Welcome to the first post in my series of monthly posts looking at a local garden. Throughout 2014 we traveled northward through the Shropshire Plains into neighbouring county Staffordshire in order to visit Trentham Gardens.
Throughout 2015 we will travel south to Croft Castle just into our neighbouring county of Herefordshire. We live at the northern tip of the Shropshire Hills, with the welcome sign just three-quarters of a mile away. In order to get to Croft we have to go southward through this range of hills, one of the most beautiful upland areas in the UK. We will enjoy our journeys!
At the entrance building a “Tramper” scooter acted as an effective sign. As we wandered towards the garden we enjoyed views of some of the estate’s ancient trees. These old massive Sweet Chestnuts are hundreds of years old and each year another dies. Luckily new ones have been planted as replacements. A natural mulch of leaves and nut casts are snuggled at their feet.
We soon met a much smaller and younger character, placed to help celebrate wintertime. We were to find many more of his friends. Currently there is an evening event on here based on light and these trees were part of it. We vowed to visit one evening!
We were soon on our way to the walled garden, our favourite part of Croft. To get there we followed a long mixed border abutting a tall stone wall. There was not much to see here in January but it looked full of promise. But we found character number two and three both smiling away just like their colleague we met earlier.
The shop, not open in the winter, is housed in an ancient barn and on shelves at its entrance these hedgehogs caught our eyes. More interesting characters!
A gap in the brick wall enticed us into the walled garden. We always enter with great anticipation, perhaps more so on this visit as we had never visited in the winter before. Either side of the doorway there was signs of colour in the narrow borders. The colours of the berries of an Iris, the mauve flowers of Liriope muscari and the silver of the long thin catkins of Garrya eliptica.
From the open doorway views of the walled garden opened up in front of us. We soon espied different types of trained fruit and clumps of textured perennials in the borders.
The textured foliage was provided by silver narrow foliage of Santolinas and in strong contrast the thin strap-like leaves of the Black Grass, Ophiopogon. This is not a grass at all but in reality a Lily!
There were two very contrasting sorts of trained fruit. Ancient beautifully sculpted apples and a much newer array of grape vines, also beautifully trained. It was so good to see the skills of fruit training created at two very different periods of time.
What made this walled garden extra good for productive gardening was the fact that it was on a slope encouraging the sun to warm up the soil to its maximum. Even in early January the difference in temperature was noticeable. We could feel the change as we entered and exited the walled area. The photo of the door in the wall illustrates the slope and shows how steep it is. The plants also illustrate the effects of the walls protective powers. An Iris was in flower and a Melianthus was in bud. Arum italicum “Marmoratum” was in full marbled leaf.
When we were half way along the second edge of the walled garden we reached the gateway leading out of the garden which in the past had been clearly marked “private – keep out” so we were pleased to discover that it has been opened up for us to explore. Jude was soon on her way through! We had always longed to get a close up look at the old greenhouse range.
We will leave you here for now as we disappear behind the beautiful, unusually shaped blue gate where we found out what new treats were in store for us before we returned to the walled garden. See part two where we discover what was going on behind the blue gate as well as in the rest of the walled garden. We also wander around the rest of the gardens at Croft.