Gardens Worth Visiting – Roger Skipper

Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire

It is always a pleasure to welcome back Roger Skipper, our speaker on the 15th June.  Tonight he presented a slide show of gardens which he considered worth visiting; most of them were within 1-2 hours drive of Biddenham.  Roger described 15 gardens in all, many of us had visited a number of them and our appetite was whetted for those we hadn’t …
Roger started his talk by showing slides of the Old Vicarage at East Ruston, Norfolk. It comprises 32 acres of exotic coastal garden created since 1988 in what was an empty field.  The owners planted a shelter belt of trees around the garden to protect plants from the East coast winds and now successfully grow a range of plants from around the world.  Beth Chatto’s garden, near Colchester is also near the East coast.  In 1960 the site was completely overgrown with brambles, but now has its own micro-climate.  A stream passes through the lower section of the garden and 3 ponds have been created from this.  Beth is, of course, renowned for her dry garden created from what once was the car park. There is a very good nursery here selling plants propagated from those in the garden.  Roger third garden was also on the East coast – in Norfolk.  The Bressingham Gardens near Diss were created by the Bloom family.  Dell garden comprises 6 acres with 50 island beds and the other garden at Foggy Bottom has plants providing all year round interest.

Roger then moved away from the East coast to describe Capel Manor Gardens near Enfield.  The garden is best known for being home to the Horticultural College and it has a number of trial gardens where the students work.  Chippenham Park was our next port of call – situated 5 miles east of Newmarket and with canals dating from the 1690s.  The gardens are only open for a few times during the year.  It really is at its peak in the winter with one of the best displays of snowdrops in the Eastern Region and well worth a visit.  Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire has the added attraction of the castle being open to the public and from which there are spectacular views.  There is a restored nineteenth century rose garden and the country’s tallest yew tree at 95 feet.  Of particular interest are the sculptures and shelters made of old tree trunks.  Roger showed slides and spoke about Coton Manor Gardens – the subject of our previous meeting noted for its 5 acre bluebell wood and excellent nursery.

Kew Gardens is on an altogether different scale, comprising 300 acres and has the largest plant collection in the world with 120 bamboo species and 550 species of grasses. 150 gardeners are needed to maintain this world famous garden.  Saville Gardens at Windsor was visited by members last year so most people were aware of the beauty of  its 35 acres of mainly woodland with camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas all thriving on the acid soil.  Merriments is further afield in East Sussex but well worth a visit.  Built on a 4 acre site in 1991 on a bare clay field it has deep sweeping borders and an excellent nursery area.  The very well known Great Dixter garden is near by.  This garden was created by Nathaniel Lloyd in 1910 who commissioned Edwin Lutyens to design the house.  The work in the garden was continued by his son Christopher Lloyd, a well known garden writer.  The garden is in the Arts and Crafts style and is currently managed by Fergus Garrett who had worked closely with Christopher up until his death in 2006.

The Abbey Gardens at Malmesbury were created in 1995 and now attract thousands of visitors as the gardens have been widely shown on television.  Closer to home the gardens of Woburn Abbey are well worth a visit as is Thenford House, the home of Lord and Lady Hesseltine.  This garden is renowned for is extensive arboretum where over 3,500 different trees and shrubs can be found.  Roger concluded his presentation by showing views of Barnsdale Gardens, near Rutland – well known to many people as it was the garden featured for many years on Gardeners’ World and the home of Geoff Hamilton.

We were pleased to learn that most of the gardens described by Roger had excellent restaurant facilities.  Tomorrow the Gardeners’ Association members will be visiting Helmingham Hall in Suffolk.  There are a few places available for our trip to Broughton Castle, near Banbury, on July 16th.  Please speak to our secretary if you would like to reserve a place.

A selection of photos from Rogers talk:

Our next meeting will be our AGM on July 21st.  Do join us on that evening for a short meeting followed by cheese and wine.

                                                                                                                                     Linda Truscott

New members are always welcome.  For more information about the Association contact Paula Church, Secretary, on 01234 602039See our new website:-
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