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Return to the gardens at Hergest Croft

We always enjoy returning to visit and explore gardens we have loved discovering before. Hergest Croft gardens are one of our favourite places to visit and we have visited at several different times of year. In 2018 we made a journey down into Herefordshire in the middle of September for an early autumn/late summer visit.  The building itself is a beautiful “arts and crafts” style villa of brick with features and details to give it a special look. The driveside provides a good place to house plants for sale particularly trees and shubs propagated from the garden’s specimens and some interesting herbaceuos plants. Alongside the entrance is a stunning glasshouse that matches the main house wonderfully and it is here that we begin each visit, after of course coffee and cakes in the tea room. This tea room has a special extra, a lovely outdoor seating space, a covered veranda.

 

Beneath the veranda we enjoyed looking at a border of dahlias and over the top of the border to the borders surrounding the lawn. Here we spotted the first of a series of artworks created on slates, very delicate botanic drawings.

   

More plants for sale grace the walkway along the side of the house, again interesting plants propagated on site from their own plant material.

We next moved into the glasshouse where we always enjoy perusing the delicate plants flowering away happily. Let me share this little gallery with you. Please click on the first pic then use arrows to navigate.

Here is a selection of the photos I snapped as we wandered around Hergest Croft gardens, which helps to illustrate how varied the garden is and what a wide selection of plants are grown there. There is a huge collection of rare and unusual trees here including several “Champion Trees” which guaranteed plenty of interest as we wandered the pathways.

   

There is just so much at Hergest Croft it is hard to do it justice, but I shall finish with a few selected photos of the many I took to help give a taste of this wonderful Herefordshire garden.

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The Picton Garden in October

The Picton Garden is situated below the Malvern Hills in Herefordshire. The garden is famous for its aster collections and its beautiful small garden. In fact it holds the National Plant Collection of Michaelmas Daisies, so a visit in September and October is a real treat.

We have already visited the garden twice before, once in autmn and once in spring and it is wonderful every time we visit. This visit was in mid-October but the seasons this year had been so strange that everything in the garden is way ahead of time for a normal season, at least three weeks out of sinc. So this visit would prove to be very different to our previous autumn wander.

The reception, with its rustic wooden hut and beautiful gate are matched by the friendly welcome we received from the garden owners and managers, members of the Picton family. Immediately you realise this is not gong to be a sterile collection of Asters, but a well-designed beautifuly planted garden with winding paths among mixed borders, each with its own character. There are even a few pots of succulents near the entrance.

The first views of the borders along the paths set the quality and sensitive style of planting that we were to enjoy throughout.

 

We enjoyed some interesting cntrasting shrub and tree foliage combinations.

 

But we had to admire the way asters were used mixed with other perbaceous plants and the clever use of all the many perennials, huddled together in the borders.

    

As we neared the end of our wanderings around these beautiful autumnal garden scenes, we discovered display beds showing how different asters fitted into the different families. The nursery was our last port of call before we returned to our car for the journey home. Of course we had quite a boot full of Asters with a couple of hardy Chrysanthemums for good measure.

 

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Snowdrops and Creative Pruning – Ivy Croft Garden

I often publish posts about summer days out in winter to help us warm up so as we are in the middle of an exceptionally hot period of weather I shall do the opposite and publish this post I wrote in the winter in the hope it may cool us down!

There were two main reasons we wanted to visit Ivy Croft Garden and Nursery to look at, firstly their huge collection of snowdrops and secondly their imaginative pruning techniques. Both these elements are highlights of the February garden. We drove down to Herefordshire with gardening friends Pete and Sherlie who had never visited the garden before. We had been once before several years ago, when it was still quite early on in the development stage. We were looking forward to seeing what it was like after so many years.

The garden which was started in 1997, surrounds the cottage which has a formal area close to the house partly enclosed by an ivy hedge. Further afield the garden becomes less formal and a wander around gave us the chance to look at its pond, willow and dogwood collections, a perry pear orchard and a vegetable garden enclosed with trained fruit trees.

The area around the house featured many flowering bulbs and in the spring and summer alpines would take over. A colourful Acer griseum stood with two variegated Hollies in a circular bed surrounded by a gravel pathway.

   

The pruned features we discovered as we parked up included a pleached limes, box balls and all were neatly presented.

  

An amazing selection of ivies made up the ivy hedge which surround two sides of the formal garden around the cottage. It was a beautiful, unusual feature to welcome visitors.

 

The huge work shed had a unique humorous tough, buttresses created by training and pruning yew trees. Close by stood this beautiful white barked birch tree.

 

As we walked away from the pleached limes and box ball topiary, we wandered through the wide selection of rare and unusual snowdrops. Beyond this border was a trellis-like “fedge”, a living hedge made from willow.

 

Shrubs with coloured stems and trees with coloured bark are strong features of the winter garden, and Ivycroft had some fine examples of both. Coloured stems were provided by Salix and Cornus, whereas the coloured bark appeared on Betulas and Prunus.

       

Little details reward those who take a closer look, a catkin, a flower or an old seed pod.

      

As mentioned earlier Snowdrops were a special feature of the gardens at Ivy Croft, but we also enjoyed cyclamen, miniature daffodils and hellebores. Colours shone from shrubs too, Hamamelis, Daphne mezereum and Hedera helix in its shrubby form.

       

We certainly had plenty to enjoy at Ivy Croft and it had changed so much since our last visit over 10 years ago. We will certainly be visiting once again when it opens again for a day in the spring.

 

 

 

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Garden Revisiting Part One – The Garden in a Cider Orchard

We are so lucky to have so many great gardens that we can visit in a day from home. I thought a week of posts all about revisiting gardens would prepare us well for the warmer weather and get our creative gardening juices flowing again.

There are many in our home county Shropshire itself and we have easy access to Herefordshire and Powys where there are even more. Several of our favourite gardens we like to visit every year or so, so that we can see how they develop over time and change with the seasons. In this occasional series we shall do just that. I shall be featuring those gardens that we like to keep going back to.

For the first of these we travel down the trunk road southwards, the A49 which will take us through South Shropshire and into the Herefordshire border. It is just a few hundren yards from this road that we find the gardens of Stockton Bury which are described as the “Gardens in the Orchard”. The garden was born in 1900 and has never stopped developing. The present gardener, Raymond Treasure has developed it into rich tapestry of unusual trees, perennials and even a few follies, all wrapped around the old farm buildings.

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It is a garden with a surprise around every corner, and however many times you visit this still happens. A living garden!

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The mixed borders are rich in perennial plants that the wildlife enjoy.

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At any turn in the path you can find a surprise, brightly coloured planting, secret rooms, unusual plants you can’t name,

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Please enjoy this special place by browsing through my gallery of photos. There are probably too many but Stockton Bury is such a photogenic location it becomes hard to edit your shots.

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Our return visit to Stockton Bury was as special as the first we ever made, full of special plants, secrets and surprises and touches of humour.

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The Weir – a riverside spring garden.

We took friends and fellow garden lovers, Pete and Sherlie, to visit a garden just a few miles south of Hereford which we have previously visited in spring, the time when it peaks. We knew our friends would love it too! It is a National Trust garden and is a long and narrow garden because of its riverside position.

As we got out of the car the spring bulbs greeted us and set the scene for the discoveries to come.

 

We followed a path half way up the valley side overlooking the river, and here early flowering bulbs covered the slopes.

    

All visitors including us were amazed by the delicate pale blue flowers of Scilla italica.

A variety of trees and shrubs cast gentle shade over the valley side.

  

Please enjoy the rest of our wanderings along the pathways of this valleyside garden, by looking at my gallery. Just click on the first photo and navigate by using the arrows.

 

It is always a bonus when visiting a garden to find rare and unusual plants. Here at the Weir we enjoyed discovering  Lathraea squamaria, Tooth Wort, (photo on left), a parasite living on the roots of woody plants and spending most of its time underground and Trachystemon orientalis with the unusual common name “Abraham-Isaac-Jacob” (on the right)

 

The finale to our visit was to explore the walled garden which was in the process of being renovated. We looked forward to seeing what progress had been made. As it turned out we soon noticed the restored glasshouse, long herbaceous borders planted up and productive borders were being prepared for sowing by volunteers. The walled garden has a great future ahead of it and visitors to the valleyside will enjoy discovering the walled garden as much as the main valleyside gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Yellow Book Garden: Windsor Cottage

Looking back to a sunny summer’s day!

Off down the A49 trunk road into Herefordshire for another visit to enjoy a fellow NGS, Yellow book garden. Windsor Cottage is near the village of Dilwyn and described as a wildlife friendly half-acre garden which has just completed a 5 year redesign.

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This proved to be garden full of very special plants beautifully grown by a couple of keen, energetic gardeners who were so keen to share their garden with us. They are both artists and their use of colour and planting companions displayed their creative flair.

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In order to share our enjoyment of Windsor Cottage with you I have created this gallery. Please click on the first picture and navigate using the arrows.

So this was a garden of great plants, two great plantspeople and an atmosphere of peacefulness and relaxation.

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Another Yellow Book Garden – Hill House Farm

We love to visit our fellow Yellow Book gardens and then sharing them with you. In this post we will share our visit to Hill House Farm, another Herefordshire garden gem. We visited back in July. We liked the description presented in the NGS book, which enticed us to wander slowly down a long gentle slope through shrub and tree plantings in grass with closer cut paths marking the way down to a wildlife pool 200 feet below. Knowing that the garden had been developing for 40 years already gave added interest, as these gardeners were obviously thinking about and doing things in their garden. All good gardeners will never stop learning!

We love a garden with a warm welcome, inviting paths and steps especially when one flight of steps surrounded by aromatic herbs leads us to a good cup of tea and homemade cakes! Beautifully designed and thoughtfully placed seats help too!

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As soon as we arrived we knew we would enjoy the plants as they seemed to be placed in the best possible places to catch the light to absorb it and increase the intensity of their colours, whether bright or pastel.

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This garden definitely did not disappoint and delivered extras we were not expecting but always enjoy, outdoor sculptural pieces. I have shown a few pieces from different directions and distances to show how well they sit in their garden environment.

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Stone walls, some tall, tough and imposing others tiny, simply visually supporting and complimenting the plants, created a partnership with wide green swathes of grass pathways led our eyes down the garden invitingly – we just had to follow.

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A stream appeared alongside the path we followed downhill and it accompanied us right down to the pool as the planting changed to reflect the damper air and ground. Rambling wild roses and native shrubs added plenty of colour and texture to the hedges.

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The pool edges and margins were still being developed but there were already interesting plant groupings going on.

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This amazing ever-moving glass and metal sculpture hung over the water surface reflecting every moment that a breeze moved the air. I have put 3 pics in so that you can select the one you like best.

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Jude the Undergardener always likes a swing in the garden so this poolside play piece delighted her, hanging as it did below a huge ancient oak.

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Wandering back up the slope slowly afforded us views of the garden slope and the farm bulding in the distance high up.

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And to top it all off this unusual informal garden had a lovely productive garden and the finest views. a great day out indeed!

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A Water Garden around an Old Mill

A while ago now we visited this wonderful water garden created around an old water mill on the outskirts of the beautiful Herefordshire village of Pembridge. We decided it was about time for a return visit and also time to peruse the Old Chapel Galleries in the same village. After spending some time and too much money on new sculptures for the garden we drove a few miles on and parked up in the garden car park under lovely mature trees. We collected our hand drawn plan of the garden and set off to explore the Westonbury Mill Water Gardens. Immediately we were impressed by how fresh everything looked and were drawn to bright patches of colourful planting among the greenery.

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As in any good garden the quality and choice of individual plants is a key factor in making it an enjoyable place to visit. Take a look at these beauties at Westonbury Mill. Being a water garden designed around a series of streams and pools we searched out the water and marsh loving plants first and found many in flower including the following specimens. Irises including varieties of I.ensata, the wild flowerheads of Butomis, the flowering rush and various Primulas including P. florindae and Rodgersias.

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Even though this was a water garden there were plenty more perennials flowering well and catching the attention of visitors.

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Westonbury is well-known for its collection of follies, built by the garden owner for the sheer fun of it and to amuse the visitors, although they can also have a secondary purpose.

We discovered the first just as we approached the garden itself and so we could enjoy it from outside the garden and within. Water rose up a water ladder from the stream beneath to be released into the hands of gravity thus sending water spewing from the mouth of a stone gargoyle.

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Through a structure of willow rather than stone we moved on to discover further eccentric buildings including a glass bottle igloo, towers and shelters.

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To give you an idea of the feel of the garden and the quality of the planting and structure I thought I would finish this post about Westonbury Mill Water Gardens with a selection of broad shots taken as we wandered its many winding paths.

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What a lovely atmospheric garden this is! Full of interest and full of interesting plants and features.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A beautiful wildlife garden in Herefordshire

Today we travelled further than we usually do for our regular visits to NGS gardens and made our way southwards through South Shropshire and down through Herefordshire to a tiny village near Ross-on-Wye. Even the approach to this garden was special as we left the temporary car park in a farmyard and followed a narrow track through a narrow band of woodland down towards the cottage and its garden. The description in the NGS Yellow Book promised a great afternoon out in a quirky cottage garden created for wildlife and managed organically. We were not to be disappointed in any way!

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We found a steep driveway as we left the woodland shade and slowly made our way down it to the cottage below passing floriferous meadows all the way. We were delighted to see orchids in with more common meadow flowers.

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We paid our entry fees and met the gardener who like us loved peaceful gardens full of wildlife especially. As we spoke I noticed this little selection of artifacts found in the garden. It was to set the tone for the day.

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As we slowly ambled along the many meandering softly surfaced paths we kept one eye on the plants and another on the look out for more artifacts and sculptural pieces. We first found this perky looking pig! We found many more varied pieces to amuse, appeal and amaze.

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This was a garden that invited us to wander and explore its many paths, to discover its calm and restful character. It succeeded in doing what we hope our garden does, to make you feel calm and contented. The planting was gentle and brought to mind the writings of William Robinson, especially how he expressed his philosophy of gardening in his book, The Wild Garden.

We shall now take a wander around this lovely gentle garden by following the pics in this gallery. As usual just click on the first picture and use the navigation arrows.

This was such a beautiful garden which welcomed other gardeners and wildlife alike, and was so full of atmosphere. We hope we are able to return one day in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Some Little Churches of Herefordshire – Part 3

The third church in our series exploring the small churches of Herefordshire was one we knew not for its architecture but rather unusually for its unique hedge! We knew of this church because the village, Brampton Bryan, because it is home to a huge used book shop situated in an old barn. It has thousands upon thousands of titles filling so many shelves that cover the walls of many rambling rooms and passage ways. The book barn goes under the name of Aardvark Books and it houses a coffee shop which serves very tasty coffee and cakes. Coffee, cakes and lots of books! How good is that!

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St Barnabus was well hidden among tall Yew trees and secreted away behind a stone wall topped with a wonderfully eccentric wobbly hedge. It curved sinuously around the churchyard and it seemed to us that the volunteer gardener who cut it must have loved this task and the freedom of imagination he put into his work. It was simply stunning! Some of the best “cloud pruning” we have ever seen!

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When we opened the door we were aware of how dark, cold, damp and unwelcoming it felt compared to the other churches we had visited earlier on. There was no sign of community involvement here at all.

But we did find some artifacts to interest us and above our heads we noticed its dark wood “Hammer Beam” structured ceiling.

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We wandered around the outside of the church building to search for points of interest and found a mixed bag of things to interest my camera.

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Before saying our goodbyes to St Barnabus we could not leave without another look at its most interesting feature, the crinkly hedge.

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