Garden Portrait: Scotney Castle

Scotney Castle and Garden lies in west Kent close to Lamberhurst village and is one of the most romantic landscape gardens designed in the picturesque style. The planting is very natural with the ruins of the 14† century Old Castle at its centre. The ‘new’ castle was built in 1835 which was when the gardens around the ruins were created by Edward Hussey III.

View of the Old Castle from the Bastion

Terraces lead to a viewing point, the semi-circular bastion, with views over the Quarry Garden with its sandstone features, azaleas, ferns and other flowering shrubs towards the Old Castle and moat. There is a small triangular rose garden with a Venetian font and a lion’s-head fountain nearby and steps and paths lead down the Lime Walk and onto the main lawn before reaching the boathouse.

The Boathouse and the Sweet Gum tree

Autumn is a good time to visit with lots of oranges, reds and yellows bursting across the landscape. There are many beautiful trees in this garden including Japanese Acers, Sweet Gums, a Tulip tree and a Black Tulepo. My visit was in early September so too soon for much autumn colour, but it did mean that some plants were still flowering in the herbaceous borders and the rose garden.

The lawns are edged with mature trees and rhododendrons, kalmia and other shrubs and the Sweet Bourne fringed by trees feeds the moat. The walk leads to the stream garden and across a Chinese bridge where you will find a Henry Moore sculpture.

Sculpture by Henry Moore on the isthmus

The walk continues along the south-east side of the moat, with views focused on the house above the gardens, then returns along the north-west side to reach the approach to the Old Castle, which lies on the north-east of the two islands in the moat and forms the scenic focus of the garden landscape.

The path leads across a stone causeway and between remnants of stone gate piers leading into the Castle courtyard which contains a circular bed enclosed by yew hedges and herb beds.


The remains of the Old Castle (listed grade I), built in 1370, are of sandstone, with the single tower of the four possible originals, topped by its C17 conical roof and lantern, standing in the south corner of the curtain-walled island. It is like something out of a fairytale.


Size: 30 acres (12 hectares)

Thanks to Historic England for details contained in this post.

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: 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: Autumn Sizzle

Originally landscaped by Capability Brown in 1776 from surrounding woodland is Sheffield Park in East Sussex. A garden for all seasons, it is during autumn when it is at its most magnificent. Lambent tongues of orange, gold and vermilion burns brightly against a cobalt sky. Japanese maples, fothergillas (mountain witch alder), Liquidambar styraciflua (sweet gum), Taxodium distichum (bald cypressand Parrotia persica, the Persian ironwood, take on their seasonal finery to create a vibrant tapestry of rich shades to wow and dazzle visitors.

Meandering pathways

It is like walking in an Impressionist painting, the views and vistas are spectacular, including those that lead the eye to the imposing mansion built on the axis. Continue reading

Garden Portrait: More from Nymans

In the late 1800’s Ludwig Messel bought the Nymans Estate in the Sussex High Weald to make a dream family home.

The gardens were inspired by the influential writer William Robinson, and were filled with rare plants and colourful herbaceous borders. The man most responsible for creating the gardens that Messel visualised was James Comber, who became head gardener in 1895. Comber’s son, Harold, became a globe-trotting plant collector, bringing exotic plants back to England from South America and Tasmania. Today it is still a garden lovers’ home – a place to relax all year round and enjoy a peaceful country garden.

Map of the Gardens

Map of the Gardens

Rose Garden

The rose garden is a circular space formally divided into beds intersected by gravel pathways and surrounded by high hedges. In the centre is a fountain in the form of a rose with climbing roses on arches tumbling down around it. The best time to visit is probably earlier in the summer as by late August there were very few roses still in bloom. The gardens have been well known for growing old-fashioned roses, with rich, intoxicating fragrances and pastel shades, for over 100 years.

The House

Three generations of the Messel family have lived at Nymans, from the late 1800’s until 1947 when the house was tragically destroyed by fire. Subsequently the surviving rooms were still used, occasionally to entertain friends and as a base from which to run the garden. Today the ruined house still provides a romantic background for the garden and the remaining Messel Family rooms are open to the public. At the side of the house is a Forecourt Garden with a dovecote in the corner, steps lead up to the top where you have a lovely view over the courtyard.




Rock Garden / Heath Garden

At the far side of the ruined house are the Sunken Garden, complete with Loggia, a Heath Garden and a Rock Garden which are an absolute delight.

A Glimpse of the house

View of the house from the Sunken Garden

Bench with the initial AR = Anne Rosse

Bench with the initial AR = Anne Rosse

June Borders

Obviously designed to look their best in June, these borders still have something to offer in August. Sedums and salvias compete with hydrangeas and helenium.

The June Borders (in late August)

I was delighted to see this lady drawing and painting the gorgeous sedum in the border.


And even at the entrance / exit the planting continues with a prairie style  garden which is made up of a mixture of herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses. The style is naturalistic with swathes of planting blocks pioneered by the famous garden designer Piet Oudulf. Flowers, seed-heads and foliage all play their part in the design.


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

  • Street:  Nymans Garden
  • Postcode:  RH17 6EB
  • City:  Handcross, Crawley
  • County:  Sussex

Garden Portrait: Nymans

Late summer and a break in the awful wet weather enabled me to pop along to Nymans Garden in West Sussex. My main reason for visiting was to look at the summer borders in the Wall Garden encouraged by Gilly of Lucid Gypsy and capture some of the late summer colours. Of course I couldn’t resist a peek into the Rose Garden or a potter around the ruins of the Messel family house and a quick stroll past the rock garden, but these will appear later.

But for now let’s just have a look at the luscious, late summer borders which are also being enjoyed by lots of insects:

Wall Garden Borders

Wall Garden Summer Borders

The Wall Garden is the most beautiful part of this garden. A former orchard it is formed from an irregular shape with two paths intersecting in the centre where a pink Italian marble fountain and pool is found along with topiary. The central path is flanked by the Summer Borders, mostly herbaceous annuals and perennials with some shrubs at the back. The path between the borders is quite narrow so you feel as though you are walking through a floral tunnel.

Mixed border

The borders are a riot of colours at this time of year. Bright yellow Rudbeckia and Helianthus; dark red and scarlet and yellow Helenium; deep pink Cosmos with a bright yellow eye; violet-blue Asters; deep blue Agastache; pink-purple Echinaceae; white Cleome; tall pink-mauve sedum and brightly coloured dahlias are interwoven with silver-leafed foliage and the striking forms of coleus.

Helianthus and Echinaceae Purpureae


An exquisite display. Thank you Gilly for inspiring me to pop (or should that be hop?) along to this garden. It was well worth the effort. And I got a chance to practice with the macro lens with all those busy bees around.