Category Archives: Gardens

GLORIOUS SOMERSET GARDENS OPEN TO HELP ST MARGARET’S HOSPICE

More than 50 beautiful gardens across the county are opening to visitors in aid of St Margaret’s Hospice.

The charity has just launched its 2019 Glorious Somerset Gardens season, which kicks off with Little Orchard in East Huntspill on Sunday 28 April, and runs until September. Last year’s programme of garden visits raised an amazing £16,600 for the hospice.

Susan Bickle, coordinator of Glorious Somerset Gardens, said: “Here at St Margaret’s Hospice we know how important our gardens are to the health and wellbeing of our patients and their families, providing places of relaxation as well as reflection.

“For years our loyal supporters have been opening their gardens to raise funds for us. This year we have more than 50 amazing gardens to visit, including village walkabouts, a school allotment, an arboretum, a private nature reserve and many stunning gardens with beautiful views. There is something to interest everyone. Many gardens will also be offering delicious cakes, scones and teas, or added extras such as children’s trails and book sales.”

Among those supporting St Margaret’s Hospice by welcoming visitors are garden owners across Mendip and Wells, South Somerset and the Blackdown Hills, Taunton, the Quantocks and Sedgemoor, West Somerset and Exmoor, Yeovil, East Somerset and West Dorset.

Full details of locations, opening dates and admission prices can be found in the Glorious Somerset Gardens 2019 brochure, available from St Margaret’s Hospice shops, selected local garden centres and tourist information centres.

Susan added: “We are so grateful to all our garden owners and volunteers. We hope people will enjoy discovering these wonderful gardens while helping to make each day count for patients and their families facing a life-limiting illness across Somerset.”

Season tickets, priced at £25, are available for anyone who would like to explore the wide variety of participating gardens. They can be ordered from Susan Bickle on 01935 709182 or via the St Margaret’s Hospice website by searching for a season ticket.

More information can be found at www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk/glorious-somerset-gardens.

TOBY BUCKLAND’S GARDEN FESTIVAL COMING UP

Garden presenter Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival is back for a sixth year in 2019 and it’s going to be a treat for fans of TV gardening. Popular presenters from BBC Two’s Gardeners’ World – Joe Swift and Frances Tophill – are speaking at the award-winning event on 3 and 4 May at Powderham Castle, near Exeter in Devon, along with actor John Challis – better known as ‘Boycie’ from Only Fools and Horses – and RHS judge Jim Buttress.

Garden designer Joe Swift has been one of the main presenters on the BBC Two’s flagship gardening show since 1998 and is speaking on Friday 3 May. Frances Tophill, who travels the UK presenting on GW and ITV’s Love Your Garden, is at the festival on Saturday 4 May. Frances hails from Kent but now lives near the sea in Exeter and takes a keen interest in coastal gardens.

Toby says, “I’m delighted to welcome two high-calibre gardeners who really know their onions, both ornamental and edible!”

Talks are held in Powderham Castle’s magnificent wood-panelled Dining Hall and are free to festival visitors. Other highlights include a new larger VIP area, a new layout providing more under-cover space in the castle’s old riding stables and a new talks tent, plus the festival is now dog-friendly for the first time.

Tickets are now on sale and cost £10 for adults (children under 12 go free). VIP tickets cost. £55 See www.tobygardenfest.co.uk for more information.

EASTER EVENTS AT ROSEMOOR

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Garden Rosemoor in Devon has teamed up with publisher Macmillan Children’s Books for an exciting programme of family fun during the Easter Holidays (6-22 April), based on The Rhyming Rabbit, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Lydia Monks.

The Rhyming Rabbit is a clever adventure from the picture book partnership of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks, creators of What the Ladybird Heard and Sugarlump and the Unicorn. With brilliant rhyming verse, bright and distinctive illustrations, this story is a delight to read aloud.

Families can enjoy The Rhyming Rabbit Hop About Trail which will take them around the garden, meeting the Rhyming Rabbit’s animal friends along the way. Youngsters can also take part in craft activities such as the chance to make their very own rabbit headband. Other workshops will help families explore how animals live in the wild and in their gardens, how plants help to sustain them and what they can do to support wildlife of all kinds.

Amanda Cole, Head of Marketing at the RHS, says: “The Rhyming Rabbit is a delightful tale of exploring the world around us and making new friends in unlikely places, and we are thrilled to be bringing the story to life in our gardens this Easter. Just like the character in the book, our visitors will discover all kinds of creatures and plants as they journey around the gardens.”

Alyx Price, Communications Director at Macmillan Children’s Books, adds: “We are delighted to be partnering with the RHS again in 2019. Together we can introduce The Rhyming Rabbit and his friends to a wide audience this Easter and the activities promise to be great fun for all ages.”

Other activities taking place this Easter include: The Golden Carrot hunt when families can solve the clues leading to the location of the Golden Carrot on a map for a chance to win books and RHS prizes.

At the start of the school holidays on 6 and 7 April, Rosemoor is hosting a brand new event – Wool & Yarn Fest. This will include a wealth of traders and displays of products from talented local craftspeople as well as a number of demonstrations and workshops using these versatile materials. In addition, there will be young alpacas and spring lambs for all the family to meet.

On Tuesday 9 and 16 April, The Really Wild Learning Show with Kim Insull returns to Rosemoor with his collection of minibeasts and creatures to get up close with, some of which are laying eggs! This is a ticketed event (plus normal garden admission) and there is limited capacity of 30 children per show priced at £2.50 per child (aged 3yrs and over) and tickets need to be booked in advance to avoid disappointment.

For more information and to book tickets, please visit the website rhs.org.uk/rosemoor or phone 01805 626810.

PROJECT TO RECREATE LOST GARDENS NEAR SIMONSBATH GETS UNDERWAY

A project to recreate a 200-year-old picturesque garden in the former royal forest of Exmoor, near Simonsbath, got underway last week following major funding from the Western Somerset LEADER programme and Exmoor National Park Authority.

The garden was once the vision of wealthy businessman John Knight, who in 1818 purchased a vast area of remote, uninhabited wilderness formerly used by the Crown for hunting and largely untouched since the Bronze Age. He set about building a grand mansion amidst an elaborate ‘Picturesque Landscape’ – a concept central to the Romantic Movement focused on harnessing natural beauty to enhance the sense of drama in the landscape.

For reasons that aren’t well understood his dream was never finished and his importance in shaping the Exmoor landscape remained largely overlooked until letters and documents dating from the time were uncovered in a loft near Kidderminster in 2016. These revealed ambitious plans to reclaim a vast area of remote valleys, mires, moors and woodland, along with the creation of a bespoke road and canal network, plus numerous buildings and farmsteads.

Even by modern-day standards it was a remarkable feat – with a 29-mile-long boundary wall, at least 12 miles of roads, two farmhouses, two canals, networks of land drains and the cultivation of more than 2,500 acres of moorland all documented as completed within the first 18 months. But amid faltering finances, a family feud over inheritance and his wife’s ill-health, the mansion remained unfinished, whilst the once awe-inspiring gardens sank back into obscurity.

Now, in the year of the 70th anniversary of the Parliamentary Act that gave rise to the UK’s National Parks, a team of volunteers working alongside the Simonsbath Programme Steering Group and Exmoor National Park Authority hope to bring the gardens back to life through work to reopen one of the original picturesque walks and restore historic buildings that formed part of the original garden.

Charlotte Hornsby, garden volunteer and member of the Simonsbath Programme Steering Group, said: “I’ve always been interested in historical gardens and so to be involved in one in my village is just fantastic. It was such an exciting day to finally start bringing John Knight’s picturesque vision back to life. It will truly be an Unexpected Garden of Exmoor.”

Rob Wilson-North, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Head of Conservation and Access, said: “The lost gardens of Ashcombe are a very rare example of a Picturesque landscape – a concept that underpinned the Romantic Movement and helped put the countryside at the very heart of Britishness, setting the tone for the creation of the UK’s National Parks over a century later.

“We hope these gardens will not only evoke the spirit of the Knight family and their important role in Exmoor’s past, but also help celebrate the special role of National Parks in shaping our cultural identity.”

Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the project should contact Patrick Watts-Mabbot on 07973727469 or email getinvolved@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

HESTERCOMBE GARDENS YOUNG WRITERS SPRING POETRY COMPETITION

With the onset of spring, and as a nod to their newest restoration project at Hestercombe, young writers are being invited to enter their poetry competition on the theme of ‘spring’.

With the unveiling of Sibyl’s Temple, a recreation of a magnificent eighteenth-century building in Hestercombe’s Georgian Landscape garden, winners of the competition will get the chance to read their poem at the official ceremony on Wednesday 17 April and will also be invited to take part in a writing masterclass with one of the competition’s judges, international bestselling author Vicky Holmes. Winners will also get £25 in book tokens to spend on their favourite reads.

Best known as Erin Hunter, Vicky Holmes is creator of the global phenomenon Warrior Cats which is currently being turned into a movie franchise by the producer behind the Harry Potter films.

In the UK, she is more familiar as Daisy Meadows, author of Rainbow Magic, and as Lucy Daniels who created the enduring Animal Ark series. Vicky has never grown out of her childhood love of horses, all of which feature in the popular series Heartland and Chestnut Hill under the name Lauren Brooke.

Alongside Vicky, there will be a number of special guest judges, including Hestercombe’s Chief Executive, Philip White MBE.

The age categories for the competition are split into three: 11 and under, 12-15 and 16-21.

How to enter:

Online at www.hestercombe.com/poetry

By post to: Spring Poetry Competition, Hestercombe Gardens, Cheddon Fitzpaine, Taunton, Somerset, TA2 8LG.

Please include the name and age of the poet, and a contact number on postal entries.

Closing date for entries is 1 April.

NEW SUBSCRIPTION GARDEN PLANT SERVICE ON EXMOOR

GardeningBoxes.co.uk are a new company based on the edge of Exmoor providing subscription deliveries of garden plants. Customers can tailor the subscriptions to suit their outdoor space, with options to select plants for sun or shaded areas, and can pause and restart subscriptions at any time. The GardeningBox option is designed to provide high-quality repeating (perennial) planting for a bed 3m2 over the course of a year subscription, whilst the ContainerBox subscription comprises 3 deliveries of plants to provide year-round colour in a large (45cm) container.

Director Matt Healey says, “As a professional gardener for the past 20 years, friends told me that they struggled to select appropriate plants for their gardens and found it difficult to know how best to maintain them. We established GardeningBoxes to give people confidence and enjoyment in their gardens, by providing high-quality plant deliveries matched with easy-to-follow online advice, videos and articles which are free to subscribers. We are confident that we can provide excellent value to our customers and help them achieve a garden to be proud of.”

GardeningBox deliveries are free to UK addresses (excluding Highlands and Islands). The GardeningBox option is priced at £33 (monthly subscription), whilst the ContainerBox refreshes at £45 every four months. Gift options are also available. For more information visit the website at www.gardeningboxes.co.uk.

SOMERSET GARDENERS GROW SUPPORT FOR ST MARGARET’S HOSPICE

St Margaret’s Hospice was delighted to host a celebration event at Brympton House, near Yeovil, to thank the Somerset gardeners who kindly opened their gardens, allotments and farms this summer to raise vital funds totalling £16,600 for the hospice.

The use of the venue and gardens was kindly donated by the owners, and was enjoyed by this year’s participating gardeners along with the open garden volunteers who had supported them on their open days.

Each garden owner and volunteer received a thank you certificate, presented by Marisa Lovell-Fox, Head of Fundraising at St Margaret’s Hospice, who said: “We are humbled by the generosity of the garden owners in the Somerset and Sherborne community, who have so kindly allowed people to share their beautiful gardens, and enjoy tea and cake, while raising essential funds needed to keep our services free and accessible to local people. We have been overwhelmed by the donations received this season, which show an increase of £7,000 from the previous year.”

Susan Bickle, the scheme coordinator, added: “We had an amazing response to our Open Gardens season this year, with a variety of different visits available, from small courtyard gardens to large woodland and lakes, with allotments and farms in between. Unlike some of the national open gardens schemes, all of the donations raised from the St Margaret’s Hospice Open Gardens season are used to support local patients and families in Somerset and the Sherborne area of Dorset.

We are keen to hear from anyone who would like to take part in the 2019 season either to open their garden, allotment, orchard or farm, or to offer help as a garden volunteer. There are many ways to support the scheme, even if you are unable to open a garden, such as having a plant sale, serving refreshments at your local flower show, or having a scarecrow trail in your village. We are also seeking local businesses who would like to advertise in our 2019 Open Gardens brochure or donate a prize to the Open Gardens raffle.”

St Margaret’s Hospice is all about making each day count for their patients, families and carers – if you would like to be part of making this happen through the Open Gardens scheme, please contact Susan Bickle, Open Gardens and Fundraising Volunteer Coordinator, for more information on 01935 709182 or 07736 886145 or by email on susan.bickle@st-margarets-hospice.org.uk.

HESTERCOMBE ONE STEP CLOSER TO RESTORATION

The restoration of one of England’s most important historic gardens, the unique Hestercombe Gardens near Taunton in Somerset, is one step closer thanks to a £1.5 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF).

The NHMF grant has enabled the Hestercombe Gardens Trust to acquire land totalling 320 acres, reuniting the world-class, Grade I registered landscape, gardens and buildings for future generations.

Now returned to its full size, what makes Hestercombe Gardens so important is that it combines four complete period gardens spanning four centuries of garden design.

The newly acquired land includes the site of a rare, early-seventeenth-century Water Garden which it is planned to restore together with other historic features within the park. Planted to its original design, Hestercombe’s Formal Garden is considered the finest example of the famous collaboration between garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and architect Edwin Lutyens.

The purchase also allows for the possibility of extending the current contemporary art gallery in the house to include outside spaces for the display of art. This will affirm the Trust’s ambition to become a national Centre for Arts & Landscape.

Popular TV gardener Monty Don, who has filmed at the site several times, considers Hestercombe one of his very favourite gardens.

Hestercombe Gardens Trust chairman, Sir Andrew Burns KCMG, said: “This is a tremendous vote of confidence in Hestercombe and recognises Somerset’s leading heritage garden as a site of outstanding national importance. We are enormously grateful to the National Heritage Memorial Fund and our other funders for their most generous and timely assistance in securing the future of Hestercombe for public enjoyment.”

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of NHMF, said: “On a par with Stourhead, Castle Howard and Blenheim, Hestercombe is an exquisite landscape with such an important story to tell in the history of English garden design. This was a once in a generation opportunity to restore it in full and one that we at the National Heritage Memorial Fund felt had to be seized .”

The history of Hestercombe
The Hestercombe estate was sold to The Crown Estate by the Portman family in 1944. In 1961 The Crown clear-felled all the eighteenth-century designed landscape, parkland and woodland for its timber value. This process also drained the lakes and destroyed a number of garden buildings. The statuary from the Lutyens garden was sold off and the Georgian landscape and surrounding woodland were replanted as commercial forestry.

In 1953 Somerset County Council rented Hestercombe House from The Crown to provide a headquarters for Somerset County Fire Brigade. In 1973 Somerset County Council began the restoration of the Formal gardens designed by Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, which was awarded a European Heritage Award, the council also purchased the house and formal gardens.

The total cost of acquiring the land, following the Crown Estate’s decision to sell off its agricultural holdings, together with a picturesque gatekeeper’s lodge, which was acquired separately, was £2.7 million. Substantial and generous partnership funding to complete the purchase was received from three private trusts and the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Philip White MBE, Founder and Chief Executive, said that: “This had been a remarkable and possibly unique opportunity to put back together a nationally important historic landscape when so many others are broken up, which has been made possible thanks to the vision of Hestercombe’s trustees and its generous supporters.”

The Hestercombe Gardens Trust is very grateful to the leaders of both Somerset County Council, Cllr David Fothergill, and Taunton Deane Borough Council, Cllr John Williams, for their strong support and also to Taunton MP, Rebecca Pow, a long time champion of Hestercombe, who was able to promote the application at a national level.

WINTER WORK PLANNED AT ROTARY GARDENS IN BARNSTAPLE

Further improvements at Rotary Gardens in Pilton will continue over the winter months.

North Devon Council’s parks team will be replacing some of the shrub beds, adding more colour with new herbaceous planting and installing some more seating around the gardens for visitors to enjoy.

A number of low-quality trees will also be taken out to open up the views around the pond area and will be replaced with more suitable tree species elsewhere in the gardens. This is the latest in a series of improvements in the park, including a tree trail, interpretation boards and memorial plinth.

Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture with North Devon Council, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “We like to let local residents know if we’re planning any tree work, so they don’t get alarmed. The trees we’re taking out are not of great value and aren’t suitable species for their setting. Those we take out will all be replaced with better specimens, more appropriate to the park and will much improve the look and diversity of the gardens in the future. I’m sure the extra seating will be appreciated, as it’s such a lovely space to sit and enjoy the views.”

Local ward member for Pilton, Councillor Mair Manuel, says: “We have been working together for some years on improving Rotary Gardens for the benefit of residents, visitors and community groups. The changes so far are very obvious and this additional work will further enhance the gardens, with the seating placed to take advantage of the tidying up that has been done, the new plantings and opening up of the views. All will add to the beauty of Rotary Gardens and confirm it as a great asset for the community of Pilton.”

Stay up to date with news and events from the council’s parks team on Facebook (www.facebook.com/northdevoncouncil) or follow @ndevoncouncil on Twitter.

BECOME AN ALLOTMENT GRADUATE AT RHS GARDEN ROSEMOOR

RHS Garden Rosemoor, in Great Torrington, is once again looking for ten keen gardeners to take part in their informative and practical allotment course in 2019.

Starting in February, the successful candidates will receive expert RHS tuition, have their own plot to tend, and take away home-grown harvests. They will receive regular allotment master classes and weekly access to their plots, all in the picturesque setting of RHS Garden Rosemoor.

Pete Adams, course leader at RHS Garden Rosemoor, said: “Our allotment course has grown from strength to strength over the past four years, and once again we are excited to welcome new novice vegetable growers to join us to learn from our expert team. We offer brilliant facilities, all the equipment and the know-how for a successful year of vegetable growing. So why not apply to join us for the 2019 course!”

The course, which attracts a small fee (to cover safety boots and a contribution towards materials) is open to everyone and the 2018 intake came from a great variety of backgrounds and across all age groups but they all have one thing in common – the passion for and a willingness to learn the basic principles of growing your own vegetables. The hope is to see a similar diverse group of people apply this year too.

Comments from previous graduates:

“Thank you Pete, it’s been a blast! I’ve had so much fun and learnt lots” – Julie

“What a wonderful experience. Thank you Peter for all your hard work and advice. This opportunity to learn gardening skills is so valuable” – Dan

“Thanks Pete. Working the allotment has made me realise that with the right knowledge and well worked soil I can grow great veg. I’ve found the experience just so rewarding and great fun with great people.” – Steve

The course will start in February 2019 and run through to the end of the year. Applications close on 26 November 2018. To apply, please write to Curator Jon Webster with a brief personal background (approx. 50 words), stating why you would like a beginner’s vegetable plot at Rosemoor (approx. 50 words), and indicating what you will do with your new knowledge (approx. 100 words) and letting us know how or where you found out about the course:

  • By post: Jon Webster, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington Devon EX38 8PH.
  • By email: jonathanwebster@rhs.org.uk.

For further information please visit www.rhs.org.uk/rosemoor