Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Through the garden gate...

Gate leading to Wyken Hall garden

Recently returned from a visit to some of the iconic gardens of the South East of England – the highlight of which was Beth Chatto’s garden at Colchester – reinforced the realisation that the best gardens are those which tantalise the viewer and make the visitor want to find out just what is around the corner, exactly what is through that door, and where does that path lead on to?

… Mary had stepped close to the robin and suddenly the gust of wind swung aside some loose ivy trails and more suddenly still she jumped toward it and caught it in her hand. This she did because she had seen something under it – a round knob which had been covered by the leaves hanging over it. It was the knob of a door.

…It was the lock of the door which had been closed ten years and she put her hand in her pocket, drew out the key and found it fitted the keyhole. She put the key in and turned it.

…then she slipped through it and shut it behind her and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement and wonder and delight.

Through the garden gate...

Planting is crucial of course and all the gardens had been meticulously designed to give variety and year-round colour and interest. Some were a delightful mix of herbaceous and kitchen garden planting, as at the interesting Grimsthorpe Castle and Gardens in Lincolnshire – incidentally home to Zurburan’s original Benjamin – and we’ve just finished sampling  delectable asparagus, freshly picked from their walled kitchen garden.

The glory of the peacock

Rustic fencing

The ancient estate of Wyken Hall in Suffolk, is an Elizabethan manor house, surrounded by four acres of magical garden, including a knot garden, old rose garden, an amazing maze garden with peacocks, guinea fowl and huge black turkeys which, as a vegetarian, I was delighted to learn were also kept as pets. There was also an award-winning   vineyard and a most delightful Leaping Hare shop, described in Country Living as a ‘model of what a shop should be’.

There were also visits to the RHS Hyde Garden, Belton House near Grantham and the National Trust’s Ickworth House with 1800 acres of Capability Brown planting. A summer wedding was taking place whilst we were there and the Italian gardens provided a fairytale backcloth for the champagne reception and photographs. 

... She was standing inside the secret garden.
How could one resist ...
 It was the sweetest, most mysterious looking place anyone could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses, which were so thick that they were matted together… one of the things that made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains … It was this hazy tangle from tree to tree which made it all look so mysterious.

       from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


  1. I love your blog, GIllian and the photos of your beautiful garden and the gorgeous Pablo really make me feel good. We visited Ickworth at the end of May. It is a fab place to visit. I was thrilled to see 'Lady Geraldine's Walk.'The house with the Rotunda is very attractive from the outside. I would have liked to have gone inside but we didn't have time. We will return. It is a lovely area.

  2. Pablo will be 18 shortly and is currently waging war on 'The Three Mouseketeers' - a gang of cats who are trying to take over his patch. Like all of us he is waiting for sunshine so he can spend more time in his garden. GW

  3. Happy Birthday to Pablo! The extracts from The Secret Garden still make the hairs on my arms stand up, even after all these years. As you say - how can one resist - loved this post full of the magic of gardens!