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The Dingle Garden in April

We made our April visit to this year’s chosen garden for monthly visits expecting to enjoy all the freshness of early spring. How wrong could we be! The day dawned cold and misty and as we walked around the gravel paths we got more damp with each step as we were walking in a gentle mist. We felt as if we were wandering around the garden on a typical November day definitely not an April day.

Mist hung among the trees and rain droplets hung from buds and branches.

We expected to be able to enjoy early flowering shrubs like rhododendrons and azaleas, but there were just a few as the seasons are still lagging behind. A beautiful bright yellow flowered Berberis really brightened the gloom and an orange flowered variety glowed through the shrubs like beacons. Both of these Berberis added a little welcome scent to the walk.


Some Rhododendrons were flowering well while others still showed tight buds. At this time of year every little flower on the shrubs is so powerful.


We made our way down towards the lake enjoying the misty views out across the water. When we arrived at the bankside we walked the perimeter and all the way we could see the glow of the yellow-flowered Skunk Cabbage growing on the water’s edge.


As we wandered back along the gravel paths we spotted odd flowering perennials and bulbs giving patches of colour in the shade of the shrubs.


We were once again surprised by the lack of changes on this month’s visit, but as with anything to do with Mother Nature there was plenty for us to look at and consider. Perhaps on our next visit, which will be in May, we will experience the presence of spring.

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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A Return to Bryn y Llidiart

We have a selection of favourite gardens that we like to return to whenever we can. These are often newly established gardens which we like to see developing over time or gardens which are good at different times of the year.

Bryn y Llidiart, up in the Welsh Hills not too far from home is a developing garden which is in a spectacular site but a difficult one to garden in. Christine the garden owner is up for the challenge and the garden is full of interest and reflects its positions beautifully. We have seen it develop for a few years now and love every visit.


Close to the house is a colourful area of planting featuring a reflecting pool of corton steel. This patch has lots of interest in a small area and contrasts effectively with the broad views in much of the rest of the garden.


From the intimacy of the reflecting pool garden I will turn my camera on the bigger picture, the wider views of the garden. The situation is described in the NGS Yellow Book with the introduction, “Up the airy mountain you are in for a big surprise! “


One of the special features of the gardens at Bryn y Llidiart is the planting combinations so I shall finish our visit with a selection of how Christine groups her plants to best effect.

We will visit again in the future and share the visit with you on greenbenchramblings.

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Windy Ridge – another Yellow Book Garden

Windy Ridge is a fellow “Yellow Book Garden” in Shropshire and thus like us opens for charity under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme. The gardener owners have been opening their garden for many years more than we have and we have visited several times before. We decided the time was right for a return visit to discover how it has developed over the years. The owners/gardeners are real plantspersons with plenty of knowledge to share and impart related to both plants, garden management and design.

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Windy Ridge is a garden of wandering paths, secret places, surprises around every corner but above all a garden full of plants to stop you in your tracks either because they are so well grown or very unusual.

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There are quality sculptural pieces among the plants for visitors to enjoy beginning with a huge carved tree trunk at the garden entrance.

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Secret pathways which lead the visitor onward and present choices are an important element of a quality garden.

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In our own “Avocet” garden we enjoy raising the canopy of our trees and shrubs to expose interesting bark and trunk shapes and to let in light to allow planting beneath. At Windy Ridge this is performed to perfection and helps give the garden its character. The first photo below shows how this technique even helps Laurel, my most disliked plant! To make it work the gardener must look closely at and listen to the plant before attempting the first cut. If the gardener does this he is more likely to react to the character of each tree and shrub and give it the shaping it deserves and wants.

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We enjoyed and admired the way that the formality of clipped box integrates so well into the softness of the planting.

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Berries enhance the September garden and add even more colour to that provided by flowers. Windy Ridge had colour aplenty!

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If I had to pick out one plant as my favourite at Windy Ridge it would have to be beautiful coloured and scented Clematis, C. odorata, a plant left to ramble unpruned to great effect. It is a Clematis we have been seeking for our own patch for many years so seeing and smelling it here has renewed our determination to add it to our huge clematis collection already climbing and clambering in our Avocet garden.


Hydrangeas were well in bloom when we visited and the sheer variety of colours was to be admired.

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The highlight for many visitors is the large garden pond with wonderful marginal planting, a decked area with white ironwork seats and a narrow pathway behind it for the visitor to explore. We had a great afternoon returning to the garden at Windy Ridge and found it as inspiring as always. We were pleased to note that it had received an award in a national garden competition.

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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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Winterbourne House Gardens – a city garden

You don’t very often find yourself travelling into the centre of a major city to find a beautiful garden but that is exactly what we had to do to find a garden that had been on our bucket list for years, Winterbourne House Gardens. We travelled along three motorways, the M54, the M6 and finally the A38M into Birmingham until we found the street we were looking for and just 600 yards down there we found the entrance to the garden. Putting up with the motorway journey and the city traffic was soon lost from our minds as the entrance was so welcoming and we knew we were in for a wonderful day.

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Obviously we started our visit by obeying the sign above! The only downside of a visit to this garden is the tearoom being much too small for a wet and cold day. But the garden itself was a beauty with views, pathways and archways to invite us to explore further.

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A botanical garden though is all about special plants and the way they are grown together. There were plenty for us to study at Winterbourne and to help take our minds off the dull skies and increasing threat of heavy showers.

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Little features that draw the eye added extra points of interest to our wanderings.

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An unexpected treat was found as we took a path through woodland, a shaded walk alongside a large lake. The light was very special there. Looking out over the lake we could see the skyscrapers of the city. This was the only time we were aware of our city centre location during our wanderings.

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After enjoying our lakeside promenade we followed the winding path through the water gardens where the giant leaves of Gunneras and Dalmeras dominated and the wide ranging colours of Primulas added interest to the greens.

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We love to see sculpture in gardens so were delighted to spot these beautiful slate pieces  inviting us to read their words. We were amazed to discover that one piece was based on a clock – beautiful!

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So we discovered another garden that we enjoyed so much that we have added it to our favourite list. A great garden in a great city.

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Yellow Book Gardens – 3 – Brobury House Gardens

For our third Yellow Book Garden visit we found another garden set in our neighbouring county of Herefordshire, so we drove down through the beautiful countryside of South Shropshire and North Herefordshire. It was a sunny day with a sparkling blue sky. Brobury House Gardens are open for much of the year but on the day of our visit they were open for the NGS Yellow Book Scheme. Their website was enticing so we arrived with high expectations. The garden was situated alongside the River Wye so we were looking forward to views of the Wye, probably the most picturesque river in England.

We began as usual with coffee and cake which was served in a beautiful conservatory with seating in and out. The view we enjoyed as we sat enjoying our refreshments increased our expectations. We were given a beautiful plan of the garden with some details of the garden and from this we learned that the garden was being redesigned and a lot of replanting had taken place.

As we approached the conservatory we spotted this beautiful blue Clematis and a nice barrow of plants for sale. From the conservatory we admired this beautiful, gnarled Mulberry tree reputed to have been planted by the naturalist and diarist the Rev Francis Kilvert. Close by, yellow tulips lit up the borders.

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Among the tulips we were pleased to see a Drimys showing its delicately scented yellow flowers. We have a couple of these evergreens in our Avocet garden but we have rarely seen them elsewhere.

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From the pond, in the section of garden inspired by Lutyens, we got a wonderful view back to the house.

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After the formality of the Lutyens styled garden we wandered down to the strongly contrasting stream and informal pools. Close by was a stand of mature white stemmed Birches, which glowed on this sunny afternoon.

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As we followed the narrow stream of clear water we found a border of Hellebores under the shade of tall native deciduous trees. The stars of this border were the Hellebores with flowers the colour of Primroses.

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The stream continued its short journey to the River Wye through beautifully planted bog gardens.

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As we left the boggy areas we found a stand of Weeping Silver Pears covered in white blossom.

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The stream beyond the boggy areas became narrower as it passed through sloping meadowland. Here our native Snakeshead Fritillaries graced its banks and among the purple flowers we discovered this white beauty with thin green lines on the outside of its petals.

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Behind the coach house the walled kitchen garden has been renovated and redesigned. It still has peaches growing on the walls and the greenhouse range has been beautifully restored.

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We were drawn by the varieties of Tulips in flower in this area, especially this stunning lily flowered orange bloom.

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We had one border still to see, a long border against the wall below the house. Spring bulbs featured strongly here so it was a very colourful border.

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And naturally we had a coffee before we made the journey home, this time we sat outside on the terrace as the weather had improved throughout our exploration of this interesting garden and the chill wind had lessened. We shall certainly recommend this garden to our friends.

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Yellow Book Gardens 2 – Radnor Cottage

Our second visit to an NGS Yellow Book garden for 2015 was just a few days after the first of the year to Bury Court Farmhouse, and was to a garden in South Shropshire near to the village of Clun.

Radnor Cottage sits on a steep hillside with broad views over the countryside. We visited on a bright sunny day with temperatures in the upper teens and this surprising Spring weather brought out lots of garden visitors.

We hadn’t been to Radnor Cottage for many years so really couldn’t remember what to expect. The garden owners described it as a semi-wild woodland garden so the plants of this season looked good in their setting. As we walked slowly up the steep gravel driveway we spotted wetland areas to our right and a mini-arboretum to our left, but we passed these by in search of the sign indicating “TEAS”.

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While fetching the teas I spotted this bright yellow leaved Berberis which we were pleased to see looked so fresh and lively as we have just planted one in our front garden in the Hot Garden. We enjoyed our tea and cake sat among a vast array of containers planted up with Sempervivums and other cushion alpines.

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I have a soft spot for Celandines so I just had to stop for a close look at this double form.

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We began our tour of the garden meandering up a steep slope with typical Spring planting among the close cut grass. We liked the juxtaposition of the formal box balls and the gentle naturalistic planting on the grassed bank. William Robinson would have enjoyed this garden! Species Tulips, Anemones, Muscari and other spring bulbs were to be discovered from the narrow gravel paths.

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We found a little veggie patch hidden behind a beech hedge.

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We then moved back down the drive to explore the wet area with a series of pools beneath old trees. Banks of daffodils flanked the grass paths. These grass paths appeared as we rounded corners presenting a choice of ways to go each time.

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Leaving the wetland we crossed the gravel drive and entered the mini-arboretum. Buds were bursting and bark glowing in the sunshine.

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Apart from the fact that it was on a steeply sloping hillside, we could not remember the garden at Radnor Cottage at all, so it was just as if we were visiting it for the first time.

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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.






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Renovating the Rill Garden

Our Rill Garden was beginning to look a little jaded, mostly due to the edging paving sinking and coming loose. In places the level of the edging was uneven and sloping randomly. We decided it needed a revamp. The first job was to take the old edging paving up and clean off the old concrete. It took no time to get up the edging but it took a long time to chip off all the old concrete and chip off each bit until the back of the slabs were clean enough to re-lay.

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“Matilda”, our sculptured figure admires our handiwork. She looks satisfied with how we have cleaned up the slabs.

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We had to get the plants up so we lifted them pots and all into some of our plastic garden trugs. They need dividing so this proved to be a good opportunity.

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After a few days we had relaid the slabs, all perfectly level and even looking, but we did discover a problem for when we put the pump back in which provides a gentle movement to the surface of the water in the rill, it failed to work so this will need replacing.

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So, let us have a look at our Rill Garden now it has been re-vitalised.

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