A ‘Quarry Garden’ had not registered with my horticultural subconscious until I visited Belsay Hall garden an English Heritage property in Northumberland. Serendipity or deliberate planning has created a fantastic garden space for the 21st Century from a site first developed as a garden at the end of the 18th century.
There are influences from other famous gardeners including Humphry Repton, William Robinson and the designers of the previous 17th century gardens and manor house.
Conceiving a Quarry Garden
There are a couple of paths through the quarry leading to the old castle which hosts grand views of the estate from the battlements. These paths go through the West Quarry garden and the East Quarry gardens. see photos
Sir Charles Monck had the hall built in 1817 from local stone dug from his own quarry between the Castle and Hall. Creating a quarry garden was in his mind as the stone was excavated with great care. If the stone had simply been blasted out we would just have a hole in the ground.
The sheer rock sides form a ravine with what has developed into a dramatic garden of significant proportions. The planting of evergreen trees like yews and pines on the rim of the quarry has increased the sense of height whilst the lower story has attracted many plants including Rhododendrons.
The lush, jungle atmosphere was later enhanced by Monck’s grandson, Sir Arthur Middleton, who planted many more exotic and rare shrubs that liked the conditions created by the microclimate within the quarry. Majestic trees are complemented by a collection of ferns that Sir Charles Monck was renown for collecting.
This is Trapoleum Tuberosun a relative of the nasturtium twining through a tree heather in the more formal part of the garden.
Visit in spring when snowdrops and other bulbs, planted in the early 18th century, are in full bloom.
Time your visit to see the display of Rhododendrons in full spate.
Be prepared for a walk through the surrounding woods and through the Fern walk.
The hall contains no furniture but the architecture is worth studying, the tea rooms are worth eating in and the rest of the garden is designed for a fine day.
Park yourself on a bench in one of Britains top parks.
Top 10 most beautiful parks compiled by Rae Spencer-Jones extracted from 1001 gardens for the Daily Telegraph. If you can cope with 1001 garden visits then good on you…. but read the book first.
Royal Botanic Garden Kew has a tropical plant festival in the glasshouse until March 2010
Virginia Water – Saville garden and Valley garden have a varied and exotic woodland, landscape and garden to visit.
Hylands Park Essex has a wide variety of interesting flora, fauna. There is also a large variety of mature trees including oak, ash, hornbeam, and field maple, plus an additional 25,000 new trees.
Clumber Country Park Nottinhamshire is ideal for long walks or cycling so you need to be fit.
Talkin Tarn Cumbria nestles in a 165 acre site, containing a glacial tarn surrounded by mature woodland and gentle meadows
Coed y Brenin Gwynedd is Forestry commission land with lots of bike tracks.
Healey Dell Nature Reserve Lancashire sits in a picturesque part of the Spodden Valley on the outskirts of Rochdale. It is rich in wildlife, with a fascinating archaeological history
Stanwick Lakes Northampton is a unique countryside attraction in the heart of the Nene Valley very good for wild life.
Normanby Hall Museum and Country Park Lincolnshire with a walled garden, house and farming museum to complement the Park
Vogrie Country Park Edinburgh has 250 acres of natural trails, a walled garden and ponds. The 19th-century landscape includes trees brought to Scotland by plant collector George Forrest. Great for walking.
Chinese gardens rely on a poetic approach to rocks, water and plants and use fewer flowers than Western gardeners. Peonies are one of the few flowers used but the key plants are bamboos and shapely Pines. In contrast to our gardens, that are designed to lead to focal points, Chinese gardens often rely on unexpected views and a gradual reveal of the garden. Screens and hedges and strange diagonals may help you achieve this feel.
The use of text in a Chinese garden is a trait that is becoming more prevalent in the UK. Lines from literature, poetry or quotations can be effectively woven into your design.
Gardens in Beijing have evocative and often descriptive names. I like this idea but ‘Piles of Pretty Plants’ or ‘Compost Compound and Comfrey’ do not sound as evocative.
Garden of the Preservation of Harmony Yi He Yaun has lush green planting and exquisite bridges in the grounds of the former Summer Palace. Garden of Perfect Brightness Yuan Ming Yuan is said too be like the ruins of Versailles. The Imperial Palace Garden Yu Hua Yuan is quite small but contains plants dating back to the 15th Century. Mountain Resort for Avoiding Heat Bi Shu Shan Zhuang is set in dramatic hills with large lakes and valleys to give you the felling of fresh cool air.
If you are planning a holiday in China see Top 10 Gardens in China
The new Alpine House at Harlow Carr has a plunge bed to be proud of as you may expect from the RHS. This Dionysia Curviflora has been double potted to facilitate watering and it’s flowers will be purple with a white inner ring and dark centre.
The plunge bed is at a good viewing height and the display can be changed as plants develop and seasons change. As a purpose built, alpine house plunge bed there are several features it would be hard to incorporate in my glasshouse but the rake from front to back and the use of rocks builds up height to provide a landscape rather than a flat two dimensional display.
The sand and gravel mixes vary depending on the plants being grown. Some free planting around the plunged pots adds to the attraction of this type of alpine display. The alpine house is climate controlled but much of the daily watering is done by hand before visitors arrive to view the gardens.
I am now keen to develop a better plunge area for my alpines. That is one of the joys or costs of visiting a best of class display like RHS gardens.
Tip – Study the best and think how you can incorporate new ideas in your gardening. The photo below shows how different coloured chippings and grits can work with your display.