This is the report of our first visit to this year’s featured garden, the Dorothy Clive Garden. We have been making occasional visits to this beautiful garden for about forty years now and have enjoyed many new developments for this is not a garden to rest on its laurels. It is affiliated to the Royal Horticultural Society and is run by the Friends of Willoughbridge Garden Trust.
The garden was born way back in 1940 when Harry and Dorothy Clive lived in the large white house, Elds Gorse. The first area to be tackled was the old quarry which is now a richly planted Dingle Garden. Harry Clive created this first part of the garden so that his wife, who was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease could take daily exercise in a beautoful garden. Sadly she died in 1942 and Harry continued to develop the garden as a tribute to his wife. In 1958 the Willoughbridge Trust was founded to ensure that the garden continued for ever as a place of “rest and recreation” for the public.
We made the one hour journey to the Dorothy Clive Garden on a very cold morning in mid-January. We were surprised to drive through areas of snow and arrived at the garden to find snow covering the garden in a shallow layer. We left our tracks in the snow as did a Grey Heron before us.
Snow decorated the foliage of trees and shrubs where later in the year we will discover the colours and scents of their flowers. The weight of wet melting snow bent grasses down towards the ground and gave the plants a graceful shape.
The first view of the garden opened up before us as we climbed a gently sloping path towards the tea shop which in winter doubles up as the ticket office. Naturally we were tempted by the aroma of warm coffee and the sight of home made cakes. The little flower arrangements in the centre of each table added to the warm welcome we received from the staff.
Just outside the tearoom the little nursery area held plants hidden under snow and sculptures of rabbits and hares wearing hats of snow. The gardeners had been painting acorn fence-post tops a gentle shade of green.
We left the tea shop and mini-nursery to walk towards the Dingle Garden an area of woodland garden created in an old quarry. Snow topped off the buds and leaves of Azaleas and Rhododendrons and the seed heads of the occasional herbaceous perennials.
But we were particularly delighted to find flowers out, the simplest of Snowdrops with droplets of melted snow hanging from their stems, the occasional Rhododendrons and Camellias and Witch Hazels in sunshine colours.
The overnight snow and ice had turned this pink Rhododendron translucent and delicate, while the flowers in the Camellia Walk were just managing to hang on. The pink scented flowers of this Daphne however shrugged off the cold and looked fresh and cheerful.
Hydrangeas looked as good covered in seed heads as they do in flower with gentle biscuit and ginger hues.
During the winter when undergrowth has died away and low growing deciduous shrubs have dropped their leaves the trunks of Rhododendrons and Azaleas are exposed. We can then appreciate their amazing scrolls and curlicues.
The new winter garden at the Dorothy Clive Garden was a surprise to us as it is totally new so we didn’t know it existed. A great surprise! The Laburnum Arch through which we left the Winter Garden has been a popular feature of the garden for many years.
The colours and textures of trees can add so much to any garden and the gardeners at Dorothy Clive certainly know how to choose them and place them to best advantage.
You only need the tiniest touch of light on berries to make them sparkle. The last drops of melting snow hung on many.
Mahonias are always a good plant in any garden with their glossy evergreen leaves which show rich autumn colours and in the winter yellow scented flowers appear to be followed by black berries with a white floury dusting.
We shall return for part two of this January visit to our feature garden of 2016 to see what other treats the Dorothy Clive Garden has in store for us.