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Biddulph Grange – a fantasy garden

Biddulph Grange north of Stoke-on-Trent, is a garden we re-visited this week after decades. We remembered it to be a garden created by the imaginative Mr Bateman who made a garden of several different rooms. Egypt, China, the Dahlia Walk, The Stumpery and two avenues one featuring Lime trees the other Western Red Cedar. This time we visited the gardens with our friend Pam who we know from college 40 years ago. So we were catching up a friend and a garden!

Please come with us for a wander round by following my gallery. Just click on the first photo and then navigate using the arrows.


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John’s Garden – Ashwood Nurseries.

We have wanted to visit John’s Garden for a long time but have never been able to attend on any of his open days, so when we noticed that a private visit was planned for the Shropshire Group of the Hardy Plant Society we were determined to go along. It is always worth going on these garden visits which give the chance to share the experience with your friends and also share their joint expertise and interest.

John Massey is well known for breeding his own strains of Hellebores and more recently Hepaticas too. He is also an excellent speaker and he has spoken to our Shropshire HPS group several times.

As we wandered down the drive to his bungalow we stopped to admire this imaginatively clipped hedge like billowing clouds. Opposite this was a lawned area with a small collection of interesting trees and some crazy sheep sculptures grazing the grass.

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As we entered the main garden there was more smart pruning deserving a closer look, including this Pyrus salicifolia shaped into an umbrella.

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Let us take a quick look at a few photos of garden vistas, views which tempted us onwards.

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Sculpture featured strongly in John’s garden and here is a selection for you to enjoy.

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Some well-chosen and carefully placed sculptures adorned the area around a beautiful pool. The planting was intriguing too and called out for closer examination.

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A second much smaller water feature was surrounded by a collection of beautiful plants. The little fountain raised the water just a few inches before it dropped back creating gentle ripples and a relaxing sound.


The area of garden around the back of the house was partly covered with a large pergola over paved areas. Imaginatively planted containers and plenty of seats made this a restful area inviting the visitor to sit and relax to enjoy the succulents and alpines. From the paved area a lawned areas sloped gently down to the canal, a lovely feature acting as the boundary to a garden.

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John and his garden team seem very good at putting plants together especially using foliage as the link pulling the design together.

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As in any good garden however good plant combinations and plant communities are, there are always individual specimens that draw the visiting gardener in for a closer look.

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We really enjoyed our leisurely walk around John’s Garden particularly  as we were accompanied by John himself, who was such a generous, knowledgeable and humorous guide. We were lucky to share this garden with the owner and chief gardener.

But I shall leave you with two surprises we had during our journey, a totally unexpected border, a newly built stumpery and a lovely close-up view of a frog on top of a topiary sphere!

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Broughton Grange – a walled garden plus.

Back to Oxfordshire and this time we shall share  a wander around a most wonderful and varied garden which we were privileged to visit recently. The gardens at Broughton Grange are only open a few days a year in support of charities and we visited on a weekend when it was open under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme, The Yellow Book.

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We arrived not long after it opened and approached across a traditional wild flower meadow through which was cut a vehicle width track. Without thinking we drove slowly across the grass, the fact that we were taking a mechanical monster over something so delicate and special made us move as gently as possible.

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Although there is plenty to see here we had to immediately make for the walled garden which had been designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. I was so keen to explore this garden that I even did without my pre-explore coffee! I was glad I did!

The design had a strong structure beneath it, both of hard landscaping and natural frameworks, which provided a network into which the plants could grow, softening the hard surfaces as they did so.

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The planting scheme here had a wonderful coherence which allowed your eye to move slowly across  a delicate colour palette but sometimes individual plants stood out from the crowd and demanded a closer second look. Luckily for us there were lots of access pathways so we could delve into the borders to enjoy a close look at specials that caught our eyes.

First a few shots of borders………….

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………… and now for some of the glittering stars!

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Foliage played an important role here too, with leaf texture, shape and colour adding further interest to the plantings.

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We spotted this little cameo as we were leaving the walled garden to explore the outer grounds. A piece of accidental garden sculpture?

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Outside the walled garden many acres awaited discovery by Mr and Mrs Greenbench. Woodland, a new arboretum, meadows and features such as this Laburnum arch – sunglasses were essential if you wished to pass through it!

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Nearby a new patch of woodland featured many native trees plus a select few non-natives, such as lilacs with rich fruity scent that filled the air all through the neighbouring trees.

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We wandered through an interesting garden in front of the house itself on our way to the arboretum. Here little meadows full of airy wild flowers and native grasses moving gently in the summer breeze bordered a parterre with bright blue obelisks as highlights.

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As we left the old woodland to enter the newly planted arboretum we discovered a stumpery. We have a soft spot for stumperies and this was an interesting one as it was designed and laid out to form a welcoming funnel between the two sections of garden. From the woodland side the stumps build up to form a gateway.

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So in my follow-up post about this wonderful garden I shall begin with the stumpery.