Author Archives: jwey

Spring in Piedmont 2018

Monday 23rd –Friday 27th April 2018

Monday 21st– Friday 25th May 2018

Piedmont is a country of the border lands; in Italy and yet with a strongly marked difference. Around Turin, the Alps, rising to the west in a huge embracing arc, are a constant presence. The ruling dynasty, who were originally Counts of Savoy on the French side of the mountains, became ultimately Kings of Italy.

Turin is a delight, but feels unlike other Italian cities; it is laid out in a grid pattern, a legacy from the Roman town founded in 28BC, but these elegant streets have wide colonnades, which make for very agreeable strolling and many end dramatically in a vista of snow-covered peaks. It is a city of great charm, filled with treasures; royal palaces are scattered in profusion in and just outside the city, baroque churches in equal number, a fine art galley attached to the Royal Palace, a world class Egyptian Museum, which contains the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside Egypt, and, of course, the Turin Shroud, housed in the cathedral.

Outside the city there are remarkable gardens, some by Russell Page and others, including his own enchanting garden, by the great Italian designer Paolo Pejrone.

We will explore the city, some of the Royal palaces just outside and venture further into the countryside to see some wonderful gardens.

To book a place on this tour or for more information on this or the tour to Ninfa and the Gardens of the Roman Campagna in May, please contact James Bolton on

2. Gloucestershire Wednesday 7 June

Daylesford House, Moreton-in-Marsh – The Lord and Lady Bamford

Daylesford was built by 1793 for Warren Hastings, the Governor-General of Bengal. Lord and Lady Bamford, who acquired the estate in 1988, have magnificently restored the garden. Behind the Orangery, which houses a collection of citrus trees, lies the Secret Garden, built to mark the Millennium and designed by Rupert Golby. The Scented Walk, planted with Magnolias, Daphnes, lilac and lily-of-the-valley, leads to the two-acre walled garden, which was restored with help from Lady Mary Keen. This spectacular space contains a vegetable garden and fruit garden, as well as two greenhouses, one for peaches, the other for orchids. Yew hedges divide the Rose Garden, the Quince Lawn, the cut flower and pot gardens. This is a rare opportunity to see a wonderful 18th century garden beautifully restored, updated and functioning, as it surely would have done for Warren Hastings.

Kingham Hill House, Kingham – Mr and Mrs Ian Molson

The garden at Kingham Hill House, which looks south over the gentle contours of the Evenlode valley, was designed by Rosemary Verey in the early 1990s and added to latterly by Rupert Golby. This is a garden of avenues and vistas; fastigiate oaks form an allée through the garden from the main drive, pleached limes lead the eye across the croquet lawn. The water garden fills the original walled garden where a cascade, framed by a double avenue of Acers, falls away towards an informal reed-fringed lake with a view of the church at Churchill on the horizon. An enclosed lavender garden, surrounding a silver-leafed ornamental Pear, is approached by tunnels of Wisteria floribunda ‘Snow Showers’. The four lavender–edged beds are planted with standard Wisteria, Prunus lusitanica, peonies, Iris ‘Jane Phillips’ and Agapanthus. The kitchen garden, completed in December 2005, provides all vegetables, cut flowers and fruit for the house.

3. Northamptonshire Thursday 8 June

Deene Park, Corby – Mr and Mrs Robert Brudenell

The main drive to Deene Park, turns off the busy road from Corby, and winds serenely through the gently rolling park, until, at exactly the right point just before the lake, the house comes into sight. Turreted and gabled in soft mellow limestone, it has grown organically over six hundred years. For centuries Deene belonged to Westminster Abbey, who in 1514 leased it to Sir Robert Brudenell. Remarkably the Brudenells continued as tenants until they bought the house from the Church Commissioners in 1970.

The house comprises layer upon layer of architectural history, as generations of Brudenells added to and embellished it, from the 14th century doorway in the Billiard Room through to the chapel, which was completed in the 1970s. Fortunately Charlotte Brudenell, the current châtelaine, is an expert on the history of both the house and family and she will guide us from the Great Hall of the 1570s, with its hammer beam roof, built to entertain Queen Elizabeth on her progress to Burleigh, through the Tapestry Room with its fine Jacobean ceiling, to the Regency White Hall, Bow Room and Drawing Room.

The garden too reflects the changing tastes of different generations. Rectangular pools and formal canals were gradually transformed in the 18th century into a lake crossed by an elegantly balustraded bridge. The parterre on the south side of the house dates from the 19th century, but was completely redesigned by David Hicks in 1990 for Marian Brudenell. The Chinese Bridges, the Long Border and the White garden also date from this time.

Deene has been a family home for generations and emphatically remains one today. A great deal of its charm lies in this sense of enthusiastic permanence and determination to continue to add to the house and its collections.

As we are having lunch in the house at the kind invitation of Charlotte and Robert Brudenell, numbers on this day are restricted to a maximum of 20 people.

12. North Yorkshire Wednesday 28 June

Norton Conyers, Wath, Nr Ripon – Sir James and Lady Graham

Mentioned in Domesday Book, but now reckoned to have been a settlement founded by the monks of St Cuthbert’s in the 7th century, Norton Conyers has been the home of the Graham family since 1624 with a break of only 20 years. The present house is medieval, with alterations and extensions in the 16th, 17th and notably the 18th centuries. The distinctive Dutch gables date from the end of the 17th century. James I and Charles I visited the house, but perhaps the most significant visitor was Charlotte Brontë who based Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre on Norton Conyers. The house has undergone 30 years of restoration which culminated in being treated for a serious death watch beetle infestation. We will tour the house with Sir James and Lady Graham, before visiting the walled garden with its 18th century orangery and double perennial borders backed by towering yew hedges.

Old Sleningford Hall, Mickley – Mr and Mrs Tom Ramsden

Old Sleningford Hall dates from 1810 and the ornamental garden, walled garden and mill pond date from this time. Tom Ramsden’s parents came to Old Sleningford in 1954 and restored and simplified the garden, removing gloomy Victorian shrubberies and opening up views from the house. Tom and Jane took over the house in 2005 and have made more changes including the semi-formal terrace to the south of the house, with box hedges, Nepeta and pots of Agapanthus. The walled garden and mill pond lie below the house. A wide herbaceous border runs the length of the tall south-facing brick wall, the glass house is given over to Pelargoniums and tomatoes in the summer, and the beds are a mouth-watering display of vegetables and fruit, all contained within a swag-topped yew hedge through which clambers scarlet-flowered Tropaeolum speciosum.

Littlethorpe Manor, Nr Ripon – Mr and Mrs John Thackray

Littlethorpe is a late-Regency house, but the eleven-acre garden has been extensively re-landscaped since 1998 by the head gardener, Eddie Harland. Immediately behind the house is a sunken white garden, with a pattern of wide box hedges enclosing Santolina, Pyrus salicifolia and the white polyantha rose ‘Katharina Zeimet’, around a central armillary sphere. Beyond is the old walled garden, now transformed into an ornamental garden with a central circular gazebo supporting honeysuckle and Rosa ‘Francis E. Lester’. A brick pergola leads through a blue and yellow border towards the front of the house. Here the previously sloping lawns have been levelled, Irish yews frame an ornamental pool and steps lead down to a lime avenue. Across the lake, surrounded by generous marginal planting, is an eye-catcher in the form of a classical temple. This is a spectacular garden, imaginatively planted and beautifully maintained.

13. North Yorkshire Thursday 29 June

Sion Hill Hall, Kirby Wiske – W H Mawer Trust

The current house, which replaced an earlier manor house almost on the same site, was built in 1913 to the designs of Walter Brierley, “The Yorkshire Lutyens”. It was bought in 1962 by Herbert Mawer, who, for the last twenty years of his life, collected paintings and furniture for Sion Hill and formed the trust to maintain his collection in the house. The five-acre garden, which has been restored by the trustee, Michael Mallaby, lies to the south of the house. A large parterre of clipped box and hornbeam leads to the Long Walk, whose double borders were originally laid out in the 1850s. A woodland walk meanders down to the river, with views across the old park and on to the partially-walled kitchen garden, now used to grow vegetables and cut flowers. Michael Mallaby has celebrated the 100th anniversary of the building of the house by planting a Centenary Rose Garden. We will be given a tour of the house by Michael Mallaby, before visiting the garden.

The Manor House, Heslington, York – George Smith Esq MBE and Brian Withill Esq

The Manor was originally an 18th century farmstead. In 1946 Lord and Lady Deramore began to create this three-acre plantsman’s garden. In 1968 it became the home of George Smith, the world renowned flower arranger, and Brian Withill. Subdivided by mellow brick walls, George has devised a series of intimate gardens exploiting the favoured micro-climate. A closer examination reveals colour-themed borders, tranquil ponds, wooded walks and even a corner for Mediterranean exotics. The painterly planting is exemplified by careful plant associations of colour, form and texture as befits a flower arranger’s eye. Refreshments will be served in the tiled loggia, once the cartsheds, decorated with George’s lavish flower groups. A small nursery of home-grown plants offers an interesting selection including Hosta ‘George Smith.

Langton Farm, Great Langton – Mr and Mrs Richard Fife

In the autumn of 2012, the house and garden at Langton Farm were flooded by the nearby River Swale. Rising to the challenge, when the floods abated, Annabel Fife commemorated the event by planting 8,000 Narcissus ‘Actaea’ in circles in an avenue of ornamental pears which runs down to the river from the house. The garden is a collaboration between Annabel, a garden designer, and her husband Richard, who has contributed much of the structure of the garden, particularly the pleached limes and beech hedges. The perennial planting, largely dictated by colour, is all Annabel’s work. A mill stone fountain and four Malus mark the centre of the main garden where the four borders are colour-themed.

14. North Yorkshire Friday 30 June

Mount St John, Felixkirk – Mr and Mrs Chris Blundell

The house at Mount St John stands on the edge of the Hambleton Hills, close to Sutton Bank, with a seemingly endless view across the Vale of York. Tom Stuart-Smith was given the difficult task of creating a garden on the sloping ground below the house, always competing with that view. This he has achieved so spectacularly that one becomes utterly engrossed by the garden. Stone terraces level off the ground into a series of borders filled with perennials, anchored in place by large box spheres and beech clipped into tumps. Great billowing masses of Salvia, Phlomis, Digitalis, Knautia, Eryngium and Echinacea swirl round these fixed points leading the eye back over the garden. To one side of the house a valley was originally filled with monastic stew ponds which have been restored and linked by cascades. The margins of the pools and the sides of the valley continue to be replanted. Elsewhere, in this garden of impeccably high standards, are an immaculate vegetable garden, cutting garden and glasshouses.

Havoc Hall, Oswaldkirk – Mr and Mrs David Lis

David and Maggie Lis moved to Havoc Hall in 2008 and immediately set about the garden, which, at that point, was three and a half acres of paddock and half an acre of lawn. The transformation in seven years is truly remarkable, particularly as, with the heavy clay soil, it has not all been plain sailing; yew hedges have become waterlogged and died, the harsh winter of 2010/11 killed much of the new planting. Today the garden is flourishing. A sturdy oak pergola leads from the terrace down to a knot garden with surrounding white borders. Steps lead down to a large lawn, with borders filled with pinks and reds interspersed with Pyrus salicifolia and on to a smaller lawn enclosed surrounded by hot-coloured borders. The main lawn has topiaried hornbeams, a surrounding hornbeam hedge and views across a wild-flower meadow and small lake towards the Howardian Hills in the distance.

15. Suffolk Tuesday 4 July

Kirtling Tower, Kirtling – The Lord and Lady Fairhaven

Built in 1530, Kirtling Tower is the remnant of the largest house in Cambridgeshire. Twenty-five years ago Lord and Lady Fairhaven started to lay out a garden here, but the garden gained momentum when they moved here from Anglesey Abbey and Richard Ayres, former head gardener at the Abbey, advised on the layout of the garden beyond the 1000 year old moat. The walled garden was rescued from dereliction and formally planted with herbaceous borders against the old brick walls. In front of the house an avenue of walnuts reaches across the park and a secret garden has been laid out with advice from Penelope Hobhouse. This garden starts informally with a large pool planted informally with flowering shrubs and trees, including a beautiful cut-leafed Alnus glutinosa ‘Imperialis’, and culminates in a formal circle of clipped beech and fastigiate oaks.

Ousden House, Ousden – Mr and Mrs Alastair Robinson

Alastair and Lavinia Robinson might be forgiven for settling down to enjoy their wonderful garden at Ousden, but after 16 years of planning and planting, it is still evolving. Arabella Lennox-Boyd gave some initial advice on the garden when the Robinsons were starting with a clean slate around the site of the demolished Ousden House, where only a clock tower and the old stable block remained. In front of the latter, now their house, they created a formal yew-hedged rose garden. Yew hedges surround the clock tower and wind, in undulating curves, towards gates into the park. Further from the house, the garden becomes more informal; a bog garden fills a former moat and a spring garden is maturing fast. Beyond this a beech wood runs down to two former monastic stew ponds.

Parsonage House, Helions Bumpstead- The Hon. Mr and Mrs Nigel Turner

Annie and Nigel Turner have lived in Parsonage House for over 25 years. The old yew hedge by the lane hides the garden with its borders filled with a mix of plants designed to give colour and interest for a long period. The clipped box and yew give a balance to the informality of the gravel garden in front of the house, and the different areas of the pond and its surroundings, the greenhouse used to propagate the plants together with an extensive pelargonium collection, the old and new pool gardens, and the orchards over the lane, add interest to a traditional English garden. The wild-flower meadow enables the butterflies, crickets and orchids to thrive and thereby increases the wildlife as well.

16. Wiltshire Friday 7 July

Chisenbury Priory, East Chisenbury – Mr and Mrs John Manser

The two borders in the forecourt of Chisenbury Priory have been recently replanted by Tom Stuart-Smith. This spectacular garden, planted and maintained with great skill and enthusiasm by John Manser, is contained within sheltering chalk walls. Behind the house a lawn extends to a spectacular modern rose-covered wrought-iron pergola, whose uprights alternate with buttresses of yew. The willow-shaded stream, whose banks are obscured by clumps of Hostas and Gunnera, runs through the length of the garden. Beside the house a number of smaller gardens, box-hedged to hold in check Iris and Allium, sweet peas and rambling roses, give onto an orchard with mown grass paths winding through the long grass and apple trees.

Moor Hatches, West Amesbury – Mr and Mrs Guy Leech

The garden at Moor Hatches was also designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, who laid out the garden from 2008, starting from scratch. The brief was to create a low-maintenance garden, which related to the surrounding landscape. An archway leads through to a forecourt with wide stone paths and borders of hot-coloured plants including Rosa chinensis ‘Mutabilis’. From the house, a lawn stretches down to the River Avon, where pools have been created and planted naturally in the newly-reformed river bank. Behind the house is the garden around the swimming pool contained within thatched cob walls. The beds around the pool, on two levels, are a mixture of grasses and later summer-flowering perennials with blocks of beech hedges to give a permanent structure to this space.

Wudston House, Wedhampton – Mr and Mrs David Morrison

Wudston House is a recent creation, born out of a redundant farmyard and completed in 2009. The garden, a passion of David’s, was started in 2010. Beside the house a hornbeam tunnel, supported by an impressive oak framework, separates a vegetable garden from a sunken garden filled with late-flowering perennials. The garden is best seen from mid-summer and the double borders which, with ranks of tall hornbeam pyramids, frame the main lawn, are filled with unusual perennials and shrubs, many the result of David’s collaboration with Nick Macer, who has played a major role in the border planting, as well as being actively involved in the development, from 2014, of the arboretum. Where the garden merges into the countryside of the Vale of Pewsey, David has worked with Professor James Hitchmough of Sheffield University on the planting of a large, semi-circular, perennial meadow, incorporating bands predominantly of South African, Eurasian and North American plants.

1. Warwickshire Tuesday 6 June

The Old Rectory, Aston-le-Walls – Philip Astley-Jones Esq

The two and a half acre garden at The Old Rectory was, apart from some established trees, including a very productive walnut, a blank canvas when it was bought by Philip Astley-Jones in 1993. Over the years, hedges have been planted, garden buildings, (one with an Indian theme, another based on a design by Humphry Repton), have been erected and allowed to mature, ornaments have been gathered and placed with care to add just the right note of formality around the 1790s rectory. All have a tale to tell, of people or of places where they were discovered and it is this layering of objects that makes the garden such fun and gives it such huge charm.

Hardwick Hill, Priors Hardwick – Mr and Mrs Diarmaid Kelly

Not long ago the garden at Hardwick Hill was overgrown, neglected and given over to a plantation of Christmas trees. With much hard work, Candida Kelly, a garden designer and botanical artist, has created the lovely garden that now surrounds the house. A wide lawn separates the generous terrace from the ha-ha and parkland beyond. On one side a magnificent Corsican Pine draws the eye upwards to the hanging woods, on the other, beyond a screen of pleached Malus, a long border leads to a pavilion with views to the distant Malvern Hills. A stone wall and hedges shelter the herbaceous planting on three sides of a square below the main lawn and a walk of winter-flowering plants leads back to the house. A beautifully maintained vegetable garden, a cutting garden, a fern-clad stumpery and an extensive orchard are among the other delights of this wonderful garden.

Wardington Manor, Wardington – The Land Gardeners

Wardington Manor is a garden with a great past, but since 2009 it has been planted as a productive garden by Bridget Elworthy (the current owner) and Henrietta Courtauld – both of whom run The Land Gardeners. This is a business producing cut flowers for London events, designing and restoring walled gardens and researching soil health. The layout of the old garden remains within the ironstone walls, the structure of yew hedges and buttresses and the borders of established Magnolias and Azaleas. Great sweeps of blue Iris line paths, delphiniums and lupins burst out of borders, foxgloves riot with peonies and the Victorian walled kitchen garden is a blissful mixture of flowers and vegetables. A recent development of the organic garden is a whole new approach to compost-making to improve radically soil health, structure and fertility.

4. Somerset and Dorset Monday 12 June

The Old Rectory, Pulham – Mr and Mrs Nick Elliott

The Old Rectory is a delicious castellated gothick house standing across the fields from its church. The terrace, on the east side of the house, is liberally planted with Alchemilla, Doricnium and Verbena bonariensis. The garden extends past formal box beds and Portuguese laurel umbrellas, under-planted with Santolina, to a ha-ha and the expansive view of Bulbarrow Hill and the Dorset Downs. Yew hedges march away from the south side of the house, towards circular herbaceous borders crammed with Phlox, Persicaria, Lychnis, Veronicastrum and Anemonies, at their peak in July, but planted for a long flowering season. Further from the house the garden becomes less formal, with a bog garden and two woodland gardens where native trees are planted with exotics and flowering shrubs.

Forest Lodge, Penselwood – The Hon. Mr and Mrs James Nelson

The garden at Forest Lodge is comparatively young. It is only after admiring the design; the Lutyenesque terraces, descending in curves to a circular lawn, the pleached hornbeams framing a rill and the large pond, which seems to vanish into the surrounding woodland, that one begins to take in the quality of the planting. By the house rose and perennial-filled borders line the terraces and lead to the Malus orchard, where spring bulbs are followed by later-flowering perennials. The informal walks around the pond are planted with acid-loving plants that relish the underlying greensand. Here, among Hamamelis, Stranvesia, Halesia, Eucryphia and Cornus ‘Eddys White Wonder’, Lucy has planted rarities such as Emmenopteris henryi. Marginals surround the pond, including drifts of Primulas and later-flowering Crocosmia in profusion.

Stavordale Priory, Charlton Musgrove – Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Michael Le Poer Trench Esq

Home of Cameron and Michael for over twenty years, the gardens, laid out by previous owner and garden designer Georgia Langton, have now been developed and extended by Michael and his team. “Arts and Crafts” is an overused phrase, but if meaning a garden of outdoor rooms, topiary, stone walls and gorgeous “tapestry-style” planting it can apply to much of what we see at Stavordale. Beds overflow with richly-coloured perennials with structure provided by tightly clipped box shapes and topiary yews. The vegetable garden is more a potager with fruit and flowers in the mix. Michael’s birthday arboretum leads to the“Les Misérables” elephant and then through a woodland grove to a series of recently extended lakes surrounded by generous beds of moisture-loving Primulas and Iris. This is a garden of atmosphere and great horticultural passion.