Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Seventeen Gardens and the promise of a cream tea - Netherbury Open Gardens


Netherbury is a Blytonesque, picture-book village secreted away in a small Dorset valley - a charming church sits atop one end of the village, a stream winds it's way through the middle and the beautiful old houses are the sort you always wish you lived in until you realise how pokey, dark and musty the rooms may be inside. Perhaps that's why they make their gardens so entrancing so they can spend all their time outdoors.  Netherbury Open Gardens weekend has been a tradition since 1963 but I doubt that any year had such a perfect sunny day preceded by months of weather unusual enough to produce a sudden and intense bloom of just everything!

There are seventeen gardens of varying different sizes to view, in and around the village.  I am already thinking that sampling seventeen cakes may be just a teensy bit too much even for the Socks - but heck! we'll give it a go, it's for a good cause!

So let's start at the very beginning - it's what Julie Andrew's would have wanted.

(Clicking on any picture should take you to a slide show of them, the time of day wasn't best light  for photography but I think they are still worth a glance.)

Garden no. 1. - nice house, big lawn (personally, I'm not big on lawns),

great pond

and then this

mmmmmmm..... homemade scones with jam and cream.. isn't your mouth just watering! For some reason we decide to be sensible, there are lots of gardens and not a lot of time and it is too early to be stuffing our faces.  We entreat the owner to save us some scones which we will devour when we return for the car which is parked in their field. 

So with the promise of cream tea to look forward to we move on to Garden no. 2.  This is just gorgeous - a mill house set atop the stream surrounded by the most delightful gardens.

Luscious plantings around the stream, a smart veg plot, an attractive courtyard garden (with a terracotta pot of grass which for some reason I find quite out of place and jarring and have an urge to photoshop it out!)..

 a dreamy cottage garden with everything flowering vivaciously as if the plants knew this was their weekend in the spotlight!

An orchard and then a millstream to die for...

It struck me that when we visited Monet's garden a few years ago the walled garden itself was disappointing - we were between seasons and everything had gone over.  The lilyponds themselves were as lovely as expected - although too full of tourists queueing for 'the photoshot' to be really calming.  Here, there is all the beauty without the hype and without the crowds.  We felt fulfilled.  This was the Bedsock's favourite of the gardens.

Time is rushing on - we realise that Netherbury Open Gardens is at least a two-afternoon job - there is no way we will make all seventeen gardens.  In fact the £5.00 ticket gives you entrance to the gardens over the weekend and we could easily have spent half the afternoon in this garden alone!

On to Garden no. 3. a 200 yard walk down a shady, cool, lane - I'm rather hoping there will be refreshments at the end of it as I'm starting to tire. But OH NO! No refreshments and this!

I'd be interested to know your views on this.  I know what the Bedsock thinks because he took the opportunity to have a 20 minute rant about the wrongs of it.

I must say I was disappointed - for me part of the pleasure is taking photos not just to share on my blog but to jog my memory about plants and planting combinations I like, and there were a few of those in this garden.  The helpers on the gate were apologetic and polite about not taking photos telling us that the owners had got fed up with people taking pictures of the house.  I can see their point but was torn between being happy to admire their garden and disgruntled that I couldn't record my visit. And let's face it - if you are anything like me, when visiting an Open Garden having a quick snout at the house that goes with it is part of the fun! In the past I tried to arrange a group visit to some well known gardens which opened to the public and had just been filmed for GW. On being told we would not be allowed to take photographs I cancelled the outing as it seemed ridiculous that they would allow a camera crew in but not a small group with cameras.  In the case of village gardens which are usually private, I guess you just have to feel it is kind enough of them to open at all and entirely up to them what rules they impose - but I wouldn't have used up our time and energy walking on to this garden had I known.

Back to the village centre, past the garden selling plants which I don't have time to stop and buy and on to Garden no. 4. and REFRESHMENTS!  Not just any old refreshments but Buck's Fizz and wine - how very, very civilized. Two Buck's Fizz later and a wander around the rather nicely laid out central village garden and I was feeling back on track with the day!

By now we have been told that THE garden not to miss is the Old Rectory towards the top of the village, unsurprisingly near the church. You could have done a lot worse than be a Rector in Ye olden days - they always seem to have lovely, large houses!

We have saved the best til last but now so little time to do it in, this seems to be the Open Garden equivalent of speed dating! The garden could easily extend hours of interest, so many places to sit and just absorb the beauty of it.  I feel swept away - it is absolutely magical.

A sublime mix of formal design and happenstance,  the pristine finely cut topiary sitting alongside,  loose blowsy wildflowers, all morphing gradually into the countryside. 

@Powersflowers tweeted in response to the picture below "I love the mix of formal and wild: topiary yews marching down for a drink of water". This summed up exactly how I felt - the yews moving fractionally closer to their watering hole every time your back was turned - like the 'blink' monsters from  Dr. Who.

It felt like a setting for Labyrinth, or a stage for Alice in Wonderland where some things are slightly strange or unexpected and there is an adventure around every corner and plenty of places to sit and absorb the view..

 A lichen covered bench with a little marguerite peeping through the aged slats

 An avenue with late tulips brightening the shade

I loved the transition from controlled to uncontrolled throughout the garden.

I had extreme tree envy for this dreamy specimen

We spend as much time as we can afford here - already having given up on half of the gardens which will have to wait for another year.  Just leaving time to duck in and out of two smaller gardens which, had I seen them earlier in the day I would have been more excited by.  Another quick buck's fizz (purely to quench my thirst you understand) before they close up the refreshment stand and take down the rather good bunting.  Whilst I am quaffing that, the Bedsock wanders back to Garden 1 to retrieve the car - much too late for the promised cream tea.

As we drive out of the village we notice a garden, 2 Pyes Plot,  is still open and stop and dash very quickly into the smallest garden on show..

A courtyard dressed for al fresco dinner, full of charming and clever details a different and lovely end to our day.

We drove home happy and our hearts filled with pleasure squeezing out any little drop of sadness that we hadn't managed to see them all and that the promised cream scones were but a distant memory.


NB: The Mill House, The Old Rectory and 2 Pyes Plot are open as part of the NGS Gardens on various dates throughout the year.  Check out the website here.  If you can visit for the Netherbury OPen Gardens next year it is well worth making a weekend of it.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Marvellous Minterne


It's the end of May and the first warm day in weeks I can't let the sun slip through my grasp, I need some colour, some warmth, some air, some garden. I'm off to Minterne a newly opened gardens in Dorset - you can come too, if you want. I'll put the top-down on the Sockmobile and we'll play Steely Dan loudly and sing along as we pootle down the lanes.

Are you reelin' in the years
Stowin' away the time
Are you gatherin' up the tears
Have you had enough of mine 
The hedgerows are festooned with wildflowers, red campion and bluebells in the prettiest combination of pink and blue

the earthy, nostalgic smell of bluebells and wildgarlic chases away the heavy, cloying, chest-tightening, allergic smell of the vile rape fields as we dawdle along shady, sunlight-dappled lanes.

We're there - only glimpsing the  enormous phallus of the Giant as we hurtle past Cerne Magna - but we're too old to have a little snigger at that aren't we. *sniggers*

Minterne Magna is a pretty little hamlet - nothing there really but a small parking area across the road from  the entrance. There's nobody at the ticket hut.. an honesty box - it's free to RHS members but only a fiver to get in anyway.

Let's follow the discreet signs to the gardens the house to the right and a slope to the small lake (or big pond) in the valley.

Wrong decision - I shouldn't have taken the pathway right in front of the house and along with another couple am politely shooed off by a lady who emerges from the house.  I blame the slightly ambiguous signage and the fact that I followed the people in front of me!

Never mind, wandering down the cool paths with azaleas glowing to each side of me and Handkerchief trees overhead it would be difficult to feel anything but mellow, it is all so very pleasant.

I would love my own Handkerchief tree but its too late in my timeline to start planting trees now and see them through to maturity.. I've been 'Reelin in the Years' a little too long.

Let's head down into the valley - there will be a stream there and I do love a bit of boggy planting.  Such a shame that my garden is dry chalk when all my favourite plants are acid, damp lovers.  I'm about to get my fix of them..

Let's get in a bit closer..

Yellow, pink and green perfection! Who'd have known those colours could look good together?

The greens are beyond green and I love the texture on this clever, crisp, combination of ferns and whateveritis.

Who can resist a little cascade of water? Certainly not the birds diving across the water and butterflies hovering around it.

Around a corner another handkerchief tree.. you wait for ages to see one and then.......... more handkerchief trees than you could shake a stick at!

The picture reminds me of those old black and white films that have been 'colourized' at a later date - it seems a little unreal.

The primula candelabra are the stars here - they are everywhere.  I chat to a couple wandering around spellbound as I am - they have visited before, but in Autumn, and hadn't expected this extraordinary abundance of colour where the late spring has meant that everything it blooming at once.

I rest awhile at this point under the shade of another handkerchief tree - the sun highlighting the grassy reeds and making them glow to the side of the gently moving stream.  It's so verdant, the limited colour palette more tranquil but still a thousand different shades of green.  I think this might be my favourite spot to sit and dream.

But a short walk on and this  - with a fabulous gunnera leaning over the water. I'm sure I overheard the couple say they didn't like gunnera!!!! What's wrong with them?!

then this - with the warm, evocative stone of an old bridge

or this - a vista full of enchantment.

So many places we could while away the hours.

It's time to go. What shall we sing in the Sockmobile on the way back?  I will return and you can come too - but I'm not sure it's ever going to be quite so glorious again.