Early Autumn Beauty, Abbotsbury Gardens

Some of the beautiful things to be seen at Abbotsbury Gardens, Dorset, this weekend. Feast your eyes.



Dyffryn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan


This garden is almost the perfect mix for me – an excellent botanical garden full of interesting and unusual plants, well-labelled – and a thing of beauty with thoughtful and elegant plant displays laid out in the herbaceous borders and smaller ‘garden rooms’. Something for everyone, indeed.


Being a plant fiend I enjoyed the fernery and the large rockery (at its best in May), as well as the many mature trees. One garden room I stumbled into contained the most glamorous display of colour-co-ordinated annuals and half-hardy plants I’ve ever met with, all set around red-leaved banana plants. I absolutely couldn’t decide which way to look first.


Even so, the highlight for me was the orchid and cactus house (I can never resist a succulent!), and seeing them laid out in a semi-natural setting in this restored glasshouse was a delight. I’d probably still be in there if my family hadn’t dragged me out. Outside, one of the borders was given over to a beautifully-designed summer display of cactus and succulents too – a true labour of love.

This National Trust garden is by no means the largest I’ve visited, but it packs a great deal into the available space without ever seeming cramped, and preserving the long views that are best seen from the house. This is my third visit to Dyffryn and it gets better and better. Highly recommended. For full details see https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dyffryn-gardens



Cerne Abbas Open Gardens, Dorset

Some gorgeous garden scenes from this quintessential English village open day:

IMG_1349Many gardens contained these intricate (and painstaking!) box spheres and cones mixed with a more informal lavender.

IMG_1353A beautiful pool in a cottage garden…

IMG_1320How subtle is this for a use of statuary?



An ancient tree, lavender, simple geometry. What could be more restful?


Lush planting, glorious colours. Just breathtaking.

Netherbury Village Open Gardens

Netherbury is a picture-postcard, roses-round-the-door village in deepest Dorset. It sounds like an invention of Thomas Hardy’s, but I can assure you it’s quite real. Ten of the gardens in and around the village were open to visitors last weekend, and I went along on the Sunday in bright sunshine. Here are some of the sights I was treated to (I won’t name the gardens as they are private):


This tiny, high-walled garden was straight out of the Chelsea Flower show, decorated in unlikely modern tones of black and grey. It was so crammed with visitors that I couldn’t get far enough back to take a general view, and had to be satisfied with this charming little water-feature with moody-purple irises. An absolute delight.



In complete contrast, the prize for the finest exterior view went to this wide-open hilltop garden. Talk about borrowed landscape! The use of tall white foxgloves in the borders was inspired, too, drawing the eye up and outwards.


This garden, set in a little valley, was very much in the cottage style, lots of roses, lots of perennials – and lots of bees. The whole garden was live and humming.


I loved this restful, unfussy walled garden, which had the feel of a woodland walk on its shadier side. The cream tea we had there was pretty good, too!

Sezincote – the Indian Garden


Sezincote House and Persian garden

Just when you think you’ve seen it all in the English countryside along comes a garden like Sezincote in Gloucestershire. As we walked down the lane from the carpark, I turned to look into the valley beside me and caught a tantalising view that made me gasp. ‘Look!’ I said to my husband, ‘Oh, just look!’


The Indian bridge and Snake Pool

Both garden and house, with its extraordinary dome, lovingly incorporate all kinds of Indian and oriental influences. The garden with its Hindu temple and elegant water-garden of pools and cascades, is full of symbolism, as well as many plants from that part of the world.

Built in a sheltered little ravine, you meet water and richly planted rock-gardens, lawns and a wonderful variety of trees and shrubs, all artlessly naturalistic, but obviously created and maintained with much care. Relatively small and intimate, there are lovely vistas, close and distant at every turn. It is supremely peaceful in a way that makes visitors tend to pause in thought and whisper respectfully; a place for meditation. I loved it.IMG_4479.JPG

For more information: http://www.sezincote.co.uk


Pilsdon View and Well Cottage, Dorset

These neighbouring gardens, open together for the National Garden Scheme today were a joy to visit. Set on a steep hillside with magnificent views across the emerald hills of Dorset, it was difficult to know whether to look inwards at the beautiful gardens or outwards to the lovely views.

Pilsdon View


Pink alliums and aquilegias set the colour scheme, supported by Japanese maple and copper beech.


Vibrant reds and greens frame this stunning waterfall.


The garden makes great use of a steeply sloping site.

Well Cottage


Not everyone has a giraffe grazing in the shrubbery…


The fabulous view looks like a painted backdrop, but I promise it’s real.


The sheltered and beautiful front garden.


IMG_8405For full details of gardens open in your area through the National Garden Scheme, see their website: https://www.ngs.org.uk/

Littlebredy Walled Garden, Dorset


The little River Bride runs through the garden

I remarked to my husband that visits to this wonderful little garden ought to be available on prescription – no-one could fail to be soothed and salved by this place. Set on the sunny side of a little valley surrounded by ancient trees and birdsong, and with the little River Bride flowing right through it, this former kitchen-garden – just one acre – is like stepping into a much slower-paced past. The garden is managed by volunteers, its restoration an ongoing project. One day, perhaps, its cold frames and ruined hothouses will look as they once did, but for now the old vinery at the top of the garden is almost lost under a huge wisteria, the past firmly in the grip of the present.

The planting is loose and wild, with drifts of simple hardy geraniums, clambering roses and many scented plants – lavender and lemon balm – still to come through the summer. I was struck by some of the lovely colour contrasts of leaf and flower: here are just a few.


Late tulips look beautiful against red-leaved lysimachia, yet to flower


This geranium (possibly G. versicolor) makes the most subtle contrast with blue forgetmenots


And finally, these alliums (possibly ‘Purple Sensation’. I’m just guessing) make a stunning mix with the feathery young leaves of fennel.


For more information on this garden and the village of Littlebredy see the website: http://www.littlebredy.com/