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

Garden Portrait: Sezincote

Sezincote is a British estate, located in Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, England. It was designed by Samuel Pepys Cockerell in 1805, and is a notable example of Neo-Mughal architecture, a 19th-century reinterpretation … Wikipedia
and was the inspiration for the Brighton Pavilion.

Down the drive,
Under the early yellow leaves of oaks;
One lodge is Tudor, one in Indian style.
The bridge, the waterfall, the Temple Pool
And there they burst on us, the onion domes,
Chajjahs and chattris made of amber stone:
‘Home of the Oaks’, exotic Sezincote.
~ from “Summoned by Bells”, by John Betjeman

This extraordinary Indian house set in the Cotswolds hills has a central dome, minarets, peacock-tail windows, jali-work railings and pavilions. The main photo above shows the curving Orangery which frames the Persian Garden of Paradise with a fountain and canals and a pair of friendly elephants.


Return through the grounds that are bypassed when heading up the walkway to the house from the ticket booth to another garden where a number of spring-fed pools lead to the Island Pool. It is a lush, green and woodland garden which is probably at its best in spring and autumn. There are touches of the exotic Mughal garden everywhere, with the Brahmin cattle on the steps and on the bridge, and a coiled 3-headed snake.


The columned bridge with little stepping stones taking you from lower to upper garden is quite a fascinating focal point.

It is an unusual place to find in the English countryside and not that easy to find (entrance opposite the Batsford Arboretum) and it is best to check the website for details of opening times. The grounds are undulating and some paths are gravel so not suitable for wheelchairs. Entrance fee to the house and grounds includes a guided tour (every half an hour) of a few rooms in the house. It is a worth while experience, though you can buy a ticket for the grounds only.

  • Street:        Sezincote
  • Postcode:   GL56 9AW
  • City:            Moreton in Marsh
  • County:      Gloucestershire
  • Country:    United Kingdom

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

Garden Portrait: Great Dixter

Great Dixter was the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd – it was the focus of his energy and enthusiasm and fuelled over 40 years of books and articles. Now under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust, Great Dixter is a historic house, a garden, a centre of education, and a place of pilgrimage for horticulturists from across the world.



Open from April to the end of October, the nursery is open all year round.


Entrance, Peacock Garden and High Garden

The gardens surround the house and buildings so if you make a circuit of the gardens you will have made a circuit of the house. Each garden has a view of others. I made my way anti-clockwise from the entrance, passing through the meadow garden, which was over in July, and on to the lawn in front of the lovely 15th or 16th century timber-framed house. To the left of the porch as you face the house Edwin Lutyens combined a 16th century yeoman’s house moved from Benenden in 1910 with the original building to create what is now Great Dixter. Climbing up the steps into the Peacock Topiary and High Garden you are immediately struck by the mass of planting threatening to hide the paths that lead you through the garden. The paths form a cross and central area where you can take in the roofline of the house and its imposing chimneys.

 The Long Border

The Long Border is divided from the meadow and orchard by a flagstone path and a narrow mowed strip of lawn. Plants are crammed in so that no patches of bare earth can be seen and flowers sprawl over the path softening the edges. It is a border designed for mid-June to mid-August with a simple Lutyens seat at one end. Tall plants are allowed at the front of the border as long as an open texture allows you to see behind, the tall Verbascum are valued for their tall narrow stature.

The Exotic Garden

From the Long Border walk down the circular Lutyens steps, partially shaded by a huge mulberry tree and covered in Erigeron karvinskianus and across to the Exotic Garden.  Once a cattle-yard, then a rose garden it is now filled with fairly hardy foliage plants for a tropical effect.  Dahlias and cannas add spectacular colour.



The Blue Garden, the Walled Garden and the Sunken Garden


The Blue Garden is a small space between the topiary lawn and the Walled Garden. Lutyens steps lead through to the walled garden which is paved with  a mosaic of two dachshunds, Dahlia and Canna that belonged to Christopher Lloyd. Continue through this colourful space – with many terracotta pots – into the Barn Garden which borders the Sunk Garden.

Dachshund Mosaic



The Solar Garden


The largest single area of bedding, is in the Solar garden, next to the old bay tree and facing the front of the house. Behind you can see the barn and the Oast house.


 We’ve come full circle now, though I haven’t shown you everything that this garden has to offer. I think it may take more than one visit to absorb everything that Great Dixter contains, and I never even went inside that beautiful house.

  • Street:  Great Dixter
  • Postcode:  TN31 6PH
  • City:  Northiam
  • County:  Sussex
  • Country: United Kingdom

Pashley Manor Gardens

Pashley Manor Gardens is on the border of East Sussex and Kent. Famous for its Tulip Festival in spring regrettably I have never visited before despite my love of tulips. It is a garden worth visiting at any time during the open season from 1st April to 30th September as there are several different areas. Between the end of April and mid-May the woods are open for the Bluebell Walk when the woodland is carpeted in a magical mantle of blue. July and August is Lily time and each year Pashley exhibits the work of many eminent sculptors, including work by local sculptors, some of which is for sale.

There is also a lovely courtyard tea-room and summer terrace where you can sit under a parasol, eat quiche and salad, sip iced-coffee and admire the wonderful views over the lawns and old moat. And try to ignore the dozens of ducks underfoot.

The first area you enter are the herbaceous and  hot borders, full of roses, lilies, dahlias, clematis, monarda, helenium, fuchsias and penstemon.



From here you can wander through to the woodland or enter the Walled Garden where you will find roses and a potager.


Up some steps – stop to admire the sculptures – and into the walled swimming pool area which looks very inviting now that the sun has appeared. At the far end is a small greenhouse filled with pelargoniums, pretty Streptocarpus and ferns.


Boy sitting

Boy sitting

Amongst the borders edging the lawns and summer terrace are dozens of perfumed lilies

Summer Terrace

Summer Terrace


and my favourite sculpture:


Wood Nymph

The Secret Gardens of Sandwich

Anyone who has been following me for a while may have picked up on the fact that I am a keen fan of Sir Edwin Lutyens (architect) and Gertrude Jekyll (garden designer) names synonymous with the creation of the English Country Garden style. When I was in East Kent some years ago and heard about the secret gardens of Sandwich I was intrigued.

The Salutations
The Salutations

The Secret Gardens of Sandwich are encircled by the old stone city walls and within this plot is a Grade I manor house, the Salutations, designed by Lutyens in 1911 and now a luxury hotel. He also created the gardens with the help of Jekyll and, although neglected for many years, it  has been wonderfully restored and is open to the public.

Typical of of a Lutyens and Jekyll garden you will find brick paths and herbaceous borders planted with lilies, lupins and lavenders, “rooms” with their own character and plenty of visual surprises and unexpected views.

My visit was in early September when the main highlight was the dahlias – from small delicate patio flowers to huge full-blown dinner plates.

Garden Portrait: RHS Wisley

This is my most visited garden in the UK. I lived about 25 miles from it for six years and as it was on my way to visit my daughter and grandchildren it became a favourite stopping off place, or even a meeting place as she lives only ten minutes from it. I have visited in all seasons so there are far too many photographs to cram into one post. Maybe in 2014 I will concentrate only on RHS Wisley.

There are four RHS gardens in England. I have been fortunate to visit Rosemoor in North Devon too and I have written about that garden on my other blog, Travel Words. Wisley is the flagship garden though, carrying out trials of various new flowers and plants and trying out and testing new cultivation techniques. Being so close to London it attracts many visitors and holds several exhibitions over the year including Dahlias and Chrysanthemums, Sculptures and even Butterflies in the Glasshouse. Gifted to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1904 it has become a world-class garden. As well as the 60 acre garden there is the Lindley Library containing significant collections on practical gardening, garden history and design, and fruit and veg gardening as well as hundreds of botanical prints and drawings. And the Glasshouse, which has three climatic zones – dry temperate, moist temperate and tropical – contains hundreds of orchids and other tender and rare plants. It is like walking into a jungle.

There are several different areas to explore and it is almost impossible to do all of it in one day – well I have never managed to. Some areas are better at different times of the year such as Battleston Hill East in spring when it is full of rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and hellebore. The glasshouse borders are lovely all year round as is the Glasshouse itself, especially in inclement weather. The Mixed Borders and the Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden are best in summer, the Walled Garden is lovely in May when the wisteria is in bloom. In autumn head for Seven Acres, the Wild Garden and the Rock Garden as well as the Arboretum. The Alpine Houses and the Crevice Garden show off a huge number of miniature plants with the displays changing throughout the year. And there are the Trials Fields to see what is being tested, Model Gardens for inspiration in your own smaller patch, Fruit Demonstration Garden and the Vegetable Garden demonstrate the cultivation of edible plants and so much more. If all this walking is making you hungry there are five places to eat within the garden, three picnic spots and two play areas for the kids. And if you don’t want to go into the garden itself there is a plant nursery on site and a shop.

Here are just a few shots of the garden throughout the year.

Garden Portrait: Sissinghurst

Sissinghurst Castle in Kent is probably my favourite garden. The design by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson is similar to Hidcote Manor, but it has an extra element – romance. The first thing you see when approaching the gardens is the twin-turreted tower rising from the open farmland. This fairy-tale tower is the garden’s centrepiece and was built for Queen Elizabeth I’s visit in 1573. From the top of this tower you get a bird’s-eye-view of the gardens. You also get a feel of Vita herself as her writing room in the tower is pretty much as she left it – usually with a simple flowering pot plant on the table. Most of the borders or garden rooms are themed around a clearly defined colour scheme.

On entering the garden, before you reach the tower, is a courtyard where the plants echo the colour of the brick: salmon and copper tones. The first garden you come to after passing through the tower is the Purple Borders, though the colours are a mix of lilacs, pinks, blues, violet, magenta and purple. What I refer to as ‘bruised’ colours and my favourites. In my small space plants and flowers are grown in containers and the common theme is ‘bruised’ with a splash of orange, pink or yellow for contrast. Depending on what season you visit this garden you will find tulips, irises, wallflowers, geraniums and asters and clematis. It is difficult to describe this garden as there are so many different areas to explore and so many plants. I have visited in April and both late and early July and in each season it is different. (click on a photo to take a walk through this garden with me)

In mid-summer you cannot miss the Rose Garden, Irises, peonies, violas, pinks and alliums spread a Persian carpet beneath the old-fashioned shrub roses that were Vita’s passion. Reminiscent of the Orient. And the famous curved wall at the west end of the garden is covered with Clematis Perle d’Azur which is much-photographed. There is a lot more to this garden though – a moat walk, a herb garden, a pleached lime walk, woodland gardens,  the Cottage Garden a cauldron of hot colours – yellows, oranges and tropical reds – lawns and an orchard, and the most famous of all the White Garden. Filled with white wisteria, tulips, irises, hydrangea, pure white cosmos, sweet-peas, roses and lilies, it is a delight in the spring and summer months. Bear in mind that the rose over the canopy – Rosa Mulliganii – flowers early (mid June) Amongst all this beauty are Italian oil jars, urns and statues. And surrounding the property is the glorious Kent countryside. If you only have the chance to visit one garden in England then I would urge you to visit this one. You won’t regret it.

Garden Portrait: Mottistone Manor

Mottistone Manor on the Isle of Wight is another quirky garden in the Arts and Crafts style. With land varying from the head of a valley, the higher slopes offer you a view of the headlands over to Brighstone Bay. The garden flows down the valley bowl changing from light woodland to terraced compartments. The garden is entered through a large Tudor barn into a courtyard full of roses.

The garden has a Mediterranean feel with lots of colour. Proteas, ginger lilies and aloes add to this sub-tropical feeling brought here by Lady Nicholson who was brought up in the Sicily and who was a very passionate and hands-on gardener. Scented pittisporum, white African agapanthus and several varieties of banana thrive in the mild climate and even Oleanders grow by the house.

At the top of the garden, the borders and hedges give way to more open planting and areas – here wildflowers bloom and in spring you can find bluebells and daffodils and primroses. Close to the ‘Shack’, a wooden structure which is perched on saddle-stones, there is a bog garden complete with Japanese-inspired planting including masses of irises. Here you will find a traditional tea garden.

( click on a photo to take a walk through this garden with me)

Garden Portrait: Hidcote Manor

One of England’s most influential 20th century gardens, Hidcote Manor is situated in the northern Cotswolds close to Chipping Campden. At heart Hidcote is a plantsman’s garden and owes its plant collection to its creator Lawrence Johnston, an American who moved to Hidcote in 1907 with his mother, Mrs Winthrop. Johnston was foremost a botanist and plant collector. At present the National Trust are undertaking a project to restore the gardens to what Vita Sackville-West described as “a jungle of beauty”.

The first time we visited this garden was in July when the roses and lilies were predominant. The Plant House was open to the elements and the wicker chairs entice you to sit and contemplate for a while. Seeing the elderly in their straw hats you could almost imagine yourself to be back in the Edwardian period. The grounds do get very busy as coaches come here from all over the country, but especially day trips from London. The good news is that they remain open until 7 p.m. in the summer so if you are travelling independently then my advice is to stay until late – that way you can see the gardens without the crowds. Our second visit was the beginning of June after a very cold spring and the gardens were quite different then. The colours were mostly pink and purple with alliums, lilacs, irises and peonies most prominent.

The gardens are spectacular – with lots of ‘rooms’ such as the White Garden, the Maple Garden, the Old Garden and the Pillar Garden and between them you have the borders. Don’t miss the Long Walk – at the end you have glorious views over the Cotswolds. And don’t forget the Long Borders.

(click on a photo to take a walk through the gardens with me)

  • Street:        Hidcote Bartrim
  • Postcode:   GL55 6LR
  • City:            Chipping Campden
  • County:      Gloucestershire
  • Country:    United Kingdom
  • Website:    Hidcote Manor and Gardens

Kiftsgate Court Gardens: three generations of women gardeners

Whilst visiting the Cotswolds in late May / early June we returned to one of the National Trust’s most exciting garden for plantsmen, Hidcote Manor. But more about that particular garden later. Within walking distance of Hidcote is Kiftsgate. The fact that it has been created and designed by women intrigued me. As a fan of Gertrude Jekyll I was interested to see what ideas other women could bring to a garden. Bought by Heather Muir and her husband after the Great War the garden was inspired by Hidcote and what Lawrence Johnstone was doing there. But it is a unique garden, not least because of the steep banks to the south of the house and marvellous views over the surrounding countryside; creatively designed and planted over the years by Heather, her daughter Diany Binni and granddaughter Anne Chambers.

Colour plays a large part in the design and forms a rich tapestry. Immediately next to the house and tea-room is Four Squares and Terrace, where a sundial forms the central point. The design is formal and edged by box, but the planting is not. Clumps of showy peonies, roses and honeysuckle mixed with salvia shock you with their beauty and fragrance. On the terrace with views towards Bredon and the Malvern Hills are two large terracotta pots filled with tulips in the spring. As spring was very late this year (2013) they were still blooming. You are then led along the Wide Border with its colour scheme of pinks and purples to the sunken original White Garden where the planting is no longer completely white. Paths lead you through to the new Water Garden which is very different in style being much more contemporary. The twenty-four stainless steel stems are topped with gilded bronze leaves moulded from a philodendron. They sway in the breeze and water drips from the leaves providing a soothing and relaxing tranquil spot in the busy garden.

The steep slopes have been made into terraces and steps lead down to the Lower Garden with views over the Vale of Evesham. Here you find more exotic planting which gives it a Mediterranean feel and there is a half-moon shaped swimming pool. Climbing back up the steep paths to the terrace you are glad to make your way to the tea-room for a glass of something cool.

(click on a photo to accompany me on a walk through this extraordinary garden)

  • Street:         Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Chipping Campden
  • Postcode:    GL55 6LR
  • City:             Gloucester
  • County:       Gloucestershire
  • Country:     United Kingdom