Author Archives: jwey

5. Devon Tuesday 13 June

Hillersdon House, Cullompton – Michael Lloyd Esq

Hillersdon is a young garden, restored after many years of neglect with huge energy and enthusiasm by Michael Lloyd. The house was built in the late 1840s in a slightly more prominent site than its predecessor, overlooking two lakes, parkland and distant Cullompton. Terraces, anchoring the house into the hillside, are planted with beds of lavender and Gaura and lead to a vista of double borders framing an Ionic temple at the end of the kitchen garden. Above this, a stumpery links up to a grass terrace walk along the side of the valley. It is backed by a spectacular line of sweet chestnuts, probably planted in the 17th century, whose trunks, twisted and fluted with maturity, have become living sculptures. A woodland garden, newly planted with the original 100 varieties of Rhododendrons that Hooker and Wilson brought back to the UK in the mid 1800s, leads down to a wood and cob temple, whose columns are reflected in the water of the lake.

Cadhay, Ottery St Mary – Rupert Thistlethwaite Esq and Caroline Prior

Cadhay is a 16th and early 17th century courtyard house behind an 18th century façade and indeed the courtyard, with its flint and sandstone chequerwork pattern, is, as Pevsner remarks, “exceedingly pretty”. The two-acre gardens which wrap round the house and the medieval stewponds, date from the early 20th century. Topiaried yews strut across the lawn below the Long Gallery, double herbaceous borders draw the feet down to the ponds and the woodland gardens beyond. These are planted with Rhododendrons and Azaleas followed by a succession of later-flowering shrubs and perennials. The extensive kitchen garden to one side of the house has been triumphantly brought back to life and productivity by being partially let out as carefully controlled allotments.

South Wood Farm, Cotleigh – Dr Clive Potter

In 2005 Arne Maynard was commissioned to design the garden around South Wood Farm. He decided to create the feel of a yeoman farmer’s garden around the ancient thatched hall house. A wooden gate leads into the first garden, a sheltered space by the house, protected by walls and espaliered crab apples, with a central topiaried bay tree and tables of clipped yew to balance the rich planting of Allium, Thalictrum, lupins and Rosa ‘Felicity Parmentier’. A plum and damson orchard leads into the kitchen garden, where vegetables happily rub shoulders with cut flowers and where soft fruit is grown in individual wooden fruit cages. Behind the house, the garden becomes less formal and merges imperceptibly into the wooded landscape.

6. Devon and Cornwall Wednesday 14 June

Trematon Castle, Saltash – Mr and Mrs Julian Bannerman

In 2012 Julian and Isabel Bannerman sold Hanham Court, their house near Bristol, and took on the lease at Trematon. They acquired a real castle, complete with battlemented keep, and a late Georgian house with spectacular views across the River Tamar to the Navy at Devonport. In only three years they have created a sumptuous garden. To one side of the house, the keep stands on its wild-flower-studded mound, cowslips and primroses in April, ferns, wild thyme and marjoram in summer. A great sweeping bank, decorated with signature Bannerman obelisks, is awash with Iris, peonies, roses, Salvias and Campanulas. Rambler roses are trained against the walls, the gatehouse border is another mass of roses and peonies. Euphorbias are everywhere in the spring and Echiums in the summer. It is a work in progress, but what progress has been made.

Shilstone, Modbury – Mr and Mrs Sebastian Fenwick

In 1997 Sebastian and Lucy Fenwick discovered a Grade II listed farmhouse in a secluded valley. Intrigued by the landscape surrounding the farmhouse, which was all that remained of a substantial manor house; they bought the property and then built an entirely new house, which reflected three periods of English architecture; the 1600s, 1690s and 1730s. The result is a remarkable and beautiful house, which feels like an old house that has been brought into the 21st century. The garden reflects the history of the site, excavations showed terracing around the natural amphitheatre of the valley. The walled garden to the west of the house still has its raised walkway and gazebo tower, while below the house lie the remains of a Jacobean grotto, possibly the earliest in the country. We will be given a tour of both the house and the garden.

Ince Castle, Saltash – The Viscount and Viscountess Boyd of Merton

Ince Castle is approached by a long avenue and is an unusual and attractive, crenellated building, dating from the mid 17th century, with low square towers at each corner. It stands on a wind-swept peninsula of the River Lynher, part of the complex estuary that makes up Plymouth Sound. In 1960 Patricia, Lady Boyd started to design the garden, laying out the formal garden to the south of the castle, with a wisteria lawn leading down to a lily pond and built the enchanting shell house and dovecot in 1964. The woodland garden, planted with magnolias, camellias and other shrubs around the 19th century bowling green was created at the same time. The current owners, Simon and Alice Boyd, have lowered the lawn on the east side, added the wooded mound and the evergreen oak allée.

7. Devon Thursday 15 June

Plaz Metaxu, Coombe House, Witheridge – Alasdair Forbes Esq

There are a number of gardens in Britain that are concerned with ideas even more than plants; in particular Ian Hamilton-Finlay’s garden at Little Sparta, Charles Jencks’s Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Dumfriesshire and Christine Facer’s at Througham Court. Plaz Metaxu, “the place that is between” is one of these gardens. Its underlying themes are classical mythology, art, music and psychology. Influenced by Taoism and Buddhism, particularly in the treatment of spaces, it is a garden of concepts and poetic symbolism, but like William Kent’s garden at Rousham, it is possible to enjoy the planting and this magical garden’s relationship with the surrounding landscape, particularly the valley, quite as much as the essential meaning underlying the garden.

The garden seems to start rather conventionally, with, in front of the house, a lawn running down to a stream and to one side, an enclosed garden with a charming wooden seat built into the top wall. The courtyard behind the house changes the tone immediately, created primarily for contemplation, it is dedicated to the god Hermes, who is able to move effortlessly between the world of the gods and that of men. The main part of the garden lies in the valley below the house, where the stream flows round a central lake that draws the visitor further into the garden and Alasdair Forbes’s classical world.

Tim Richardson has described Plaz Metaxu as “one of the most significant new gardens to have been made in Britain in recent decades.” We will therefore spend the whole morning in the garden with Alasdair Forbes. After lunch we will be free to return to explore the garden on our own and the more energetic can walk the perimeter Pastoral Loop which gives wider views across the valley which Alasdair Forbes likens to a caesura – a suspenseful pause breaking up a line of verse.

8. Wiltshire Tuesday 20 June

Spilsbury Farm, Tisbury – Jamie and Tania Compton

The garden at Spilsbury Farm is an intriguing mixture of formality and wildness. An orchard next to the house leads to vistas lined with clipped blocks and pyramidal hornbeams in long meadow grass that are focused on ancient oak trees. Within this strong framework, Jamie and Tania seem happy to let nature enjoy a controlled riot. The house is approached by a lovely gravel garden planted with Perovskia, Euphorbia myrsinites and Santolina. Box, clipped into balls, keep clouds of fennel at bay, borders billow with Eryngiums, Sedums, cardoons, grasses and roses mingle with meadow grasses. Pots filled with summer annuals dress the terrace and furnish steps.

Shute House, Donhead St Mary – Mr and Mrs John Lewis

The River Nadder rises in the garden at Shute and is the soul of this intriguing and mysterious garden, which was designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe. The water takes two courses, one informal and natural, the other formal and classical. From a rectangular canal overlooked by three Roman busts, the water falls in a rill richly planted with perennials into pools inspired by Moorish gardens. Suzy Lewis, who understands this garden so well, has added to and enriched it, re-organising the entrance to bring the lovely east façade of the house into the garden, adding an allée, contained by beech hedges and creating a new garden in a courtyard outside her kitchen. Jellicoe’s masterpiece is in very safe hands.

Donhead Hall, Donhead St Mary – Mr and Mrs Paul Brewer

Early Georgian Donhead Hall stands on a slope grandly surveying its deer park, which laps up to the walls of the house. The garden, designed by Martin Lane Fox, rises on terraces behind it. An elegant orangery faces a swimming pool across a box parterre and on the next terrace, lines of Betula jacquemontii and clipped Viburnum tinus make a very understated pairing. An upper terrace with a border running its entire length leads to the vegetable and cutting gardens at the highest point of the garden. A vista runs from a lovely octagonal pavilion, by way of grass steps and a formal pool surrounded by a box of pleached limes, back to the south façade of the house.

9. Wiltshire Wednesday 21 June

Pound Barn, West Kington – Mr and Mrs Philip Stockitt

Philip and Barbara Stockitt moved from Pound Hill House into the barn next door, where she had had her plant nursery. She has created a new garden here, smaller than the one she left, but with echoes of the features that worked so well at Pound Hill House. Here is the same use of hedges and dry stone walls for structure and, of course, the same abundance of roses now mixed with grasses. Topiary is important in the garden and Barbara still has a topiary nursery. Beyond the barn is a sunken terrace with patterned paving interspersed with box, geraniums, Verbena and Erigeron. The main garden is a wide rectangle lawn, enclosed by yew hedges with generous borders, divided by smart yew buttresses, filled with roses bred by her brother, David Austin.

Pound Hill House, West Kington – Mr and Mrs Simon Tatham

The garden at Pound Hill was originally created by Barbara Stockitt in the late 1980s, in spite of advice from Graham Thomas that nothing would grow on this high windswept Wiltshire plateau, and has recently been taken on by Simon and Minnie Tatham. The garden entirely suits the mellow Cotswold stone house, wrapping round it like a blanket. Intimate spaces, formed by Wisteria-clad walls and clipped hedges, are filled with roses and link together to form vistas across the garden. A long rose and Wisteria pergola cuts through an ancient orchard and beyond an avenue of sweet chestnuts draws the eye from the tennis court. On the south side of the house a sunny, sunken terrace, sociably furnished with tables and chairs and a box-hedged and rose-filled parterre gives on to a large open lawn and contrasts well with the enclosed spaces.

Cadenham Manor, Foxham – Mr and Mrs Martin Nye

The wonderful four-acre garden around the late 17th century house at Cadenham Manor was laid out by Victoria Nye’s grandmother, who bought the house in 1945 and started with an unremarkable farmhouse garden. From the forecourt of the house a stroll through the orangery leads to the first of a series of formal spaces immediately around the house; from the Lavender Garden one passes the South Borders into the sunken parterres and the first of the moats that are such a significant feature of the garden. Away from the house the garden relaxes and spreads around further moats, there are more garden rooms enclosed by clipped hedges, including a vegetable garden, white garden, peony and Iris walk and a long vista to an Ionic temple. The last surprise of all is the Canal Garden formed from the remains of Wilts and Berks Canal.

10. Oxfordshire Thursday 22 June

Haseley Court , Great Haseley – Mr and Mrs Desmond Heyward

In 1954 Nancy Lancaster moved to a near-derelict Haseley Court and began to create the stylish and elegant English garden to match the interior decoration of the house which she worked on with John Fowler. There was topiary here in 1543 and the ancient topiary chess set, still in excellent shape, miraculously survived the Second World War. In 1982 Desmond and Fiona Heyward moved into Haseley Court and initially shared the garden with Mrs Lancaster, who died in 1994. Since then, Fiona Heyward has continued to develop the garden, making it very much her own, with advice from David Hicks and Penelope Hobhouse. At its heart, the walled garden, with its hornbeam tunnels, is a beguiling mix of old roses, foxgloves, peonies and other summer-flowering perennials. This garden gets better every year and is still immensely stylish and elegant.

Rofford Manor, Little Milton – Mr and Mrs Jeremy Mogford

Jeremy and Hilary Mogford started at Rofford with a blank canvas and began to lay out the garden to their own design, only later calling on Michael Balston to advise on the detailed planting. Far from resting on their laurels, this beautifully maintained garden is constantly evolving. The entrance court sets the pace, with pleached limes growing from elegantly clipped box drums. Throughout the garden the planting is carefully considered; profusion in the borders, simplicity and restraint in planting and colour in the smaller garden rooms around the house. The long vista, across the croquet lawn, which leads the eye into the countryside beyond the ha-ha, is balanced by the immaculate walled kitchen garden, beyond which lies the serene wood and water garden around the lake.

The Grange, Chalgrove – Mr and Mrs Peter Farren

Vicky and Peter Farren bought the Grange for its ten-acre garden, which had been so neglected that, apart from the structure of trees and the lake, they had to rise to the challenge and start from scratch. An arboretum surrounds a rectangular pool, once used for swimming, while behind the house, curved borders are sheltered by yew hedges beyond which lie an orchard of venerable apples and a vegetable garden with raised beds. From the house, the garden runs down to a stream and beyond to the willow-fringed lake, crossed by elegant wooden, Wisteria-clad bridges onto a densely-planted island. On the far bank borders, filled with Miscanthus and late summer-flowering perennials, lead to paddocks fenced with cleft chestnut and to the wild flower meadow and new woodland walk.

11. Gloucestershire Monday 26 June

Bywell, Sapperton – Mr and Mrs Alex Kininmonth

Bywell is in that remote portion of the Cotswolds where the ground falls into steep and hidden valleys. It is hard to find, but very well worth the effort. Everything has been built, planted and maintained by Alex Kininmonth himself. The scale of his achievement, on this steeply sloping site, only dawns gradually as the garden slowly reveals itself. The forecourt of the house is backed by a vertiginous south-facing bank lushly planted with a huge variety of shrubs and crowned with a line of Italian cypress. Around the house water, first encountered and crossed at the foot of the bank, becomes an important and unifying feature of the garden; first as a canal, then circular infinity pool, a cascade and finally a naturally planted pool. Everywhere the planting is sumptuous and the garden ornaments, all created by Alex, are witty and downright impressive.

Througham Court, Througham – Anthony Hoffman and Christine Facer Hoffman

Througham Court must be one of the most exciting and challenging gardens in the country. Inspired by both her background as a scientist and the work of her friend Charles Jencks, landscape designer Christine Facer Hoffman has created a garden full of scientific symbolism that ranges from the Fibonacci Sequence to a number of key formulae that govern the working of the universe. The Arts and Crafts layout of yew hedges and sunken gardens (by the Cotswold architect Norman Jewson) merges blissfully with 21st century science. This is a remarkable garden around an impressive 17th century house in a lovely setting. It inspires thought, but with huge charm and great style. For many, the image of plum-coloured flags fluttering against the rolling green hills of an intimate Cotswold valley is unforgettable.

Moor Wood, Woodmancote – Mr and Mrs Henry Robinson

The Robinson family have been at Moor Wood since 1911 and the National Collection of Rambler Roses since 1983. The house, shaded by a spectacular Lebanon Cedar, has evolved into something rather grander from three 18th century cottages. It stands under a wooded bank, looking west over its sheltered valley into ancient Moor Wood. Here Henry has established his collection of 150 Rambler Roses, while Susie, with advice from Lady Mary Keen, has rationalised the garden around the house, where clipped yews give structure to summer perennials, a semi-formal vista ends with wooden gates open onto the landscape. It is the Robinson’s philosophy that landscape and garden should blend seamlessly. They have developed a garden that does just that and then explodes into flower in the last weeks of June.

Siena and the Gardens of Southern Tuscany

Monday 15th – Friday 19th May 2017


Hill-top Siena, for so long the arch-rival of Florence, will be our base for this five-day tour. It is, even more than Florence, the archetypal medieval Italian city, narrow streets running between tall and imposing palazzi to the huge fan-shaped Campo where the Palio is run twice a year.  The distinctive striped cathedral, perched on the top of one of the city’s hills, catches the eye from almost every direction.  We are based in the five-star Grand Hotel Continental, the former the seventeenth century Palazzo Gori Pannilini, built by Pope Alexander VII as a wedding present to his niece Olympia Chigi on her marriage to Giulio de’Gori, situated in the very heart of the city. From here it is only a few minutes’ walk to the Piazza del Campo and the cathedral.

Spring in Naples, Ischia and the Amalfi Coast

Wednesday 19th – Monday 24th April 2017

Wednesday 3rd – Monday 8th May 2017

naplesIn the late Neapolitan spring, the air is redolent with the scent of lemon blossom and the wisteria is in full bloom. Across the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius and Capri seem to hang in the opalescent light. On the Amalfi coast the mountains, terraced with lemon groves, plunge into sunlit seas.

This is a six-day tour, with three nights at the five star Grand Hotel Parkers in the centre of Naples, with all rooms enjoying the spectacular view of the Bay of Naples, and two nights in Ravello at the Hotel Villa Maria.

Please note that the tour from 3-8 May is now fully booked.