A VISIT TO THE GARDEN HOUSE
The Garden House is not far from the city of Plymouth and in the far south west of England.
This is a garden that was planted by Lionel Fortescue, extended by head gardener Keith Wiley and now managed by the Fortescue Garden Trust. I was part of a group of Nuffield Scholars and we were shown around by the current head gardener Nick Haworth.
I visited the garden in late September. This was not my first visit as I recall that was in the late 1970s. I was then shown around The Garden House by Mr Fortescue himself and the garden was substantially smaller.
Sitting between Plymouth and Dartmoor as it does, the garden has many climatic advantages. The Tamar is not far away. There is some benefit from the proximity of this river which forms the border between Devon and nextdoor county of Cornwall.
Trees at the Garden House
This garden is full of interesting trees! Some are quite common but many are unusual or actually quite rare.
A newish area devoted to trees appropriately called the arboretum will no doubt look good in 20 years’ time. Elsewhere in the garden there are lots of very fine specimens of good garden trees. This is not the place to list them here but strong in my memory are a fabulous multi-stem Himalayan birch, great Japanese maples and Stewartia.
In another area I spotted an amazing collection of weeping conifer trees. Planted one by another I marvelled at almost fully grown Brewer’s Weeping Spruce Picea breweriana, the Coffin Juniper Juniperus coxii, Cupressus cashmeriana and Nootka Cypress Chamaecyparis nootkatensis. I don’t recall ever seeing these planted so close to one another so that you can make a direct comparison.
Fruiting as never before we all marvelled at the strawberry-like fruits that covered the Asian dogwoods Cornus kousa. These had certainly benefited from the long hot summer that we had experienced! Branches were hanging down with the weight of fruit.
There’s an area that makes full use of the acid soil here as it is planted with many azalea and Rhododendron. This would be spectacular in late spring.
The lower and old part of the garden is full of good herbaceous perennials and these were complimented by a few select roses and dahlias. I’m sure that this are of the Garden House would be at its best in any summer month.
It’s not only flowers!
An old wooden seat of the Lutyens style had its own flora. This seat was covered with pale green lichen and was a testament to the high rainfall that this garden gets. Resting a while I spotted a late season red admiral butterfly on the seat soaking up the sun. Elsewhere more red admirals were supping from the tall test tube like white flowers of Actaea simple Mountain Wave.
Around the House
Close to the house there are more plants of interest for plantsmen and plants women alike! I spotted a very fine Hydrangea which I hadn’t seen before. This had only one bloom but was a delicate pink bicolour and is called Hydrangea Mirai. One to look out for I’d suggest!
On the part covered house terrace there is an uncommon tender climbing plant. This the national flower of Chile is beautiful Lapageria rosea which I have had some success growing myself. Here it looked in its element and was relishing this particular spot.
In front of the house there were bold clumps of Colchicum blooming. I spotted several strong clumps of the double bloomed ‘Water Lily’. Apparently, there are also lots of snowdrops established in this area should you visit in winter. Incidentally, the garden is now open all the year round.
I admired a hardy begonia that had good flowers and foliage. This is Begonia grandis spp. evansii ‘Claret Jug’. This is one that I’m certainly going to be growing in the future!
Refreshments are available from the house and the terrace is a lovely place to quietly drink coffee and view a large part of the garden. Inside the house there is also a very informative history of Lionel Fortescue and the Garden House history.
Have you ever visited this garden? Find out more about it here.
If you’ve visited which is your favourite part?
Keith Wiley was responsible for much of the modern planting of this garden and he now has his own garden nearby.
Although a very different style of garden you may wish to read about my visit around the same time to the Piet Oudolf garden at Bruton’s Hauser and Wirth