architecture garden design garden designers garden photography garden ponds garden pools gardening gardens grasses hardy perennials meadows National Garden Scheme NGS ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs outdoor sculpture reflections sculpture Tom Stuart-Smith trees Uncategorized walled gardens water garden water in the garden Yellow Book Gardens

Cogshall Grange – a Cheshire garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith

Sometimes when you find a garden in the National Garden Scheme’s Yellow Book, you just know it is going to be a special place. Such was the case with the gardens at Cogshall Grange in Cheshire. The description in the book was so inviting and the reality matched it perfectly. It had been designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, one of our favourite garden designers and featured both formal and informal elements, woodland borders, a walled garden, modern herbaceous planting, wildflower meadows and an orchard, all set in the grounds of a Georgian country house.

Jude and I traveled up to Cheshire with friends Pete and Sherlie who also love the work of Tom S-S, so we all arrived full of anticipation.

As we moved from room to room in the garden discovering each feature the atmosphere and mood changed and we were constantly presented with fresh perspectives. This garden was a true garden experience.

We were really looking forward to seeing inside the walled garden which was where the influence of Tom Stuart-Smith was clearly to be seen, but of course we started with coffee and cake to get us in the mood. We discovered and enjoyed interesting small areas of planting as we made our way towards the walled garden, a delicately planted container, some beautifully pruned box and some varied, well chosen plant combinations.

Just as the garden was a careful amalgam of traditional parkland and modern perennial planting so the country house was a combination of old and modern architecture.


The walled garden was where the influence of Tom S-S could be seen and felt most strongly, with his very personal planting style and choice of plants mostly hardy perennials. The atmosphere was so gentle and calming. There was so much to photograph within its walls that the only way to do it any justice at all is through a gallery for you to peruse at your own pace. Please as usual click on the first shot and navigate using the arrows. I hope you can identify the very special feeling of this space.

We left the walled garden via a gateway which led us into gentle meadows of wildflower planting.

Walking back to the car to begin our homeward journey, we continued to make discoveries, some grassland had been cut to contrast with the longer uncut areas which were dotted with sculpture such as this beautiful stone seat.

   This beautiful garden excelled!

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Oh we do like to be beside the seaside! – Burnham-on-Sea

We do love to be beside the seaside, beside the sea, as followers of my blog have probably realised already. Is is great when we discover another seaside town as we did recently on a visit to countryside along the Somerset and Devon border. We were looking at a few gardens down there and fancied some time beside the sea so made our way to Burnham-on-Sea to see what we would find there.

We are always delighted and excited if we learn that the seaside town we are visiting has a pier so Burnham was onto a winner where we were concerned. We also like to see a sense of humour wherever we go and to see B-on-S boasting that it has the smallest pier in the UK rather than the more usual longest, oldest etc. So that was our first port of call, off in search of the tiny pier. We soon spotted its white roof glaring in the sunshine in strong contrast to the deep blue sky.

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Walking along the promenade we could look down onto the beach to sea what the sandy beach lovers were getting up to. As usual people at the seaside become creative as they discover their creative streak even if it is for just one day.

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Play leaders were busy providing entertainment for families of young children with games all things pirate and even had a pirate ship mock up on the sands. The ice cream man realised the potential business opportunity of parking on the sand nearby.

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Come for a walk along the promenade with us now and see what was happening through the lens of my trusty Nikon.

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We walked back along the sands rather than retracing our steps along the prom. This gave a very different perspective and afforded the opportunity to take a close look at the sand and the patterns in it.

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The most amazing and surprising discovery on the sands was the colourful wooden lighthouse. In my next post I will share my photos of this incredible construction. Burnham-on-Sea was a surprising place and provided us with a most enjoyable day out with added surprises!

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The Dorothy Clive Garden – Autumnal Super Sky!

Sometimes something happens that will remain with you for ever, a fleeting moment when Mother Nature shouts out, “Hey! Look at me! Check this out!”. She puts on a great show which disappears as quickly and silently as it appeared a short few moments previously.

While following one of our slow monthly ramblings around the Dorothy Clive Garden looking at what the garden had to offer especially for this month, we were, to say the least, waylaid by the weather.

As we walked slowly down the sloping path to the lower garden and the pool, we photographed the birches, trunks pale against the deep evergreen conifers behind them.

We looked over the hedge, the garden boundary, out and across to the countryside beyond. We saw that the light was changing rapidly and dramatically lighting up the countryside. A darkness crept over the approaching clouds which became the darkest blue-grey possible. Combined with the bright shafts of low November sunlight we were suddenly surrounded by the strangest weather we could ever remember.

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The birches against their dark backgrounds lit up further. In a matter of seconds it was all magic surrounding us. The first two pics are the first pair prior to the light change, and the following three illustrate the changes those few moments in time produced.

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Just look at the subtle changes in these three photos below taken just seconds apart. Look at the light on each tree and the reflection!

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We will now share the changing scenes of a fleeting moment in time with you via a gallery of photos shown in the order I took them. Enjoy.


Things began to calm down as a dark cloud took over the sky once again and we enjoyed a final view from this lovely garden bench. It is strange to think that this this beautiful short passage of time which changed our view of trees and the garden in general will never be seen again. An unforgettable experience and an unrepeatable performance!

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What a special moment, a moment we will never forget. In the short time this special lighting was putting on its special personalised show for us we were so excited and couldn’t stop pointing out special moments to share.

In my next post I will share the rest of our November visit to the Dorothy Clive Garden.



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Take one little border.

This post will look at a small border in a Gloucestershire garden in a village at the bottom of Bredon Hill. It is a lovely garden, well designed and well cared with a calming atmosphere throughout. The gardeners and owners of the garden are my sister, Penny and her husband, Tony.

This little border in the front patch is a quarter circle in shape and covers only a couple of square metres but the choice of planting partners and artifacts together create a beautiful balanced feel.

The first photo covers the whole border in one shot which gives an indication of its size. The gravel mulch acts as a foil to enrich the colour palette, the bronzes, silvers and bronzes of the grasses and the rubies and purples of the sedums and diascias. The grasses also move and rustle in the lightest of breezes.


Diascia personata and Sedum Purple Emperor compliment each other beautifully.

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Silken heads of soft grasses catch every iota of light and absorbs it to put themselves in the spotlights.

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Well chosen sculptural pieces crafted in suitable materials enhance the plants rather than detract from them. The rust of the corten steel is the perfect material both its colour and texture which allow them to sit beautifully with the silky heads of the grasses flowing past them.

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Clear water with a flat reflective surface borrows the colour of the sky and adds it to the composition. The simple contrast of foliage shape and structure of the plants in the bed works beautifully because of the limited number of different plants used.

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To see the rest of the garden just check back on my post published in August 2013 called “A village garden with a difference,”


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Post 500 – Part Two – a further visit to the “Oudolf Field”

As promised I am returning to the beautiful county of Somerset where Jude and I spent a day exploring the exciting new “Oudolf Field” and the gallery buildings at the Hauser and Wirth’s Durslade Farm.

We left off as we were looking at the pool and giant clock. This is the first time we have seen any water designed into an Oudolf designed garden and indeed the first one to include a giant clock. The pool afforded clear reflections of the trees surrounding the site and was only planted around the margin closest to the buildings to give the maximum area of reflecting water.

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The tall clock towers over the pool and its white face stands out against the brightness of the blue sky. I would imagine it would look great against black clouds too! It casts a beautiful lollipop shadow across the golden gravel. Its face looks like a big circular disc but it is in reality asymmetric in design, which causes the minute hand to move out into clear air as it moves into the narrow side.

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Although the planting is lower than in his previous gardens Piet Oudolf still uses many of his favourite plants such as Sanguisorbas, Echinaceas, Verbenas and Heleniums.

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We had a break for coffee and to look around the galleries before wandering the gardens again as the sun dropped slowly in the sky and the light gave the meadows a fresh look.

We were enthralled by a gallery where a display of Oudolf’s garden designs helps reveal how this garden designer’s mind works. We loved the designs and working drawings and “idea jottings” of this garden here in Somerset as well as those from the New York High Line and the Wisley Garden.

Moving from gallery to gallery each courtyard space is softened by more of Oudolf’s plantings, featuring trees underplanted with grasses and perennials. The sculptural pieces sit comfortably among the old farm buildings with their richly textured surfaces.

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Enjoy the gallery of photos taken in the sparkling late afternoon light. It is amazing how different plantings can look as the light changes within just a few hours at this time of year.

The next post in my 500 Celebration series will find us over in Hertfordshire where Tom Stuart-Smith lives. We had the privilege of visiting his own garden and the one he designed for his sister.






colours garden design garden designers garden furniture garden photography garden ponds garden pools garden seating gardening gardens gardens open to the public grasses hardy perennials meadows ornamental grasses Piet Oudolf reflections Tom Stuart-Smith water in the garden

Post 500! A look at two garden designers.

To celebrate reaching 500 posts in my Greenbenchramblings adventures I thought I would create a week of posts about my favourite garden designers, Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith. I have featured examples of their gardens several times already but these are special gardens. The Piet Oudolf garden here is his latest creation in Somerset and the Tom Stuart-Smith gardens are his own garden and the one he designed for his sister who lives just yards away.

The garden, called the Oudolf Field sits within the grounds of the Hauser and Wirth Gallery in the Somerset village of Bruton. This 1.5 acre garden was only planted this year so we visited in its very early stages. The garden is better described as a perennial meadow than his usual tall prairie. The plants are generally shorter so that more of each border and the garden as a whole can be seen at one go. The meadow is designed to feel soft and loose and the style is reflected in smaller gardens all around the farm buildings. Unusually for his gardens he has included a pool here.

So let’s start on our tour beginning as we leave the restaurant in the old renovated farm buildings. A grassed area with widely spaced trees contains unusual seats in which to relax and view the garden, sit and enjoy a coffee or read a book. These “Eye Benches” are made from black Zimbabwe granite.

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The meadow style borders themselves contain over 26 000 plants and winding paths invite the visitor to view each border from all different angles. Unusually for Oudolf he has designed most of the planting to be low enough to look over it and view most of the garden. Jude the Undergardener is unconvinced by this as it all seemed so low and I have to agree to an extent. I much prefer his taller plantings but time will tell. After all this garden is just a few months old.

Come for a wander and see the “field” through the lens of my camera. Just click on a shot and follow the arrows to navigate.

A giant clock is visible from every part of the garden. It towers over the pool. I shall continue my tour of Oudolf’s new garden and the buildings that it adorns in the next part of this 500 post celebration week.

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Are You Sitting Comfortably? Part 2 – the second in a very occasional series.

This is the second and “very long time coming” post in my series about garden seating in all its guises. Please just enjoy the photos and let your imagination get to work wondering what it would be like sitting on each and every seat. At the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show we found a good assortment.

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A chair can be somewhere to watch the rain watering the grass or somewhere to seek outat the end of a mosaic pathway.

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Jude the Undergardener prefers them to relax on and if possible have a cup of tea and a good chat with friends.

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Some seats simply look too elegant to be sat upon and prefer to be admired.

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Many garden seats are under arches or inside domes of trees. This one is on our allotments in our new “Garden of Contemplation” and the arch over it is created from old iron hurdles.

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Gardeners like to train trees over seats sometimes to give natural shade to the resting



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Wood is probably the commonest material we build our garden seating out of, sometimes these are good to look at but less comfortable to sit upon, others look good and are comfortable too.

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This carved stone seat is definitely better to look at than to sit on.

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Many gardens are keen recyclers too so their seats tend to blend happily into their natural surroundings.

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For the final garden seat in this second selection we shall stay with the theme of recycling. How about a sunken garden where you can sit down and feel the coolness of the earth. You can see how much the creator enjoyed making this unusual piece of garden furniture.

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So there we have it, my second set of photos of garden seats, some cheap some expensive, some expensive and some home made and recycled. I shall be off now to find more seats to sit on in the gardens we visit, in readiness for the next garden seats post.You can never tell with this series you may have to wait months again or it may just be next week – who can tell?

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A Canalside Walk in the City Centre

A canalside walk in the city centre! It just has to be Birmingham. You may remember a recent post about the new library in the great city of Birmingham. To those of us who live in the centre of the UK and not in the South and who know the city well, then it is obvious that Birmingham should be the Capital of England and not London. Being in the middle of the country it could represent the whole nation properly without the dreadful North-south divide that having the capital in the south has created.

The first photo is a self portrait and also sets the scene. The following batch illustrates the quality of light available for me to use that day. All the photos were taken on my Galaxy Phone’s camera – great little camera to use on the streets when you don’t want to be noticed. People remain at ease if you have a phone in your hand rather than a camera.

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The new library proved what a vibrant, forward thinking city Birmingham is. This post will feature a part of the city’s past that has been brought back to life. Its canals. Here small business thrive, cafes and bars are full of life and people just wander looking contented.

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We soon discovered that there is such an array of buildings of all shapes, sizes, functions and ages to be viewed from the canal towpath.

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It was hard to imagine as we walked the towpaths that this thin strip of water was a hub of transport a few centuries ago, the equivalent of the clogged M6 motorway we had traveled on to get to it. This little tug barge was one of the few signs of the canal’s previous importance.

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Our usual coffee break was taken within the comfort of one the National Convention Centre cafes. One of our favourite concert venues, the Symphony Hall is integrated with this building. There are some wonderful features here both inside and out.

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As we progressed around our canal-side ramble we got occasional glimpses of the New Library. Can you spot it in the picture below?

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No canal wandering can be complete though without a few reflections to enjoy, and not forgetting a nice old curvy bridge!

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I keep trying to get a good picture of shadows created by benches and am never very pleased with the results. The one below I was actually quite pleased with. I then finish off with a pic of patterns found beneath our feet and my favourite photo of the day, the glass globe against a filigree of delicate branches.

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Our First Woodland Walk of the Autumn – Part Three

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We begin part three just as we draw close to the lake itself. The trees dripped with more moss and the fungi seemed to get more colourful.

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We reached the lakeside where we found the calm surface created the clearest of reflections.

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Our return journey along the woodland path afforded us glimpses of the hills that surround the lake and its wooded fringes.

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So our memories of this lovely woodland walk have helped us escape the wild, wet and windy days of January. Now we can look forward to a warmer and brighter spring leading to an even warmer and even brighter summer!

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Our First Woodland Walk of Autumn – Part Two

Back to Vyrnwy the woodland nature reserve of the RSPB based around a huge reservoir, where we continue our walk enjoying the sights, scents and sounds of an autumn wood.

We moved on to where the path turns a corner and we cross a tiny stream over a wooden bridge. Today the bridge looked very different. Each side was covered in a growth of ginger brown fungi. We were literally stopped in our tracks in amazement! We had never before seen such a sight and probably never will again.

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In the close vicinity the atmosphere was so humid that you could feel the dampness in the air. Moss enjoyed the sauna-like conditions and grew on tree trunks. The trunks dripped with the moss, making them look like little green figures beneath the trees. We continued to find a variety of fungi some of which grew high off the ground. One in particular looked as if a frisbee had been thrown so fiercely that it had dug deep into the tree trunk.

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The humidity here, partnered with the bright light creeping through the branches, made the shades of greens and brown glow richly.

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The air got damper and the shafts of sunlight lower as we passed this old moss-covered stone wall and reached the lake. We shall find the lake in the third and final part of my First Woodland Walk of Autumn – Part Three.