Garden Portrait: Hergest Croft

Hergest Croft is unusual in having been gardened continuously by three generations of the same family over the past one hundred and thirteen years. It lies in the heart of the Welsh Marches with stunning views towards the Black Mountains. The gardens contain a unique collection of rare plants, trees and shrubs and over 90 “Champion” Trees.

The six distinct areas are Hergest Croft, the Azalea Garden, the Maple Grove, the Kitchen Garden, the Park and Park Wood.

My visit took place in late September not long before the gardens would close for the winter. In the Conservatory, many tender plants grow including a wide variety of fuchias and pelargoniums.

In the conservatory

We walked through Maple Grove into the Azalea Garden, which of course at this time of year lacked the beauty of these flowers. Instead paths were lined with hydrangea of a variety of colours.

Hydrangeas

It is dominated by a massive avenue of blue cedars planted in 1900 and many other champion trees.

Coming out onto the former croquet lawn and tennis courts, now enclosed by a large yew hedge, that contains vases of sweetly scented lilies in summer, you get a sense of the beauty of the house and its views over the parkland. The lower terrace border is filled with white galtonias and blue agapanthus.

A pretty rockery leads to a pool covered in waterlilies.

Following the path you reach the sculpture of a fir cone by Joe Smith which forms the centrepiece of the Slate Garden formally edged with five species of box.

The Kitchen Garden contains a traditional vegetable and fruit garden with many rare varieties. The wide herbaceous borders, and a double herbaceous border contain roses, sweetpeas, marigolds, daisy type flowers, achillea, sunflowers and echinops.

Hot colours in the Kitchen Garden

There was so much colour in the kitchen garden. Hollyhocks, agapanthus and Japanese Anemones mingled among the spikes of the artichoke.

Pinks and Blues in the Kitchen Garden

If you want to have a much longer walk then Park Wood has a secluded valley hidden deep within an ancient oak wood containing over 12ha (30 acres) of giant hybrid and species rhododendrons and exotic trees creating an almost Himalayan scene.

Size:  70 acres (28 hectare)

  • Street:   Hergest Croft Gardens
  • Postcode:   HR5 3EG
  • City:   Kington
  • County:   Herefordshire
  • Country:   United Kingdom

If you like a walk, long or short, then please visit Jo for her regular strolls in the UK and the Algarve and maybe you would like to join in too. She’s very welcoming.

Garden Portrait: Erddig

Erddig Hall is a National Trust property on the outskirts of Wrexham, Wales. Located 2 miles south of Wrexham town centre, it was built in 1684–1687 for Josiah Edisbury, the High Sheriff of Denbighshire.

House from Canal

The garden and indeed the house, were in disrepair when the estate was handed over to the National Trust in 1973. Nothing but brambles, nettles and overgrown shrubs in this formal garden designed originally by Thomas Badeslade in 1740 in the Dutch style.

Now there is a crisp pattern of paths and lawns, avenues of pleached limes, pyramidal fruit trees, yews and hollies and clipped Portuguese laurels. Apples are grown in abundance with more than 100 varieties, many espaliered along the walled garden. In fact an apple festival is held here annually in October.

The walled garden is also home to one of the longest herbaceous borders you will see and this is a riot of colour in the summer.  Wide borders are filled with spring bulbs and old varieties of daffodils some dating from before the First World War. And the banks of the canal are colonised by the wild Welsh Lent Lily (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) in spring, followed by common spotted orchids in the summer which spread during the period of neglect in the garden.

Bedding schemes favour the Victorian flavour and more so in the small Victorian Flower Garden where pink ‘Dorothy Perkins’ roses and deep violet Clematis Jackmanii are strung along swags of ropes.

If you like walking there are 3 trails taking you through the extensive park where dogs are welcome on leads. This landscape was largely the work of the well-respected landscape designer William Emes, a contemporary of ‘Capability’ Brown, who worked at Erddig from 1768-1780. In 1779, Philip Yorke I put up the following notice at the entrance lodges at Erddig:

“Mr Yorke having at great Expense, and at the labour of many Years, finished the Ground and Wood Walks about Erthig, desires to acquaint his Neighbours, that they are extremely welcome to walk in the same for their Health and Amusement.”

Size: 13 acres (5.3 hectares)

  • Street: Erddig
  • Postcode: LL13 0YT
  • City: Wrexham, Clywyd
  • County: Gwynedd
  • Country: United Kingdom

Garden Portrait: Powis Castle

Castle with its terraces

The castle and garden is in Welshpool, Powys. The gardens are spread out over several Baroque terraces leading down through shrubs and giant cloud-shaped yew hedges to a large lawned area and a former kitchen garden and a woodland walk. All backed by a patchwork of fields, villages and hills of the Welsh border countryside.

Lower formal garden and lines of pyramidal apple trees

The terraces include an Orangery and an Aviary with the sheltering walls angled towards the south-west providing a mild climate in which a number of shrubs and climbers can be found. In spring pretty blue ceanothus spreads like a cloud and pale yellow roses pick up the tones of the red sandstone walls.

There are a number of lead statues in the gardens, most found on the grand terraces and from the workshop of the Flemish sculptor John van Nost. The lead used most likely came from the Powis family’s own lead mines at Llangynog, Montgomeryshire.

The Yew trees are magnificent. The fourteen specimen ‘tumps’ that sit on the upper terrace along with lead urns as well as the bulging hedge at the northern end were probably planted in the 1720s. Other evergreens include darker Irish yews and towering walls of boxwood.

Each terrace has its own theme. Drier conditions on the narrow Aviary Terrace allow for sun-loving Mediterranean, Californian and Southern Hemisphere planting including cistus, carpenteria, broom, lavender and iris and silver artemesia. The roof is draped in wisteria and troughs of creeping figs. Fuchsias are a speciality and often grown in the old basketweave pots.

Lead figure of Hercules on a stone plinth. Hercules is depicted wearing a lion-skin and slaying the hydra (carved in stone), using a club which is made of wood. Behind is the spectacular yew hedge.

Herbaceous borders on the third terrace leading to the lower garden

On the third terrace you find the Orangery and long, box-edged borders.

The bottom of the garden is now lawned (Great Lawn) and used for playing croquet. It used to be the kitchen garden, but now all that remains are the rare, old varieties of apple trees.

Ground cover, bedding plants, including hardy geraniums, roses and delphiniums stretch out from the half-timbered gardener’s bothy.

Here you can wander out of the formal garden and into a wilder woodland landscape, with a path curving towards the western ridge. This area is formed of acid sandstone in contrast to the limestone of the castle ridge and allows the planting of azaleas and rhododendrons.

The path leads to an ice-house and a Ladies’ Bath, both dating from the 19th century and you have views out towards the Long Mountain and Breidden Hills and across to the daffodil strewn paddock to the castle and terraces.

Returning to the western side of the castle we’ll have a peep into the courtyard and entrance to the castle (though I have yet to go inside as I always seem to spend my time in the gardens).

And a final look at the flowers in the woodland area, in springtime.

Size: 25 acres (10 hectares)

  • Street:        Powis Castle and Garden
  • Postcode:   SY21 8RF
  • City:            Welshpool
  • County:      Powys
  • Country:    United Kingdom

If you like a walk, long or short, then please visit Jo for her regular strolls in the UK and the Algarve and maybe you would like to join in too. She’s very welcoming.

Garden Portrait: Stourhead


Stourhead is often called

“one of the most beautiful of this country’s landscape gardens”

with a gentle harmonious planting of broad-leaved trees, conifers and rhododendrons. The valley landscape began in the 1740s by Henry Hoare II who had returned from a three-year tour of Italy and was inspired by the Roman Campagna ( a low-lying area surrounding Rome in the Lazio region of central Italy) which also inspired many landscape painters of the time.

It is probably a garden best seen during the spring or autumn when the tree colours are at their best. But my visit was towards the end of July on a particularly warm, but overcast day. Located in Stourton, Wiltshire the garden is best approached by walking downhill from the car park, past the estate village with its inn, church and row of cottages and down to the lake.

There is a circular walk around the lake, taking in the woods, with glimpses between the trees of the garden buildings. The understorey is mostly a glossy evergreen with shrubs of cherry laurel and rhododendron, here and there a glimpse of wild flowers or hydrangeas and hostas.

Above on a hill is the Temple of Apollo and on the far bank of the lake, the portico and rotunda of the Pantheon. The buildings disappearing as you continue into the woodland and make your way around the lake.

The layout of the garden is not random, but alive with hidden symbolic meanings  and it is no coincidence that Stourhead’s story was based on Aeneas’s  journey to Carthage, following the fall of Troy. The first building you come to (if you walk anti-clockwise) is the Temple of Flora. Dedicated to the Roman goddess of flowers and spring, this temple was the first garden building erected by Henry Hoare II between 1744 and 1746. Over the doorway the Latin inscription reads:

‘Keep away, anyone profane, keep away’.

The visitor then descends on paths in an anti-clockwise route around the lake, recalling Aeneas’s descent into the underworld, finding Dido who turns away from him. Continuing his journey he enters the Grotto, where the river god shows him the way out and he completes his heroic quest by founding Rome, symbolised by the Pantheon.

Palladian bridge and the Bristol Cross

The Pantheon: Inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, this structure was built in 1753-54. It’s the largest garden building at Stourhead. ‘Pantheon’ means a temple sacred to all the gods. The temple is filled with statues of classical deities, including a marble Hercules created by Rysbrack. Well worth a look inside.

Leaving the Pantheon behind you take in a different vista. Across the lake to the Palladian bridge a five-arched stone bridge built in 1762. Although ornamental, the bridge was intended to look practical. It was designed to create the illusion that a river flows through the village and under the bridge.

High on the hill is the Temple of Apollo, built in 1765, by the architect Henry Flitcroft, to outdo William Chamber’s earlier Temple of the Sun at Kew. It is dedicated to Apollo, the sun god. Nestled on a hilltop, the temple has delightful views over the lake.

People picnic on the lawns. Sit on the steps. Fish in the lake. Although busy the grounds are so vast it doesn’t feel crowded.

The panoramic vistas are wonderful, but for me the best part are the old stable yard and walled kitchen garden, which were being renovated on my visit several years ago. A Foster and Pearson glasshouse dating from 1902 stands in the lower walled garden and housed a collection of pelargoniums.

The success of Stourhead lies in its painterly views; the way you can’t see all of the garden buildings at once and the anticipation of glimpsing a view through the trees. Hoare noted that

 ‘the greens should be ranged together in large masses as the shades are in a painting.’

I’m afraid that I prefer a plantsman’s garden to this landscape garden, my joy comes from the colours and forms of flowers and Stourhead doesn’t really ‘do’ flowers. But nothing can take away the fact that this is a truly magnificent garden landscape.

Size: 93 acres (38 hectares)

  • Street:      Stourhead
  • Postcode:  BA12 6QD
  • City:           Stourton
  • County:     Wiltshire
  • Country:   United Kingdom

If you like a walk, long or short, then please visit Jo for her regular strolls in the UK and the Algarve and maybe you would like to join in too. She’s very welcoming.

Garden Portrait: Snowshill Manor

Snowshill Manor near Broadway, Gloucestershire, is probably visited mainly for the eclectic collections of the architect, artist and woodworker Charles Paget Wade who purchased the house in 1919. The beautiful honey-coloured stone Cotswold house is set within the fresh green countryside and situated on a steeply sloping plot. To reach the garden from the National Trust car park you walk along a country lane with hedgerows of wild flowers, which in late spring are full of ransoms (wild garlic) and bluebells, before heading uphill through a blossom filled orchard. Areas of rough grass and native trees, hedgerows and shrubbery create a relationship with the garden.

Here you find a series of courtyards, narrow corridors, terraces and ponds among rustic outbuildings.

In spring and summer it is a colourful mix of cottage flowers: columbine, poppies, hardy geraniums, phlox, lupins. White doves in the dovecotes, roses and peonies and tubs of wallflowers; all with a glimpse of the Cotswold landscape beyond. This is quintessential England at its postcard best.

The colours in the garden are mostly blue, mauve and purple-toned which complement the stone, secondary colours are salmon and cream, sparingly used are reds and yellows. Orange is banned. (though I found some distinctly orange looking wallflowers).

“A garden is an extension of the house, a series of outdoor rooms”

wrote Wade following the philosophy of the time.

It is an architect’s garden.
Each room has rustic details and crafted ornaments: gate piers, troughs and cisterns, a sundial, an armillary sundial, a dovecote, a Venetian well-head, a bellcote with the figures of St George and the Dragon, a shrine for a Madonna on the byre roof, a wall-mounted astrological dial.

Many painted in Wade’s preferred colour of turquoise-flushed French blue which he found the best foil to the stone and grass.

It is an organic garden nestling into the surrounding countryside with ease.

Size: 2 acres (0.8 hectare)

  • Street:       Snowshill Manor
  • Postcode:  WR12 7JU
  • City:           Broadway
  • County:     Gloucestershire
  • Country:    United Kingdom