Category Archives: Gardens


From Tintinhull to a simple trellis, from historic Hestercombe to a humble vegetable patch, communities across Somerset share a long-standing passion for gardens. That’s why, on Sunday 14 May, the county will hold the first ever Somerset Garden Day with a simple ambition in mind: to encourage people to down tools and spend some quality time celebrating their gardens.

Taking part in Somerset Garden Day couldn’t be easier: just find a fun and relaxing way to celebrate your garden space on Sunday 14 May. How you celebrate is completely up to you – it could be hosting a family picnic, inviting friends round for a barbeque or sharing afternoon tea with your neighbours. There are no rules about how to celebrate and anyone and everyone can take part, regardless of age or gardening experience. The most important thing is for everyone to spend time relaxing and enjoying their gardens on Sunday 14 May!

While Somerset is home to some of the world’s most famous gardens, Somerset Garden Day is unique because it encourages people to spend quality time appreciating their own. Somerset Garden Day is about celebrating the county’s gardening efforts in all its shapes and forms, whether you have a rolling lawn and flowerbeds, a patio of potted plants or a simple kitchen herb garden. Villages, towns and cities across the county are being encouraged to spread the word about Somerset Garden Day to encourage as many people as possible to get involved in the celebrations on Sunday 14 May.

In particular, Somerset Garden Day hopes to inspire more people to experience the wonderful wellbeing benefits that gardens and gardening can bring. A King’s Fund report published last year (2016) has shown that spending more time in gardens can help to combat stress and enhance mental and physical health. It is hoped that Somerset Garden Day will help renew people’s passion for gardens and perhaps spark a new interest for those who haven’t been interested in gardening in the past.

Garden centres and gardening groups across the county will be taking part in Somerset Garden Day, providing ideas and incentives for people to get involved. The website – – offers a range of activity ideas for the day including picnics, barbeques, outdoor games and nature trails. Those taking part are being encouraged to share their preparations and celebrations using #SomersetGardenDay.

So this Somerset Garden Day, it’s time to down tools and celebrate the fruits of your gardening labour! For more information about how to take part, visit or share your stories with #SomersetGardenDay.



A Somerset-based charity is launching an appeal to raise £1.5million towards the development of internationally renowned Hestercombe Gardens and to secure its future for generations to come.

In its 20th year since opening to the public, Hestercombe Gardens Trust, based in Cheddon Fitzpaine, near Taunton, is launching The Hestercombe Gardens Appeal on 21 April to help support this unique historic landscape of international importance.

The money is needed to carry out the next phase of restoration projects within the gardens and provide an endowment to secure future sustainability. Thanks to a generous private charity the first £200,000 raised will be match funded pound for pound.

Through this appeal, key areas of the gardens will be brought back to life – restoring and recreating lost features. Part of the money raised through the appeal will go towards the recreation of ‘Sibyl’s Temple’, an eighteenth-century rotunda in the Landscape Garden. Footings for a rotunda have already been established and the plan to recreate the temple from drawings and descriptions will link the design with the Great Cascade and the Gothic Alcove, both key features in Hestercombe’s Landscape Gardens, reinforcing the original design.

Other garden projects include the reinstatement of the lime tree avenue along the west side of the Formal Garden, which has been traced by old maps, plans and photographs. This avenue of trees was part of the original Lutyens design, planted between 1904-1908.

A rustic Hermitage situated overlooking the Vale of Taunton and dating to c.1755 is also to be recreated and reinstated on its original site, the foundations of which were uncovered by archaeologists only relatively recently.

Other significant developments which the money will be put towards include the recreation of an unusual garden kitchen attached to the Octagon Summerhouse, the installation of traditional wrought-iron fencing in the park, together with ongoing wildlife protection, archaeology and general planting. In the future it is also hoped that an exceptionally rare Elizabethan Water Garden will be restored – one of just a handful left in the country, adding a fourth period of history to Hestercombe’s unique collection of gardens.

Hestercombe’s historically important gardens currently display three centuries of garden design and the formal gardens have been recognised worldwide as one of the best examples of design by eminent plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll and architect Edwin Lutyens. The attraction is proud to have been presented with the European Gardens Award in 2016 (in the category of historic restoration) and two regional awards for tourism excellence (a Gold award in the Bath, Bristol & Somerset Tourism Awards 2016 and a Silver at the South West Tourism Awards 2017)

The Hestercombe Gardens Appeal aims to restore and recreate many of the historical features originally found within the grounds and to bring their stories alive for visitors, whilst maintaining Hestercombe’s high ecological and sustainability credentials.

The appeal is the first stage of a longer-term ambition to raise £8m to develop Hestercombe even further – bringing art and the landscape together in a project resulting in the complete restoration of Hestercombe’s House and Gardens and eventually the establishment of a new garden for the twenty-first century garden, 12 artist’s studio spaces and an auditorium to seat 200.

CEO of Hestercombe, Philip White, said: “Thanks to continued support from our trustees, members, visitors, volunteers and staff, Hestercombe has been transformed over the last 20 years. We have come a long way, but there is still more to do to complete the picture.

“This is the first step on a new journey, which will take us even closer to giving current visitors and future generations a true taste of what Hestercombe looked like in its heyday whilst continuing to develop and ensure its future sustainability.”

“As a charity we rely on donations to help us care for Hestercombe and we hope people’s generosity will enable us to give back to our local community as well as playing a role as an internationally significant garden.

The Hestercombe Gardens Appeal launches with an exhibition celebrating 20 years with 20 amazing images, which runs from 22 April until 21 May, 11-5pm in Hestercombe House. The exhibition shares some of the most incredible pictures from the archives in a mini-exhibition, charting the story of Hestercombe – from designed Arcadian landscape, to its ruin and highly acclaimed incredible restoration.

Donating to the appeal is simple. You can either visit the website at, call 01823 413923, or pick up a donation form from Hestercombe. You can also text to donate 70070 HEST20 £ adding the amount you’d like to give (up to £10). If you’d like to donate to a specific project or consider other ways to give, for example leaving a legacy, contact Hestercombe directly.


Following a £1.2m investment for the tourism industry in the South West, The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Garden Rosemoor is pleased to announce that their newest corporate hire and wedding venue will be completed this month.

The Garden Room, as it is to be known, is set in the stunning grounds of RHS Garden Rosemoor and is already receiving enquiries and securing bookings for weddings and awards nights well into 2018.

Able to accommodate up to 460 people for conferences or 250 to sit-down banqueting, the Garden Room is in an inspirational setting – the perfect place for corporate hire including conferences, training, product launches and trade shows and special celebrations such weddings, awards nights and private parties. Rosemoor’s award-winning restaurant team is fully equipped to cater for every need.

The Garden Room joins a number of other venues that are available for hire at Rosemoor which include The Peter Buckley Learning Centre, with its two state-of-the-art teaching classrooms, exhibition room and gardens and a lecture / exhibition hall. It is also one of ten venues licensed for weddings or civil ceremonies in the garden including intimate stables and shelters. In addition to weddings, the extremely experienced Rosemoor team hosts over 100 events, courses and workshops every year with everything from live music concerts and theatre productions to art and sculpture exhibitions, craft, food, plant and antiques fairs; flower shows and competitions.

One of the first of these events is a Wedding & Special Occasions Fayre on Sunday 7 May when Rosemoor will showcase everything that the garden and Devon has to offer a would-be bride or party organiser. Normal garden admission applies although tickets are free for this event for pre-booked bride and groom couples. Please visit or telephone the events team on 01805 626810.



The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Garden Rosemoor will be bursting with more blooms than usual when it hosts RHS National Rhododendron Show and Competition on 22 and 23 April.

The Rhododendron Competition will be the first event to take place in the brand new Garden Room – a purpose-built permanent building suitable for all kinds of events throughout the year including conferences and wedding receptions.

Come and marvel at the remarkable variety and colour of these beautiful, spring-flowering plants. This National Show has more than 60 classes covering all types of rhododendrons, plus trade and advice stands as well as magnificent displays of magnolias and camellias, too. With competitors coming from as far afield as Oxfordshire and Hampshire, it promises more spring colour than ever before. Past competitors have included Exbury Gardens, Caerhays Castle, The Savill Garden, Trewithin, Marwood Hill and several National Trust properties in the South West including Glendurgan and Trelissick.

The Rhododendron Competition is entirely free to enter and open to anyone who wishes to exhibit. Professional and home gardeners alike will compete for prizes for the best blooms. Judging takes place on Saturday morning from 10am with the show open to the public from 11.30am. On Sunday the displays will be available for viewing 10am – 4pm.

Entry forms are available direct from RHS Competitions Manager, Georgina Barter at:

The Rhododendron Competition is the main event for gardeners but there are many other events taking place at RHS Rosemoor throughout this spring,


The award-winning Royal Horticultural Society garden in Devon, RHS Garden Rosemoor, will itself be giving out awards during its Spring Flower Competitions (11 – 12 March).

Competitors from all over the South West will have their exquisite blooms of camellias, early magnolias and rhododendrons judged on Saturday morning. Visitors will be able to view the displays from 11.30am, after judging has finished. There will also be an abundance of colour with Rosemoor’s annual daffodil and the RHS Hyacinth competitions. To complement the competition, one end of the marquee will have a huge display of hyacinths, with a wonderful scent to greet visitors as they enter. The other end of the marquee will have a big display of daffodils by R.A. Scamp Quality Daffodils (pictured).

The competitions are entirely free to enter and open to anyone who wishes to exhibit. Georgina Barter, RHS Horticultural Competitions Manager, will be on hand to provide further information and advice about all the RHS shows that take place throughout the year. Pam Hayward, who is the chair of the South West Rhododendron & Camellia Group Committee, will also be available.

The RHS Bulb Committee have arranged the opportunity for pupils from The Pathfields School in Barnstaple to get growing and enter a special class in the show. They have each planted a pot of three bulbs of a miniature daffodil, donated by Johnny Walkers of Walkers Bulbs. About 60 pots of daffodils were planted by the schoolchildren, and those that have grown successfully will be on display at the Spring Flower Competitions. The class will be judged on Friday 10 March and the winners given pride of place at the show.

Trade stands will be setting up in the afternoon of Friday 10 March and include Strete Gate Camellias; Burncoose Nursery, Caerhayes Castle, Cornwall; Pine Cottage Plants, Eggesford; Chris Cooke Plants, Cheltenham; Wildside Nursery, Yelverton (Keith & Ros Wiley); International Camellia Society; and Marwood Hill Gardens.

Visitors will be able to gather plenty of advice from the trade stands, plus there will be a superb range of early spring shrubs and flowering plants available to buy in the Rosemoor Shop and Plant Centre.

Normal garden admission applies. For more information about RHS Garden Rosemoor, events and how to buy tickets please visit or telephone 0845 265 8072 (calls cost 5p per minute, plus your telephone service provider’s access charge).

PHOTO: Ron Scamp.



With free admission for everyone, Friday 4 November is the day to head to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Garden Rosemoor in Great Torrington, Devon to enjoy all that the garden has to offer.

As part of the Society’s charitable purpose, they occasionally offer free garden admission so that everyone can enjoy a beautiful garden near to them.

On Friday 4 November, all visitors will be able to explore the garden in its autumn glory for free, giving the chance to discover the benefits of membership and find out how they can get involved through volunteering. They will be also able to experience the award-winning restaurant and browse the fully stocked plant centre and gift shop.

With membership comes free access not only to Rosemoor 364 days a year, including more than 80 garden events such as craft and antiques fairs, exhibitions and family craft workshops, but also discounts and advance bookings on RHS Flower Shows, courses, and access to a wealth of expert gardening advice. Membership also helps the RHS share the best in gardening. RHS members enjoy free access to the three other RHS Gardens, too, as well as discounted or free admission to more than 200 RHS Partner Gardens around the country and overseas.

Free garden admission applies to Friday 4 November only. Book your tickets online and find out more at Garden open 10am-5pm.


Hestercombe, near Taunton, is delighted to have been named as a winner in the European Garden Award.

Under the category Best Development of a Historic Park or Garden, Hestercombe won the title, beating the other finalists Schlosspark Ludwiglust (Germany) and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.

Last year’s winner was the Herrenhäuser Gärten in Hannover, Germany.

Collecting the award in Germany, Oliver White of Hestercombe, said: “It’s such an honour to be accepting this award on behalf of everyone who works so hard to keep the house, gardens and gallery at Hestercombe thriving and growing year after year. We celebrate 25 since Hestercombe was rediscovered next month, so it’s timely to be winning this accolade now, and we are humbled to have been picked over such strong competition.”

The aim of the European Garden Heritage Network (EGHN) is to support the preservation, enhancement and creation of high quality parks and gardens in Europe, their wider use and sustainability in the context of policies to foster urban, regional, cultural and landscape development.

Christian Gruesson, who managed the awards, said: “The increase of public awareness for the cultural, economic, environmental and social values and resources of parks and gardens is also a key objective of the European Garden Award. We hope that the award combined with a further gain of publicity and image will support the finalists and winners in the future development of their concepts.”


Even if you only have a small garden or courtyard, growing some vegetables, herbs or fruit to eat is really very easy. Just a few pots on the patio can be incredibly productive and popping outside and picking your own is so satisfying.

Although many vegetables are pretty easy to grow, getting started can be a little daunting if you have never grown any before. If you need a little help, or have had a go and were not happy with the results, then pop along to this year’s Grow Your Own Veg Day at Eggesford Gardens.

The free event takes place on from 11am to 4pm on Sunday 21 February. Advice on selecting the best crops for your garden and your taste buds, along with top growing tips, will be available from the centre’s experts. Joining the Eggesford team on the day will be Alison Bockh who teaches courses on gardening and veg growing and is also an accomplished garden designer.

“We think that it really important to encourage children to grow veg from an early age, so we are giving away a free pack of veg seeds to all children under 12 years old who come along on the day,” says Derrick Dyer, owner of Eggesford Garden Centre. “Not only is it a fun family activity but it helps develop understanding of where our food comes from.”

If you want to grow some vegetables this year but need a little advice or fancy trying to grow some different, then visit Eggesford Gardens Grow Your Own Day.






















Somerset’s Hestercombe Gardens is to feature in a new historical gardening series presented by Gardeners’ World favourite Monty Don on BBC Two.

Navigating through 400 years of Britain’s gardening heritage, The Secret History Of The British Garden examines how traditional British gardening has changed over time with the influencing factors of politics, war, religion, archaeology, medicine and Britain’s evolving tastes in food, design, sculpture and fashion.

The first episode aired on Sunday 15 November and explored the sole surviving garden of the 1600s, the world-famous Levens Hall in the Lake District.

Hestercombe’s head gardener Claire Reid was interviewed by Monty for the fourth and concluding episode which will be shown on Sunday 6 December at 9pm. Following the twentieth century, the episode sees Monty examining the profound effect that two world wars had on attitudes to gardening. At Hestercombe Claire talks to Monty about the planting schemes of Gertrude Jekyll which were far less labour intensive than the previous heavy duty Victorian planting schemes.

Today gardening is one of Britain’s most popular pastimes, and the horticultural industry is worth over nine billion pounds annually. Monty reveals the pioneers who led this gardening revolution.

Head gardener Claire said: “It was amazing to meet a real hero of mine, and not be disappointed in the slightest. It’s rare to speak to anyone who is so intellectual and yet also practical as well. He is a proper gentleman!”

Monty Don said: “My journey through 500 years of British garden history has been fascinating. Not only has it unravelled the horticultural narrative of our unique gardening history but it has also been filled with insights into our social, political and cultural life that stretches into every corner of human behaviour right to the present day.”

The four-part series was commissioned by the BBC’s Mark Bell, and has been executive produced by Greg Sanderson for the BBC and Alexandra Henderson for Lion TV.

PHOTO: You can find out more about Hestercombe in the current issue of Exmoor Magazine, which includes an article about three Quantock estates, including Hestercombe (along with Crowcombe Court and Halsway Manor), by Mary Siraut.


After a summer-long residency at Hestercombe Gallery, St Ives-based artist Simon Bayliss has produced an exhibition entitled Arcadia which will run from 24 October 2015 until 28 February 2016.

During his time at Hestercombe, Simon has responded to the gardens through painting en plein air and writing poetry. The resulting exhibition presents Bayliss’ idiosyncratic vision of Hestercombe as an Arcadia, a pastoral utopia, accelerated using wit and fast-paced imagery.

Simon Bayliss came out as a landscape painter earlier this year to a discerning audience of contemporary artists. By describing his conflicting feelings on the subject, and some of the problems with romanticising the countryside, he hoped to challenge the unspoken notion that landscape painting is now a provincial pursuit. During his time at Hestercombe, Bayliss produced daily watercolours of views within the gardens. Many of these were made from the follies, designed by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde as picturesque viewpoints inspired by Arcadian landscape paintings.

Bayliss first came across the notion of Arcadia, not from landscape painting however, but gay literature, an idea historically described in books, such as ‘Brideshead Revisited’, as an Eden for affectionate men away from the scrutiny of society.

Over the years Bayliss has worked in gardens, a garden centre and an organic smallholding, so it seemed natural to explore the refrain ‘queering the garden’ at Hestercombe. Bayliss’ erotic tea towel, for example, features the phrase ‘Paradise Haunts’, which comes from Derek Jarman’s remark ‘Paradise haunts gardens’.

Bayliss was selected as the second artist in residence, in an ongoing series of residencies at Hestercombe offered to artists working in the South West. During his time here he has also developed an ‘Arcadia Workshop’, which will take place in spring, gathering creative practitioners in the fields of art, writing and garden design to explore landscape themes. Bayliss is also currently co-writing a play with poet Damon Moore, based on the Gertrude Jekyll garden at Hestercombe.

Bayliss studied at Falmouth College of Art and Burren College of Art, Ireland. Recent projects include ‘Landscape Painters Anonymous’, a performative lecture, CAST, Helston, and ‘A Coastal Climax’ a poem commissioned for ‘The Wise Wound’, a night of music and performance curated by artist Lucy Stein with Tate St Ives. Under his alias swimonbaybliss, Bayliss also produces the biweekly radio show ‘Squirming the Worm’, hosted by Coco de Moll (Lucy Stein), on NTS. With Stein, he also co-curated the painting-centric group exhibitions ‘SS Blue Jacket’ at KARST, Plymouth, and ‘The White Hotel’, Gimpel Fils, London. Bayliss is currently a student on The Syllabus, a year-long experimental education programme convened by Wysing Art Center in partnership with Eastside Projects, New Contemporaries, S1 Artspace, Spike Island and Studio Voltaire.

Find out more about Hestercombe Gallery at