Creating a garden is a very personal endeavour, a labour of love, and as landscape historian Mac Griswold stated “ gardening is the slowest of all the performing arts”. One of the greatest things you can do with something you’ve made, your creation, is to share it with the world. Gardeners are generally by nature friendly and generous, swapping ideas, plants and know-how to fellow green-fingered, muddy-trousered enthusiasts. The National Garden Scheme (NGS) has beautifully capitalised on this joy for sharing and celebrating our common passion, providing opportunities for gardeners to open and share their gardens for charity since 1927, raising over £50 million over the last 90 years. The amount raised showing the depth of love for our gardens.
I took the 20 minute drive last Sunday to visit two garden gems open with the NGS: Littlefield, and Brocklehurst garden, set in the idyllic Cotswold village of Hawling. I had read about Littlefield in this month’s ‘Gardens Illustrated’ magazine so was delighted when I saw that it was not only close by but open at the weekend! As an added bonus my ticket gave entrance into an additional garden in the same village further up the lane, and it was here that I began….
A few snaps from the first garden, Brocklehurst:
Brocklehurst, is a quarter of an acre of sheer joy. It truly is a perfectly-formed, friendly space. I was welcomed on the gate by the lovely owner who encouraged me to take photographs and to sit and stay as long as I liked, indeed I really could have sat there all day, drinking it in.
The garden is formed of a series of rooms and corridors, transitioning from the formal borders adjacent to the house, to relaxed woodland planting. I quite expected Puck, Oberon and Titania to appear at any moment. It really is a magical garden, packed full of delights. I loved the planting, and the way each area had its own character – a very well designed space. The garden boasts a lovely vegetable garden, striped lawns, a formal pond area, all linked by lush green corridors, and surrounded by bountiful borders. Throughout, there is a real sense of journey and mystery, with glimpses of other sections of the garden as you move through.
After wondering round the garden, stopping to breathe in the glorious scent of the roses, and admiring the clever design, the prospect of tea and cake led me up the lane on to garden no. 2: Littlefield….
Approaching the garden, I was welcomed by a bank of roses, permeating the warm summer air and filling my lungs with their delicious fragrant embrace. Walking through the blue garden gate, I turned into a glorious delight for all the senses. Designed by eminent garden designer Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall (mother of famous chef Hugh!), it is the love and passion of the owner Frederica Wilk. This really is a truly beautiful garden, well designed, and carefully considered, wrapping around the warm stone of the Cotswold house, and extending off into the wider landscape.
The garden has broadly two distinct character areas, with the main formal area, transitioning to a more natural planting on the bank. It is, like Brocklehurst, split into several rooms. At its heart lies the an architectural Yew walk, that acts like a spine through the centre. Forming a corridor, the tall yew hedges transport visitors through the garden on a curving serpentine path through roses, lavender and geraniums. With corridors leading off left and right, the visitor is led on a true journey of delights.
Leading off one of these corridors sits, a large formal lawn in front of the main house, with a central pond and avenues of Apple trees creating a bold frame to the wider landscape from the house terrace. This ‘borrowed’ wider landscape is cleverly utilised throughout the garden, with beautiful vistas leading the eye through the garden off into the wider Cotswold hills (an the Alpacas in the adjacent field!).
Beginning at the edge of this formal lawn with wide herbaceous borders, the garden banks up into a wildflower delight. This transition from the formality of the central lawn and borders, to the wild flora bank and meadow was truly brilliant. To create SUCH a change of character within a space of metres demonstrates true mastery of design. Wandering through the wildflower meadow on the raised bank, the rest of the garden felt almost like a memory, with just the breaks in vegetation offering glimpses into another world of controlled formality. Both areas were so different, yet both so equally beautiful.
After wandering through the garden, I sat on the terrace chatting to various other visitors, discussing what we had seen and our own garden patches. There is such a commonality of interest and joy between gardeners, and the NGS celebrates this so well. Sitting on the terrace eating some rather delicious chocolate cake and surrounded by such exquisite beauty, I felt then, and still do, that life doesn’t get much better than this…
Both gardens are open on Sunday 9th July 2017, one £8 ticket will get you into both. See what other gardens are open near you on the NGS website: https://www.ngs.org.uk