to see the vineyard looking very well established. We have been here before – last time in spring – when the frogs in the pond were feeling frisky. But let’s have a look at the beauty found here in late autumn.


Not only are there the expected browns and greys and tawny swathes of grasses and seed-heads, the fading greens and yellows of dying foliage, but unexpected pops of vibrant colour. Rudbeckia, verbena bonariensis, chrysanthemums, sedum, the stunning autumn colour of Rhus typhina (stags horn tree) and the hot splashes of the glory vine tumbling over the old red-brick and creeping through the denuded foliage.



Borders are still full of flowering annuals such as the sweet-peas, roses, dramatic hardy autumn flowering lilies (N. bowdenii) and deep crimson thistles usually seen in July and August.


Not many were taking advantage of the deck-chairs and elegant benches scattered around the garden, it was a little too chilly for simply sitting, and on the day that the clocks went back, it would soon be dusk. But the lady by the pond is still relaxed. And I will leave you with a bench I rather fancied.

More lovely walks can be found over at my friend Jo’s place.

Garden Portrait: Arley Arboretum

Japanese Acers

What better place to visit in autumn than an arboretum where you can enjoy a stroll through the falling and fallen leaves, enjoy a crisp autumn day and admire the flaming reds and yellows of the Japanese Acers, or the pinks, purples and tangerines of the Liquidambar. The North American maples with their vivid autumn palette of reds, oranges, golds and browns compete with the burnished golds and auburns of ancient oaks and beeches. If you are lucky to find a place with a lake (such as Sheffield Park in East Sussex or Stourhead in Wiltshire) you have the bonus of colours reflected in the water with dazzling effect.


Arley doesn’t have a lake. What it does have is a wonderful view across the Severn Valley in Worcestershire where the Severn Valley Railway runs between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster taking in the lovely countryside. Arley has a fine collection of Acers and their red colour punctuates the rich autumn colours.

Stroll around the grounds and look out for interesting vistas as well as leaf colour and hidden fungi amongst the woodland leaf litter.


Formal plantings, grand water features, a temple and dovecote help make the peaceful walled Italian Garden a very special place within the arboretum. Guinea fowl and chickens run free. Whilst outside the walls the trees of the arboretum rise magnificently towards the sky.

More lovely walks can be found over at my friend Jo’s place.