When it comes to garden tours the gardens of England are iconic. It is the number one past time in England and they have taken gardening to a different level. While we were there, the Hampton Court Flower and Garden Show had two prime time specials on both a Wednesday and Thursday night on their major network. I can’t imagine a garden show getting that kind of coverage here in the states. They LOVE gardening and it shows. All through the countryside you can see gardens.
My friend Linda joked, when we were there before, that all you really needed to make a really good garden was a 500 year old wall and a moat. That may be a bit simplistic but it doesn’t hurt and definitely sets a mood. The architecture alone, in many of the large gardens, is worth the trip. Castles, walls and moats transport you to a different time.
In the few days I have been home, I’ve had time to reflect on what were my favorites. I did love the old buildings dating back hundreds of year and walking trails that went back thousands. Being in a garden where Henry the VIII or numerous Kings and Queens had spent time gave me a sense of history you can’t get here. Seeing the work of the design masters like Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens at Hestercombe gave me an appreciation for their exceptional skills that can stand the test of time. The earlier work of Capability Brown at Stourhead gave me a glimpse into that period of history.
We were fortunate to have well known garden designer, John Brooks give us a tour of his own garden, Denmans Garden. John has been gardening at Denmans for just a short 30 years. It is unlike any other garden in England. He not only relies on flower color but also on foliage form and texture. There were sculptures, well designed pots and seating areas placed to create intimate spaces. His enthusiasm was evident in every turn through the garden.
Great Dixter has to be my favorite. It makes me want to garden. I’ve already talked to Gary about making our borders larger but that’s a story for another day. This was my third trip to Great Dixter and every time I feel the same. The garden just bursts at the seams with color, form and texture. Great Dixter was the home of legendary gardener and garden writer Christopher Lloyd. Christopher had inherited the family home from his father, Nicholas who had built it. The main structure dates to the 1400’s and was moved to this spot. Edwin Lutyens had done some of the design work with Nicholas. Christopher had used the garden as his workshop to experiment with gardening ideas for over 40 years until he passed away a few years ago. What makes me really love it is the passion of head gardener Fergus Garrett. We arrived late afternoon so that we could get a private tour from Fergus. After a brief history it was hard to keep up with Fergus as he rushed from one area of the garden to another explaining his vision and plans. Way too much information too fast. I might have to go back. Fergus had allowed us to stay in the garden after hours to enjoy it without others there. After all that hustle and bustle it became really quiet as people just walked the garden with a glass of wine and appreciating it for what an amazing place it is.
It really is kind of impossible to pick a favorite garden. It all changes over time and place and the energy of the people still there. As always, when I return home I realize my favorite garden is my own. It is the place where I was meant to be.