Three Open Gardens
by Ruth Lawrence
As days lengthen towards the summer solstice, NGS Open Gardens will be in full bloom. Ruth Lawrence recently visited three contrasting gardens that will be opening their gates during June.
Town Place in Freshfield is a relatively young, beautifully designed garden with a growing international reputation. Now celebrating its 21st year of opening, owners Anthony and Maggie McGrath showed me round the thirteen distinct areas that make up the 3 ¼ acre garden. A sunken rose garden was replanted eleven years ago with 150 English roses to replace the original pre-war design and a pair of generous purple themed herbaceous beds comprises ‘The Long Border’, flanked by a tapestry hedge.
The orchard, replanted since the hurricane of 87 boasts specimen trees including a Judas Tree, a Wedding Cake Tree and a Tulip Tree. The ‘Circus’ contains bold yew topiary inspired by the sculptures of Henry Moore and ‘Chequers’ consists of gravel paths running through beds planted with box. A secret garden is tantalisingly hidden behind a door in a high hedge making a perfect space to retreat and relax upon a restful chamomile bench. The stately ‘Hornbeam Walk’ casts elegant shadows when graced by sun and the trees are flanked by a magnificent copper beech hedge.
One of the most spectacular features of this expansive garden is the ‘Toune Priory’, a Romanesque church grown from native hornbeam hedge, complete with outer buttresses and a knave, which coincidentally is the same length as that of Chichester Cathedral – 45 meters. ‘Windows’ have been cut into the 15ft high green walls and the adjoining ‘cloisters’ consist of pointed juniper ‘skyrockets’ which throw long shadows across the turf. One of my favourite parts of the garden is ‘The Dell’, a pond rebuilt using knapped flints, overlooked by a magnificent oak, believed to be over 600 years old and as gnarled as an illustration from a fairytale. The herb garden consists of four box edged raised beds of herbs and cottage garden plants which flank a chamomile path while the Apple Walk has a herringbone brick path from the original farm and cottages. Town Place is open on four days, offering plants sales, teas and refreshments; allow plenty of time for your visit as the garden is made to savour and slowly enjoy.
- Open Sunday 12th June
- Thursday 16th June
- Sunday 26th June
- Sunday 3rd July, 2-6pm
Warninglid Open Gardens is in its fifth year, offering several gardens to visit in one day. I visited The Old Post where Mariola and Bob Clark have been working alongside the other participants and thirty village volunteers to make the day a great success; the gardeners planted 5,000 daffodil bulbs and six cherry trees to thank the volunteers for their efforts.
Last year’s open day even tempted visitors from the US on their way to enjoy the large gardens of Kent. Mariola is keen on plants with a long flowering season such as the Scotland bred ‘Wild Swan’ anemone which won a Chelsea award and Sea Kale which she loves for its huge leaves and fragrant white flowers which top the six foot high stalk. She plants different perennials every year; a recent addition being an orange veined Geum called ‘Totally Tangerine’ and she has been stocking up on structural plants to lend their long garden some width and height.
During the open day, she will be on hand to give advice and teas and refreshments will be available at the village pavilion on the recreation ground, where visitors will be able to purchase plants donated by participating gardeners.
- All gardens open Sunday 26th June, 2-5pm
Old Vicarage in Firle sits behind tall walls that lend an air of secrecy to a series of spectacular garden rooms, open to wide skies behind the South Downs. Charlie Bridge’s parents bought the derelict vicarage in 1955 when the garden was a complete jungle and Lanning Roper designed the layout of the present garden in the 60s.
Charlie and his wife Arabella now enjoy the delights of the garden’s continuing evolution; Moy Fierheller has been the gardener here for eleven years and has, in Charlie’s words, “done an incredible job.” The front of the house overlooks a series of half century old pleached lime trees, standing like resolute chess pieces around the drive.
One of five doorways leads to a secret garden, known as ‘Allegra’s Garden’ and it’s here that the magical quality of the place really starts to happen. A towering cherry tangled with vine acts as a powerful focus, leading the eye to a wrought iron gate beyond which lies the walled vegetable garden. Here, yew buttresses lean against the brick and flint wall which itself acts as backdrop for plants chosen for their late colour.
Another gate passes through a yew hedge to the swimming pool garden; the ‘rooms’ open like chapters in a book, compelling the viewer to keep turning pages to further explore the story. From here a wooden door leads to a wild garden where 40 perennial wildflowers attract numerous insect species and this area carries on to an old pond overlooked by a magnificent willow. A natural flow of water has been harnessed into a tumbling waterfall and the garden then swoops into an area where a glasshouse once stood in the 1920s. The previous owner, the vicar, was a keen plant collector and a black lily or ‘dracunculus’ was one of his more unusual specimens. Pollinated by flies, the striking black flowers apparently have a repulsive smell to counter their compelling appearance.
By the open day, 120 roses will be in bloom and visitors will be able to enjoy this other-worldly garden, whilst enjoying cream tea and refreshments. It’s a place that would inspire numerous visits for there is a tangible sense of the long care and passion that has gone into its making.
- Open Saturday 18th June, 2-5pm
More Open Gardens this June
Henfield Festival of Gardens & Arts
- Saturday & Sunday, 11-12th June
Many lovely gardens and buildings to visit. Free entry, but charitable donations gratefully received. Look out for the blue guide in pubs, shops and libraries or visit www.henfieldhub.com for more information.
Fletching Garden Trail
- Sunday 12th June 2016, 11-5pm
Tickets £6 on the day from Fletching Primary School playground, children go free. Lunch, cake, refreshments, over 20 open gardens. All proceeds benefit Fletching Church of England Primary School.
Further info 01825 722356
Ansty Open Gardens, Appletree Cottage
- Sunday 26th June
2-acre mature garden in cottage style. Refreshments, proceeds from tea sales go to Family Support Work. www.ngs.org
- Saturday 25th June, 2-5pm
Opening in aid of St. Peter & St. James Hospice. Refreshments and plant sale. £3.00, children under 16 free, dogs welcome. www.stpeter-stjames.org.uk
12 Manor Cottages, Manor Road, Hurstpierpoint
- Sunday 12th June, 1-5.30pm
In aid of St Peter & St James Hospice. A lovely little cottage garden nurtured over 19 years, if you like ornaments and pots it is a must! Val looks forward to meeting you on the 12th.