Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Barnsdale Gardens in Rutland, once the home of BBC Gardeners World tv programme when the late Geoff Hamilton was at the presenting helm.
It is fantastic if you want to see gardens on a typical residential scale, rather than those public gardens which are all about scale and drama but don't really relate to your garden. There are a total of (I think) 36 little gardens laid out over a 6-acre plot, each with its own theme, plus there is a nursery adjacent selling peat-free plants.
And it means you can wander around imagining how each garden would translate into your own space, stealing ideas as you go.
Here are a few that I came away with.
First up, a rockery. Not yet looking at its best, but the thing I picked it out for was that I hadn't realised that Geoff had helped pioneer artifical rock.
As the helpful sign explained, Geoff fronted a campaign to stop the pillaging of rare limestone habitats for the garden trade, and used rocks made of coir, sharp sand and cement. Now those ingredients themselves do have their own carbon footprint, but I thought it was a nice idea, and the rocks still looked rock-like maybe 30 years after they went in (and they felt it, too - I gave them a little prod).
I loved the little rills in a couple of the gardens as an alternative to a straightforward pond. One was very shady, with a pump system to take water from the bottom back up to the lion's head in the wall, which spouted the water back out (although I admit I've never quite understood the idea of a dribbling lion).
Another rill was more open, without marginal plants, but with plenty of aquatics such as Water Soldier, and still a home to plenty of pondlife. There would be better chance of dragonflies and damselflies in this sunny setting than the previous rill.
I like anything that makes sure no space is wasted, and you have to admit that the gap under most benches isn't doing any good for anyone or anything...unless you fill it with something, such as these bug-home logs.
I've got loads of old roof tiles lying in a corner of my garden and I've never quite worked out what to do with them. Here was a nice way of using them to create a little raised bed. If you garden on heavy soil, doing something like this can give you an area with better drainage and so allow you to better grow some more Mediterranean-type plants.
And talking of Med plants, I loved the Barnsdale Med garden. The sinous path takes you on a proper little journey through the gently mounded borders, allowing you to see them from all sides. The catmint Nepeta (back left - it was probably 'Walker's Low' or 'Six Hills Giant') was alive with bees of several species, as it always is.
And it was the one place in the garden with a butterfly, in what is quite a lull time at the end of May in most gardens. And it was a faded Painted Lady, probably having arrived in the last few days from continental Europe, feeding on the white version of Red Valerian. There are signs that this could be a god Painted Lady year, and providing the right nectar plants for them could make it a brilliant year in your garden!
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