This well-known and established three-acre garden is starting another chapter with new owners Gareth and Tamla Bowdler for 2015. It’s a traditional garden with stunning rhododendron and laburnum walks, garden rooms including a unique knot garden, specimen trees and an extensive heather garden. Some areas will be undergoing transformation. For children there’s a nature trail and potting area.
Just a couple of miles from the Hampshire market town of Petersfield, and over the Sussex border, South Harting lies below the South Downs. Down Place, owned by Mr and Mrs D M Thistleton-Smith, is a seven-acre hillside chalk garden a mile from the village on the north side of the South Downs with fine views of the surrounding countryside. There are extensive herbaceous, shrub and rose borders on different levels merging into a natural wild flower meadow renowned for its collection of native orchids. At this time of year spring flowers and blossom abound.
Mr and Mrs H Wakefield’s beautiful five-acre garden is famous for its mirror image herbaceous borders. There are carpets of spring bulbs and a large and unusual collection of plants and shrubs giving year-round interest. A one-acre walled garden has prize-winning vegetables, fruit and flowers. The garden is trialling hardy nerine cultivars in association with the Royal Horticultural Society. There’s a small arboretum, a wild flower meadow, a boxwood castle, and a large collection of old fashioned sweet peas. It’s also the home of the nation’s tallest sunflower, ‘Giraffe’.
Two gardens in the centre of this village have combined forces for two openings for the NGS this year. Court House next to the church is a continually evolving, four-acre garden with year-round interest and colour; with extensive and varied spring bulbs, herbaceous borders,a fernery, and a recently redesigned and restored walled kitchen garden. There’s also a rose garden, a newly planted winter garden, a pond area and paddocks which are gradually being established with wild flowers.
A cottage garden, created by the owner, set in two acres of old orchard with original ridge and furrow. At the garden of The Old Chequer there’s an emphasis on spring planting but still maintaining year-round interest, with herbaceous borders, shrubs, a croquet lawn, unusual plants, alpines and dry gravel borders and a kitchen garden with a soft fruit growing area.
This one third of an acre garden owned by Ernie and Brenda Milam is divided into three sections, each with a cottage garden atmosphere in different styles, packed with plants in colour-themed borders, many of them unusual. There are water features, an alpine house and fern walk. Early spring flowers are followed in late April by tulips and honesty lighting up the garden, while in early summer there are hardy geraniums, peonies, oriental poppies alliums and Siberian irises.
A new opening for the National Gardens Scheme this year, Cleave House is just over three miles from Okehampton and is home to Ann and Roger Bowden. They have the national collection of hostas that has been featured on television and in the national press, and visitors can see not only the diversity of these splendid plants but also see how they are complemented by bamboos, ferns and tree ferns, trees and shrubs.
The mainly Elizabethan manor (not open) mentioned in the 17th century for its ‘fair and pleasant’ garden was redesigned by Harold Peto in 1902. Its formal terraces with yew hedges and topiary have fine views over west Dorset. Steps lead down between spring-fed ponds past mature and new plantings of magnolia, rhododendron, maples, cornus and, in season, spring bulbs, cyclamen, giant echium. There are also primula candelabra, arum lily, and gunnera around the lower ponds.
Mike and Jenny Spiller’s one acre plantsman’s garden is in a tranquil country setting, three miles from Wiveliscombe and 12 miles north of Taunton, planted to encourage birds, bees and butterflies. There are island beds, scented plants, clematis, unusual perennials and ornamental trees and shrubs giving year round interest. In spring there are more than 200 varieties of snowdrops, also pulmonarias and hellebores. A living willow screen, stone ex -privy and pigsty complete the rustic scene. Visitors can also see and buy the varied plants in the adjoining nursery.
Another new opening for the NGS this year, Little Cliff, hidden on the outskirts of Lyme Regis is a special garden. Mrs Debbie Bell’s garden faces south overlooking wonderful views across the bay and out to sea. The garden is made up of a series of rooms, starting with abundant herbaceous borders, and a pretty pond at the top. Through a beech hedge the garden takes you past many flowering specimen trees including a beautiful fox glove tree (Paulownia), cornus and flowering cherries. Beyond this is a white garden and a vegetable parterre.