Here's leg three of my 1993 tour of some of the best public and private gardens in England. Reader alert! I'm probably overestimating your interest in English gardens, even though they are quite beautiful. If so, just scroll through all these photos and stop where one catches your fancy. In a previous post on blogging "rules", I mentioned that some posts I wrote specifically for my readers; others I wrote because there were stories I wanted to have in writing. This travel post is mostly for my benefit, but I hope some of you enjoy the journey as well. (Photo above left--Leeds Castle and surrounding moat, County Kent)
So, after several days in London about 25 enthusiastic gardeners loaded on the Horticulture tour bus and headed south east toward County Kent. Much of the drive was through rural agricultural countryside. From my perch in the back of the bus--the peanut gallery as those of us called it who chose to ride there where the conversation was livelier and more friendly--we had our first glimpses of rural England, including:
This vista of farm fields with hedgerow patchworks--not quite as obvious as in Ireland, but still the fence of choice:
This is a field of rape with it's yellow mustard-like blooms. Grown mostly for cooking(rapeseed and canola)oils, diesel fuel, and animal feed. Notice the road signs--perfectly adequate for low traffic driving:
Furture south we begin to see rolling hills dotted with sheep as we get closer to the Cotswolds:
This is an oast house, a popular form of architecture. These now private homes or bed and breakfasts used to be hop kilns with several floors for drying hops for ale and beer making. The conical roof allowed for air circulating so that the hops would dry, not mold:
The tour bus went through several small villages with streets so narrow that you could almost reach out the bus window and touch the buildings. Notice the thatched roofs:
In May many of the village shops were gaily decorated with flowering pots, the taller ones on pulleys that could be raised for ease in watering:
And, in the days before cell phones, the iconic red telephone booths from which to make a quick call while in the village doing your errands:
Southern England has used thatching for roof (bundles of straw, wheat, reeds) for many centuries. As the thatch wears, new material is just laid over the old, much like we do with asbestos roofing. Doesn't this cottage look like it belongs on a movie set?
Notice the graceful flow of this roof line (many different shapes). This was the cottage of one of the gardeners whom we visited:
Over a time the roofs may blacken from wood smoke like this one. I love the way ivy, vines and some young trees were trained to grow up the sides of the cottages:
Our first major stop in southern England was Leeds Castle in Kent. In May the castle grounds were abloom with many varieties of azaleas and rhododendrons. This castle was built in the 1100s and now expanded to include a yew maze, grotto, formal gardens, and vineyard:
Most peculiar sight was the Dog Collar Museum in the castle. Over 100 collars in the collection from medieval to Victorian times. The collars exhibited were fearsome metal and leather things studded with spikes to protect the necks of hunting dogs. Shudders!
This was the caretaker's cottage on the main drive to the castle--notice thatched roof. Nice digs if you can get 'em!
Formal walkway leading to the Culpepper House. Just imagining the amount of clipping required to keep these precisely trimmed hedges:
This was a view of the roofline of the estate house from the Culpepper Garden. This garden was designed by an American, Russell Boyd who is not only a garden designer but an artist. The garden was a series of box-edged "rooms" filled with flowering perennials, bulbs, and shrubs, all in a pink, white, burgundy color scheme. The whole garden was just filled with ideas I wanted to remember and try at home--lots of photos this day:
The castle grounds was in the middle of some beautiful country fields so Boyd included these vistas in his garden design:
Another example of Boyd's artist's eye in combining plant textures and colors:
A closeup of his color scheme--only plant I know for sure is the lupines in center:
An unexpected pleasure had to be the aviary on the grounds--over 100 species of rare and colorful birds, including macaws, cocatoos, and toucans. Surprisingly the birds had a great deal of freedom:
A mystery breed of duck. Can anyone tell me what this beauty is--Muscovy or wood, perhaps?
And, of course any aviary would need Mr. Peacock:
After leaving Leeds we traveled to Scotney Castle Garden in East Sussex. We arrived to a misting rain which was perfect for this place. This was the view from the quarry walking downhill to the castle. What a riot of color--all deliberately planned plantings:
Scotney Castle, also built in the 1100s, is surrounded by a lily moat which, with the overcast sky, reflected the rust and grey of the castle ruins, the sky, and trees:
Garden beds inside the castle ruins:
Walking along the moat path I spotted this little thatched "house" at the water's edge. Shelter for water fowl, perhaps? The large-leaved plant is gunnera:
After Scotney, we drove on to Rye and the Mermaid Inn for our next three night's stay. This inn was over a 100 year's old:
Out my room's window spotted these clay cats on the slate roof. Must keep your eyes open when traveling, always surprises!
Well, this tour is not over. If your eyes are not totally crossed, come back later in the week for visits to Great Dixter and Sissinghurst.