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Barnsdale – a garden of memories

We return to Barnsdale Gardens every few years on a trip down memory lane. Barnsdale was the garden of TV gardener Geoff Hamilton the nation’s  favourite gardener for many years. He was the gardener on the BBC’s “Gardeners World” programme so he visited many gardeners’ homes every Friday evening for years. He was the first truly organic TV gardener and as such he promoted these sound garden principles and backed them up by conducting experiments and sharing the results on his show.

As well as Gardeners World he made several series of gardening programmes based on making gardens such as “The Cottage Garden” and “The Paradise Garden”.

He sadly died at a young age when taking part in a sponsored cycle ride for charity, but he has never been forgotten.

The Barnsdale Gardens still display all the model gardens Geoff made and others have been added since his death. The garden and the nursery attached  are run by his son and daughter-in-law. His other son created this bronze sculpture that graces the garden.

The trees that we saw Geoff plant many years ago are now impressive specimens and display interesting bark colours and textures.

One of his favourite flowers was the Day Lily and many remain in the gardens still. Coming a close second as his most popular garden plant must be the rose.

A popular feature of “Gardeners World” was Geoff’s do-it-yourself projects – he was always making furniture and garden features, to try to save his viewers money. Below is his garden bench with matching herb coffee table made from recycled pallets with old roof slates built in as coasters.

He also constructed this compost bin disguised as a beehive and accompanying garden store, both created from recycled wood.

He even made a water feature from an old copper water cylinder!

Although he encouraged gardeners to construct things for their own gardens he also extolled the virtues of craftsmen and his garden diaplays many works by craftsmen local to Barnsdale. In particular he brought locally made furniture into the garden.

Productive gardening – fruit, veg and herbs – played a big part in his programmes, magazine articles and books. Several of his productive plots are still at Barnsdale, such as an allotment, the Ornamental Kitchen Garden, an Elizabethan Vegetable Garden. the Fruit Orchard, an Apple Arch and Herb Garden.

Geoff was definitely ahead of his time, encouraging organic principals and attracting insects into the garden. he recognised them as pollinators and predators of garden pests.

He featured plants such as Achilleas, Heleniums and other hot coloured flowers, and using lots of different grasses. These are all popular now.

Since Geoff’s untimely death the garden has continued to develop. His son, Nick and daughter-in-law have created new gardens so now Barnsdale is described as “39 inspiring gardens, all in one place”

A sign of just how popular and influential Geoff Hamilton was is the fact that his book on Organic Gardening is still in print and has been updated and revised on several occasions. He was a great believer in the importance of compost and found all sorts of ways of making it efficiently. How about this brick-made composter. The bricks would absorb warmth from the sun and heat up the composting material inside and speed up its decomposition.

I shall end this visit to Geoff Hamilton’s Barnsdale with a few more views of the garden.

By greenbenchramblings

A retired primary school head teacher, I now spend much of my time gardening in our quarter acre plot in rural Shropshire south of Shrewsbury. I share my garden with Jude my wife a newly retired teacher , eight assorted chickens and a plethora of wildlife. Jude does all the heavy work as I have a damaged spine and right leg. We also garden on an allotment nearby. We are interested in all things related to gardens, green issues and wildlife.

8 replies on “Barnsdale – a garden of memories”

I like the brick composer. How do they retrieve the materials? I use some ready-made ones from our local agricultural school. I have plenty of bricks for a compose creation, but could not decide where the opening is located. Nice post.

I couldn’t work that out either. I think perhaps they took it apart from the top and rebuilt it alongside so they could turn compost into it or start again.


Geoff’s book was the first gardening manual I owned – I loved his organic and common sense approach to the garden. I will visit there one day, but in the meantime, I’m so pleased you’ve shared this post Malc!

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