Monday, 1 December 2008

December Gardens

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

A dusting of snow is certainly the icing on the cake as far as winter gardens are concerned. But snow or no, December gardens can be a well earned antidote to too much Christmas shopping.

A brisk walk through a winter woodland garden gives chance to see the beauty of berries and bark, and the tracery of brightly coloured twigs. Closer to the house, topiary and hedges are sharply defined and perfectly frame flower beds cut low and mulched down for their winter’s rest.

Keep your eyes open too for the very last flowers of summer- especially in sheltered spots where frosts may not yet have blackened their blooms. Likewise, the first flowers of next year may be tricked into opening ultra early. The rich red domes of the earliest Rhododendrons in particular are a welcome sight from this month on....

You can follow your nose to sniff out the real mid-winter treats though- the gloriously high scented witch hazels, winter sweet, winter honeysuckles and the aptly named Viburnum fragrans.

Although major gardens are often closed at this time of year, some of Cumbria’s finest are swinging back their gates for special seasonal openings....

Enjoy the magic and Romance of Holker Hall and Gardens from 7th to the 21st December. ( )

Brantwood too, and the excellent Jumping Jenny Restaurant there, make for a superb winter destination. (Check for opening times.)

Muncaster Castle is amazing- particularly after dusk, for the unique ‘Darkest Muncaster’ experience! (see )

And last but not least- look round Levens Gardens for free! on 6-7th and 13-14th December... ( )

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Autumn Inspiration

This month, Lakeland’s larger gardens settle down for their winter’s sleep, flower beds are made up tidily, and precious plantings are tucked in tightly under a warming comfort blanket of autumn leaves. Now is our chance to look back on a year of wonderful garden memories and also forward to the fresh opportunities the new season will bring.

For our design inspiration we need look no further than the stunningly beautiful Lake District landscape. At this time of year the elements that make up this natural scene are at their clearest....

The sight and sound of crystal clear mountain streams rushing over rocks, and the rustling of gold and russet leaves. The feel of short cropped turf rolling out beneath our feet, and the simple vertical variation of scattered trees or woodland. Above all the picture-postcard perfect views of this idyllic scene in the mirror-like reflections of Lakes and tarns.

So, all the natural inspiration we will ever need is there in the superb scenery of Cumbria.

Even if your yearning is something a little more architectural or exotic, then a flavour of that can be found in the County too... Take the time to detour into Inglefield Plants at Staveley, or Larch Cottage Nurseries, Melkinthorpe near Penrith. There you’ll discover some superb plants, and stunning pots, containers and garden statuary. All the extras you will ever need to turn some Lakeland garden inspiration into reality.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Apples at Acorn Bank

2008 may not have been the most sensational summer for sunshine, but some things have positively thrived. It has been a great year for lush green grass, wonderfully full rivers, waterfalls and lakes. But best of all, it has been a stupendous season for a bountiful, bumper crop of apples.

Make your way to the National Trust’s Acorn Bank this October to check out some wonderful local varieties in their old orchard. And if you can make it here on the 12th, for their annual “Apple Day”, then it will be your chance to ‘taste them, bob for them, learn how to grow and cook them, hurl them, bowl them and generally enjoy them!’

The walled herb garden here is another fascinating feature containing a vast collection of over 200 different culinary and medicinal herbs. Tender varieties thrive in the lovely lean-to greenhouse, whilst the beds outside provide leafy and floral flavourings for their characterful, traditional tea room.

The well garden’s pool is home to all three species of british newt, and its sunny, flower filled borders are host to many a beautiful butterfly. Beyond lies the wild garden and woodland walk. Here meandering paths wind their way gently down through the ancient oaks to the Crowdundle Beck below. These are the wooded slopes that gave ‘Acorn Bank’ its name, and are as glorious now in their glowing autumn colour as they are in spring when carpeted with golden daffodils.

All aspects of this peaceful garden and estate seem in harmony with their natural surroundings. There can be no finer recommendation or reason to visit.......

Monday, 1 September 2008

September- Late Summer Colour

Most gardens can look good through spring and early summer, but greater gardens are crafted to last. Summer may have seemed short on sunshine this year, but there is a big bonus. Flowers weren’t burnt out and frazzled off in a fortnight, so in the right settings, will just go on glowing....

For superb late summer borders, there is nowhere better in Lakeland than Hutton-in-the-Forest. Explore there a magical 1730s walled garden behind the magnificent red sandstone house. It is home to some of the best colour combinations and stylish plant groupings in the North!

The narrow pink gravel paths are almost engulfed in spilling waves of generous herbaceous plantings, supplemented throughout by many bright annual favourites. Only the carefully trained fruit trees around the mellow old stone walls give away its productive kitchen gardening past.

Walk out past some amazing old hedges with extraordinary clipped topiary, on into ancient woodland, and look out across tranquil parkland. The low garden, lake and cascade are relaxed, natural beauties to discover, whilst no visit would be complete without a peep inside the absolutely fascinating circular 17th century dovecote.

So, you see, summer is not over yet- so long as there are gardens to go to as great as Hutton-in-the-Forest....

Friday, 1 August 2008

Great Gardens- Family Fun!

August brings with it the school holidays for many, and hopefully some sunshine for us all. Many of the Lakes most beautiful gardens are looking at their best now, and for those taking their well earned breaks in Cumbria, here are a few of our family favourites.

You see, if like me you are limited by the moans of “not another garden” by your children, try topping up your holiday horticultural input with these sneaky fun and floral destinations...

Tops for me has to be Brockhole, now the National Park Visitor Centre but a century ago a wealthy family’s new home on the shores of Windermere. Great garden designer of the time, Thomas Mawson, was brought in to lay out terrace after terrace of Victorian  splendour. It has had time now to mature beautifully and you can spend a happy hour or so looking out its gems. (Don’t miss the super vinery, or the lakeside walk). Best of all, the kids will be happy too, as Brockhole sports one of the biggest and best adventure playgrounds in the county!

Next on our list, and further down the lake, you will find Fell Foot Country Park. The ‘Big House’ went years ago, but the extensive garden-parkland remains- lovingly looked after by the National Trust. Its a great place for young families- to picnic by the lake, play ball on the lawns, or splash about in the shallows. For the more adventurous, there is a great new zip wire in the playground, and you can even hire out rowing boats if you’re looking for a new angle on Lake views.

Third in our trio of gardens to get away with, with the family in tow, is Mirehouse near Keswick. Here you’ll find a relaxed garden with not just one, but four adventure playgrounds to amuse the kids, and even a maze to lose them in! If you are very lucky  you may even catch a glimpse of one of Lakeland’s spectacular Ospreys out fishing over nearby Bassenthwaite Lake!

So, you see, here in Lakeland you can combine family fun with good gardens....

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