Garden House Trip to Somerset

Posted by editor on Sunday, 5 August 2018

Back in June 2018, we enjoyed another delightful garden road trip. Garden House friend and fellow garden enthusiast Julia Widdows tells all…

First stop was plantswoman Derry Watkins’ nursery in Wiltshire (see Derry’s poppies in main picture!) – and another Garden House tradition, getting the coach stuck in narrow twisty country lanes! Our intrepid driver Andy, who knows us well by now, worked miracles in reverse gear while the rest of the party continued a short distance to the nursery on foot. Derry was in China, but her lovely staff were very welcoming and informative. After lunch in the house – with views overlooking the surrounding fields and hills – we had a talk on how the nursery works, and a tour of the various areas, from propagation to sales. Which meant that we fell on the amazing array of tempting plants in this small but versatile nursery. Then tea and cake (of course – you never go hungry on a Garden House trip) and a wander around Derry’s steep terraced garden, trying to match up the plant lists with what was growing. There were beautiful eryngiums, salvias, poppies and hardy geraniums, to mention just a few. The afternoon was cool, grey and drizzly; looking back from the middle of a heatwave and drought, this seems something of a miracle now.

Next, our base for the next few days, the Eastbury Hotel in Sherborne, Dorset.  It has a pretty garden and a part-time gardener who was happy for us to store our plant purchases safely in the shade and gave us access to watering cans.

The sun was shining for our visit to the Hauser & Wirth gallery at Bruton, Somerset, the following morning. This is an amazing exhibition space in old farm buildings, some of which date back to the monastic era, and set in carefully curated gardens, mainly designed by Piet Oudolf. The current exhibition is artwork and installations by Alexander Calder, which fitted perfectly into the interior spaces and the spectacular planting of the courtyard. There was lots of time to wander or sit, take photographs, and puzzle about some of the plants in the huge meadow garden, before we convened in the outdoor restaurant for lunch. The gallery and garden is open 6 days a week, free entry, and highly recommended.

The courtyard at Hauser + Wirth…

In total contrast, our next visit of the day was to Charles Dowding in the nearby village of Allhampton. Charles is the guru of no-dig vegetable growing and showed us round his prolific garden, giving us all sorts of tips and challenging some accepted wisdom. We saw the long bay of compost heaps, the covered areas where seedlings were grown on the heat created by – basically – a mound of manure, and a small productive area by the house which was more readily translatable to our own gardens. All finished with lemon verbena tea.

Next morning, off to the Jacobean Newton House, near Yeovil, which combines a large private garden and a bespoke gin distillery! We had the gin tour – but sadly no tasting – and learned that the small-batch gin is made with their own spring water and botanicals grown in the garden. Then we were free to wander the gardens, which incorporated old walled formal gardens, many climbing roses, several informal throw-and-sow beds, two ancient carp ponds, and meadows leading down to a river. Some of the planting was relatively recent but there were many impressive mature trees in the lush green landscape and the sun blazed down, making it very picturesque. After coffee and fab home-made biscuits at the red gingham-themed tea room-plus-gin bar, and some eager gin purchasing, we returned to visit Sherborne for a couple of hours.

Newton House…

Our next port of call was Corton Denham House. Here we were given an extensive tour by our host, Dr Robin Odgers,of the five lovingly cultivated acres – which included so many varieties of tree that it should be called an arboretum! The good depth of rich soil, which we were told rolls down the steep hill above the house, irrigated by numerous springs, and the shelter from so many larger trees, meant that growth was unbelievably rapid. Saplings planted 5 years ago were high above our heads. In the newest planting area the owner continues to squeeze ever more trees into the spaces between the last batch planted. It was a lovely eccentric way of managing a garden, and his motto is ‘You’re never too old to plant a tree’. We were also impressed with the walled vegetable garden and stunning tall ‘garden fence’ of pleached hornbeam which made for good neighbours, as it let light and air through but gave sufficient privacy. We learnt that fruit trees are espaliered while non-fruit trees are pleached (same technique) and picked up much useful information about growing fruit, veg, and hedges.

Corton Denham House…

A short stroll away was the Queen’s Arms where we had dinner, and which is supplied with produce by the Corton Denham gardens – so local we could count the ‘air metres’ rather than ‘air miles’ – and to kickstart a great evening, an uproarious wine tasting quiz, the results of which will stay forever a Garden House secret!

Our last visit before heading home on Saturday was to Lower Severalls garden and nursery, near Crewkerne, so at last another chance to buy plants. Unlike on previous trips, the coach did notresemble a botanical gardens greenhouse by then.

Lower Severalls is a typical cottage style garden with overflowing beds of flowers, herbs, and roses, and lots of self-seeded plants amongst the paving stones. A charming glazed room against the house-wall had a small pond and interesting pelargoniums and tender climbers. Mary, the owner, provided us with a lovely lunch on tables on the lawn outside the beautiful Grade 2 Ham Stone house. Then we pottered round the nursery, which is small but has a really good selection of unusual perennials, herbs, and wild flowers, with a few shrubs. Mary’s assistants were very well informed and super helpful about the plants.

Lower Severalls…

Once again, thanks to Bridge and Deborah for arranging a unique garden tour, with lots of lovely flowers, food for thought, and – well – just food. You blessed us with the perfect weather, too, to make everything look gorgeous without being too hot, so extra points for that! Looking forward to the next trip.

Time out…!


The Friday Gardening Group is enrolling for September 2018

Posted by editor on Thursday, 12 July 2018

Are you looking to learn new skills in horticulture within an energetic and friendly environment? Join the Friday Gardening Group – a fun and supportive team who share knowledge and garden together once a week at the Garden House.

We garden every Friday morning in term time between 9:30 and 13:00 when we share knowledge and tips for a variety of horticultural tasks including vegetable growing, propagation, pruning, landscaping, making structures, looking after a glass house, composting, lawn care and creating borders and other ornamental features in the garden.

We also have a pond, a rockery, soft, cane and top fruit as well as a collection of roses, shrubs and annuals.

This year we are going to focus on a propagation session each week as well as growing cut flowers all year round.

Each session begins with a coffee and a taught session – including plant identifications, tips and demonstrations on how to successfully create a productive and beautiful garden throughout the year. We also look at what is new in horticulture as well as ideas on how to keep the garden alive with changing spaces and new and exciting plants.

The next part of the morning is spent in the garden, working in small groups learning new skills and having lots of fun in the process!

We open the garden for the National Gardens Scheme in the spring and do other events during the year, allowing many other people to enjoy the garden and the fruits of our work.

The Friday Gardening Group is a really great way to learn and share knowledge – it is also a very supportive environment where many good friendships have been formed!

We are looking for people who can commit to coming along on Fridays, as often as possible, hopefully every week – and who are up for getting stuck in! (Being able to bake a cake is not essential, but always welcomed!)

If you are interested please contact us with your contact details and we’ll call you to talk about the course in more detail. 

The cost of the course is £475 per year and includes all the teaching, equipment, coffee and cake each week plus plenty of plants to take home throughout the year.

Look forward to hearing from you,

The Garden House


The Hidden Gardens of Brighton and Beyond!

Posted by editor on Thursday, 28 June 2018

Looking at lovely gardens is so enjoyable, and a special pleasure when they are private gardens that we wouldn’t otherwise see.

Our first in a series of special visits is to the garden of perennials expert Paul Seaborne of Pelham Plants in Laughton. Many of you will have met Paul selling his fabulous herbaceous perennials and other gems at the Garden House on one of our Open Days.

The Garden House invites you to an exciting and informative afternoon – Wednesday 18 July 14:00 -16:30

Paul will lead us on a walk and talk around his garden looking at the best way to grow perennials in your garden and advise you on the right plant for the right place in your plot.

We will then have tea and cake, followed by the opportunity to buy plants.

There will be plenty of time for questions and answers and this should prove to be a great opportunity to spend time looking at plants with an expert on hand to advise you.

Paul lives in Laughton just outside Lewes, and details of the address will be given at the time of booking

The cost for the walk and talk with tea and cake is £25 per person – please contact us if you would like to join us.

It will be possible to share lifts, so let us know if you either need a lift or can offer one.

Deborah and Bridge
The Garden House


Join our Garden House travels to Madeira 2019

Posted by editor on Saturday, 16 June 2018

We have now completed our arrangements for our Garden House visit to Madeira.  Confirmed dates are 24 February to 2 March 2019.

We are working with Exodus Travels, a reputable, established travel company that has an ethos that chimes with ours. They also have all the necessary travel licenses, which gives us travellers’ protection.  CLICK HERE for MORE INFO.

We will be flying out on a Sunday morning, 24 February, and return late afternoon on Saturday, 2 March, giving us six nights staying in a delightful 4-star hotel, and more or less seven days in Madeira.

We will be visiting the significant gardens, markets, and vineyards of the island.  We will also enjoy a local cookery workshop, and take in plenty of walks and cultural hot spots.

The cost for sharing, either in a double or twin-bedded room, is £1,700 each person, and for a single room, (double room with single occupancy), is £1,950 – to include room, breakfast, some lunches, two suppers etc.

Please tell us as soon as possible if you would like to join us, so we can finalise our reservations etc.  The flights will increase in price at a later date, so we want to secure them asap.  CLICK HERE for MORE INFO.

Do note that we always set up a payment plan where you can pay in instalments.

We look forward to hearing from you… please contact us for more information.

Visit Jackie’s Open Garden…

Posted by editor on Friday, 8 June 2018

Garden House friends Jackie and Chris Burgess are opening their beautiful cottage garden on Sunday 24 June 2018, 11am-5pm, for Lewes Saturday Circles, a small local charity supporting adults with disabilities. Plant stall, refreshments with fabulous homemade cakes served on vintage china. Tombola, bric-a-brac.

Also open Monday 25 June, 11am-5pm, for the National Garden Scheme.

The garden has densely planted borders, a vegetable plot, small woodland area, and a new greenhouse – we love it, and recommend a visit!

Jackie & Chris Burgess, 1 Rose Cottage, Chalvington Road, Golden Cross, E Sussex BN27 3SS.