One of the pleasures of belonging to an organisation like Headley Horticultural Society is having the opportunity of visiting gardens, and places of interest to gardeners, safe in the knowledge that you will be (mostly) transported in a comfortable coach and that the organiser has already ensured that there will be a least one comfort stop on the way and that the destination is sure to have an excellent café or restaurant for that all important, coffee/lunch/afternoon tea.
Over the years many of these trips have been arranged for members and I would like to share some of my favourites. The first was to Sissinghurst in 2001: this is the garden of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson. The famous “White Garden” is here and the whole area is divided into “rooms” featuring different styles of planting. The Moat Walk was particularly memorable, and it takes you past Harold’s gazebo where he did most of his writing. I also climbed to the top of the tower where Vita had her writing room and from here there was a wonderful view of all the “rooms” laid out below.
Another favourite is Munstead Wood, near Godalming, the home and garden of Gertrude Jekyll, which we visited in 2019. Although now a private house we were lucky enough to be able to visit and have a guided tour of the grounds. The gardens were created by Gertrude thirteen years before the house was built, during which time she lived in the house next door. Her new house was an early design by Edwin Lutyens, although Gertrude made sure that some of her own ideas were incorporated. The garden has been planned for each area to provide seasonal interest. Starting with the Nut Walk, underplanted with hellebores which comes into flower in the Spring followed by the Primrose Garden in April, right through to October when the Michaelmas Daisy border shows off its autumn colour.
Waterperry Gardens in Oxford were also inspired by another lady gardener, Beatrix Havergal who established her School of Horticulture for Ladies in 1932. The garden was sold in 1971 and was bought by the School of Philosophy and Economic Science who have continued to tend the garden, which now extends to eight acres, and allow visitors to enjoy what Miss Havergal started. We have visited this garden twice, latterly in 2018 and I found the planting very interesting with lots of ideas for a smaller garden like my own.
On a seasonal note, we have visited both Pashley Manor and Arundel Castle to see displays of Tulips; I particularly enjoyed the visit to Arundel Castle where the banks were covered in daffodils and tulips and enormous urns had been crammed full of tulips. Set against the backdrop of the castle and in grounds full of statuary these gardens were very impressive. We were served a delicious hot lunch here, which was well received as it did snow for a while.
There were plenty of snowdrops to see at Hinton Ampner, another garden that we have visited more than once. I remember on one visit we were given a guided tour of the more wooded area of the estate and this turned out to be rather more strenuous walk than we had expected but nevertheless it is a lovely garden to visit at any time of the year.
There were so many more places that I have enjoyed – perhaps we will visit a few more in next month’s magazine.