This is my favourite private garden. It's beautiful in all seasons, even in the gloomiest part of winter. In spring, however, it's glorious beyond compare. It belongs to two close friends, J (who's 80) and her daughter B. The two of them do all the gardening on this property that's almost 2 hectares in size. They are my gardening heroes. I stop by every chance I get. A visit to their garden inspires me to redouble my efforts with ours. But I also come away feeling a bit despairing of the ordinariness of ours which is a fraction in size. You might understand how I feel after seeing these photographs.
[Double click on the photos to see them in better detail. I have a great new camera and am still learning to use it. By which I mean that I've given up swearing at the instruction manual and am figuring things out in my usual manner, through trial and error.]
When J and her husband bought this property some thirty years ago, it was an abandoned farm with nothing on it but some walnut, apple and beech trees. The garden was entirely designed and planted by J, who's English and comes from a family of passionate gardeners.
Acid green leaves of a variegated maple make a nice backdrop for dark pink magnolia flowers.
This is the woodland part of the garden. Rhododendrons and azaleas will soon set this corner ablaze.
Even the composting area (the wooden structure partly visible on the left) is pretty.
On the path up to the wood, this copper beech is just coming into leaf.
I love this spot at the end of a long path bordered by tall hedges. If you look closely you'll see 'Et in Arcadia ego' carved into the bench. I think it roughly translates into 'Even in Arcadia I exist.'
One of three living willow sculptures by B, who's a sculptor. This willow igloo (we call it a wigloo) has a bench inside it. My children made this wigloo their playhouse when they were younger. J and B also encouraged them to build a fort inside one of their big conifers. Legs and Noodle would collect material for their fort in the wood. We used to hear their woodland skirmishes - the crash and snap of swords and grenades (fallen branches and pine cones) punctuated by loud yelping and hooting.
Under this huge linden (or lime) tree is a bench that's perfect for post-prandial naps. Its branches swoop all the way down to the ground, so when it comes into full leaf in a few weeks, this bench becomes almost invisible, making it the perfect place to hide.
A closer shot of the secret bench under the linden. There are a few other linden trees in this garden. When they bloom for a few weeks in late June - early July, bees will forsake most other flowers to flock to them. Linden flowers have the most haunting scent. Their fragrance fills the entire neighbourhood.
Three ewes and three lambs owned by a local farmer keep the grass down in the apple orchard.
This inquisitive little fellow tried his best not to show me he was interested. He trailed me around the apple orchard at a safe distance while I pretended to ignore him while taking photographs. Once I was safely on the other side of the fence, however, his curiosity got the better of him. See his newly shorn mama lurking next to him?
Two local bee keepers, one of them a Druid, keep their hives in this garden. The beehives sit between the apple orchard and the bluebell wood. We're big honey lovers, and all I can say is that the honey from J and B's garden is the best we've ever had.
Happy honey bees!
The more formal part of the garden. Both J and B are masters with topiary shears. I just like to stand and gawk.
The part on the right that's in shade is a wildflower meadow.
Snakeshead Fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) have naturalised under a walnut tree. Here's another look at this tree earlier in the spring when it was surrounded by a carpet of daffodils and crocuses.
B's vegetable garden or potager wakes up from its winter sleep. Everything is organically grown.
The potager overlooks the apple orchard on one side.
Double, deep pink hellebores.
The view from the terrace of J's house in late afternoon sun.
Some of these large box and hebe domes started out as cuttings.
Impossible to resist stroking these box topiary balls by the front door.
Climbing roses on the barn wall.