Tag Archives | Open gardens

Japanese Garden at Giggle Alley Eskdale

Japanese Garden

Features to Expect in a Japanese Garden

  • In Giggle Alley there are winding pathways, stone steps, rockeries and pools of water.
  • The Japanese style bridge over a gurgling stream is pictured below.
  • The planting includes excellent Maples and colourful leaf combinations.
  • Azaleas waft scent around the glades and provide further colour and a sense of harmony.
  • A venerable old Magnolia looks half dead but is flowering at the top of several 20′ high branches.

Giggle Alley Design

  • Designed in 1914 and left to become overgrown since 1949, the garden at Eskdale is currently being renovated.
  • The Forestry Commission created a Design Plan for the Japanese garden 2006-2011 see it on this pdf. You can contribute ideas and comments to the next plan and phase of renovation.
  • This Japanese Garden, in Giggle Alley forest, was the jewel in architect James Rea’s horticultural crown.
  • There are thickets of bamboo, a stunning display of Japanese maples and the heady scent of azaleas in the spring.
  • The whole forest is open to the public.

Japanese Garden

Wild Life in Giggle Alley

Continue Reading →


Quarry Gardens at Belsay Hall & Castle

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.

Belsay Hall Castle Garden

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.

Belsay Hall Castle Garden

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.

Belsay Hall Castle Garden

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.

Belsay Hall Castle Garden
This is Trapoleum Tuberosun a relative of the nasturtium twining through a tree heather in the more formal part of the garden.

Gardeners Tips

  • 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.

Belsay Hall Castle Garden


10 Parks Around the UK

Park yourself on a bench in one of Britains top parks.
Book Cover

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.

  1. Royal Botanic Garden Kew has a tropical plant festival in the glasshouse until March 2010
  2. Virginia Water – Saville garden and Valley garden have a varied and exotic woodland, landscape and garden to visit.
  3. 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.
  4. Clumber Country Park Nottinhamshire is ideal for long walks or cycling so you need to be fit.
  5. Talkin Tarn Cumbria nestles in a 165 acre site, containing a glacial tarn surrounded by mature woodland and gentle meadows
  6. Coed y Brenin Gwynedd is Forestry commission land with lots of bike tracks.
  7. 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
  8. Stanwick Lakes Northampton is a unique countryside attraction in the heart of the Nene Valley very good for wild life.
  9. Normanby Hall Museum and Country Park Lincolnshire with a walled garden, house and farming museum to complement the Park
  10. 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.

Lister Park
Lister Park Bradford.


Chinese Gardening in Beijing

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


Top Ten Snowdrop Gardens

Kew Snowdrops

  1. Waterperry Gardens Oxfordshire
  2. Chelsea Physic Garden London   Snowdrops have always provided one of the great delights of these openings 6th, 7th, 13th & 14th February 2010, 10am-4pm.
  3. RHS Wisley Surrey
  4. Hopton Hall Derbyshire
  5. Weeping Ash Garden Cheshire
  6. East Lambrook Garden Somerset
  7. Sherborne Garden Somerset Local gardens open for the National gardens Scheme
  8. Brandy Mount House Garden Hampshire National collection of snowdrops
  9. Easton Walled Garden & Little Ponton Hall Lincolnshire
  10. Bennington Lordship Hertfordshire

This is our selection unless you know better – if so let us know.
Snowdrop soldiers8

Check for open days in February and March for a day out to enjoy. You may also find snowdrops in unexpected locations. I snapped these pictures in Haworth church Bronte land.

Haworth snowdrops

Snowdrops in an alpine house at Harlow Carr.


Galanthophiles see beauty many varieties.


Alpine Plunge Bed

Double Plunge Bed

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.

Plunge Bed


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes