Every year, ‘The Women Who Weed’ go off on a garden- visiting jolly. This year our destination was the Cotswolds. This June has been one of the best rose seasons for years and I can’t think of a better place to enjoy it than the Cotswolds. Roses and the wonderful old honey-coloured Cotswold stone walls are a marriage made in heaven. J.P. Priestley wrote about Cotswold stone: “the truth is that it has no colour that can be described. Even when the sun is obscured and the light is cold, these walls are still faintly warm and luminous, as if they knew the trick of keeping the lost sunlight of centuries glimmering about them.” I can’t think of a better description.
Our first port of call was the photographer, Andrew Lawson’s garden which had us ‘oohing’ and ‘ahing’ with delight as it was a perfect marriage of wonderful design and perfect planting. This was the hors d’oeuvre and the next day was dedicated to enjoying the amazing ‘On Form’ biennial sculpture exhibition at Asthall Manor. This is the UK’s largest stone sculpture exhibition which in itself would be a treat, but for a gardener it is the wonderful setting of the grounds of Asthall Manor which is the icing on the cake. This was the home of the famous Mitford family and for those of us who have read the books of Nancy or Jessica, we have abiding images of Farve hunting his children round the grounds, Muv’s faith in the Good Body to heal itself and the Hons Airing Cupboard headquarters. If you haven’t read Nancy’s Pursuit of Love you have a treat in store. Asthall Manor is the fictititious ‘Alconleigh’ and Farve is thinly disguised as the xenophobic Uncle Matthew who thought that ‘abroad is unutterably bloody and foreigners are fiends’ and most of his daughters’ friends were ‘sewers’.
I don’t believe ‘Farve’, Lord Redesdale was a gardener, but the new owners have had the grounds designed by the celebrated garden designers, Julian and Isobel Bannerman who designed Highgrove gardens. They are obviously designed to be at their best in June for the sculpture exhibition. There are so many roses that a rose freak like me was in absolute heaven.
I love the way these two are grown together, an idea I will copy.
The next one is a bit of a mystery. My friend has it in her garden and has never been able to find out its name. We were delighted to find it here, but the head gardener didn’t know its name either. Any ideas? It is a little gem and each frilly flower is a combination of pink, yellow and white.
As there are roses climbing on every wall we asked the gardener how they cared for them. I was intrigued to learn that starting at the beginning of September they go round the walls removing all the leaves and this stops diseased leaves falling on to the ground and causing problems for the following year. This does seem very work intensive and indeed she told us it takes them until the following March to complete the task. But the roses are bursting with health and vitality.
As well as roses climbing the walls, I was taken with this way of training philadelphus.
And I have never seen phygelius growing like this either.
Other planting ideas that took my eye were these frothy peonies growing with astrantias.
The colour of this clematis is the perfect match for the centre of Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’.
And I love the idea of growing frothy Crambe cordifolia which I featured last week as one of my top ten June blooms with Geranium psilostemon.
The garden has so many lovely features. There is a gorgeous courtyard with this amazing little water feature.
I love this box parterre which is on a slope so you can see it properly.
And these stone steps on the side of it going up to the wild flower area.
Wild flowers are a feature as you look across the lovely view towards the Windrush valley.
There are man made- mounds that you can climb on which are a nod to Jencks and his Garden of Cosmic Speculation.
I loved the naturalistic swimming pond.
Even details like this fence hiding the compost heap was something I would love to copy.
The beautiful twelfth century church is right next to the house and some of the sculpture is exhibited there too.
I loved quite a lot of the sculpture and the beautiful garden showed it off to perfection. I couldn’t help thinking that some of the lovely pieces would give my garden rather a classy look. But there was nothing much under £2000. The Pianist is endlessly indulgent about the fact that I am incapable of leaving the house without coming back with plants, but a £2000 bit of sculpture would be pushing his tolerance rather. Besides there were four of us in the car and nobody would fancy sitting with one of these pieces on their knee the whole way home.
By the entrance and our last glimpse of the garden was this magnificent lime tree in full bloom.
Under it there is a message which I rather liked and makes all my descriptions redundant.
‘When one is in the sphere of the beautiful, no explanation is needed.’