Welcome back to Croft Castle where we were about to find out what lies beyond the blue gate. We entered the space beyond the gate and found immediately to our right one of the gardeners’ buildings from the days when the walled gardens were a productive fruit and veg garden. Today it is a children’s discovery room complete with nature table. A board showed the gardening tasks for the month. Close by hung an old pruning saw.
After a good peruse among the dusty artifacts and sharing our memories of nature tables at primary school we moved on to the old, wooden framed greenhouse which until now we had viewed from the gate. On this visit we went inside. We were delighted to find the old iron mechanisms that controlled the windows and vents still intact. We both find these fascinating and are amazed by the ingenuity shown by the greenhouse designers of that era.
We were pleased to find a colourful line up of watering cans and a very healthy looking Cobaea climbing up wires and flowering profusely. It was easy to see why it is graced with the common name “Cup and Saucer Vine”.
Outside the greenhouse we found a stack of apple trees heeled into a pile of compost awaiting the time when the frozen ground allowed them to be planted. Further old buildings hugged the walls – they were ina tumbled down state. The old window attracted me and my camera but I remain undecided if it is best as a colour or monochrome picture. Any thoughts?
We continued our tour of the main walled garden following the herbaceous borders to discover ancient apple trees beautifully pruned ready for fruiting next season. Their trunks and branches were encrusted with lichens and mosses creating miniature landscapes. Clumps of Mistletoe decorated several of the trees. This is a common parasitic plant in the orchards of Herefordshire. A Mistletoe Fair and market are held in December every year in the nearby market town of Tenbury Wells. They are famous for their mistletoe auctions.
Along the third and fourth walls mixed borders included many shrubs which were well pruned in readiness for new growth when spring arrives. In the central area among the grass willows had been pruned too, cut into low pollarding and coppicing to encourage fresh, long new wands to cut and use around the garden as plant supports or sculpture.
I enjoyed a play with this pic on Photoshop!
We were attracted to the opened seed pods of a Paeony with its four sections of woody shell. I certainly enjoyed playing with the image on Photoshop! Here you can select your favourite of three versions.
The sweet scent of the pink flowers of Viburnum bodnantense reached our noses long before we spotted the shrub itself. Next to it in the border was the giant stalk of the biggest Lilly we can grow in the UK, the statuesque Cardiocrinum giganteum.
In the growing seasons there are some lovely features within the walled garden like little garden rooms, including a pool garden and a rose garden. In the winter they are so cold and bare! But an odd Rose bloom was trying hard when we visited. It sadly offered no scent though, unlike the neighbouring Rosemary with its gentle aroma coming from the tiny china blue flowers and the Lonicera frangrantisima, the Winter Flowering Honeysuckle.
The gardeners have been busy making a huge “bug hotel” which is now almost complete. They have been having fun!
Reluctantly leaving the walled garden through a stone archway, we found small courtyard gardens linked by interesting textural paths. We gained views of the rear of the castle building and its huge water butt!
A further archway in a stone wall took us to a quartered courtyard garden with white benches and heavily pruned rose bushes. A strong wind blew through this area, making life difficult when I wanted to take a photograph of a Primrose flowering well out of season, resulting in a blurred close up of my scarf. Oh dear! But I did manage in the end. Definitely better without the scarf.
Rounding the next corner we could look out over the low stone wall across the meadows towards the lake and woodlands. The weather was not right for exploring these areas, so we decided to save it for warmer times. Above the corner tower an unusual wooden bell tower peered. Against the house wall we found a second scented Viburnum bodnantense heavy with blossom.
The tiny garden surrounding the estate church is often colourful but in winter colour was total lacking. The tower of the church was covered in scaffolding and it looked as if restoration work was well under way. I will share some pictures of this lovely building when the scaffolding is down later in the year.
We finally reached the front entrance to the castle, the massive door protected by stone-carved dragon sentinels. As we retraced our steps along the herbaceous border and stone wall we looked back to get views of the whole castle frontage.
Our next visit will be in February when we will see if anything in the garden changes as the days lengthen slightly and the light values improve. It may be a bit warmer too! Fingers crossed.