Tag Archives: gardens to visit

  • Belton House - Grantham

    I travelled to Grantham by train and then caught the 27 bus to Sleaford, which stops outside the gates of Belton House, which is part of the National Trust. It is often called the quintessential English country house.

    Rain was forecast, so I headed off to explore the outside areas first. There is a Dutch Garden and an Italian Garden. Although they are pleasant, they are not that exciting. I was just a little bit disappointed that the dahlias were all the same, one yellow round the fountain, and one red along the terrace. Although drifts work well, there are so many dahlias that you could still have had a drift of yellow or red using many different varieties. The bones of the garden are good, it just lacks imagination in planting. There were lots of rather basic plantings of pelargonium in the magnificent urns.

    The Orangery is planted with fuchsias and abutilon as well as palms. The planting is dense with a central water feature. The shrimp plant (Justicia) was in flower. Immediately behind the Orangery are hydrangeas in a lovely deep pink and a lawn with what looked like medlars and a small herbaceous border on three sides. This was planted with plants grown from seed - Xerochrysum, the strawflower everlasting and Cleome, which you don't often see - I like its striking blooms but watch the spines.  Agastache and Dahlias were combined effectively. There were also Sedums and Acanthus.

    I entered the Norman church, not part of the NT. It's well worth a visit. There are some very ancient trees in this part of the garden. Then I came out and walked down to the Italian garden, nicely done, but at one time full of roses. You get wonderful views of this area from the house.

    The house is the best part, I loved it. The interiors are perfect and elegant. I loved the Chinese silk room best of all. There is currently a raffle to save Darcy's desk.

    There was also a display of embroidery by the local branches of the Embroiderer's Guild  that is worth a visit. It is in celebration of Capability Brown.

    There is a large deer park, but my legs were objecting so I returned to Grantham, to be greeted by a terrible storm - torrential rain, thunder and lightning. Honestly that sort of welcome was not necessary!

    Facilities include a shop, garden shop and cafe.

    Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • Lyme Park, nr Disley

    This NT hall and park is well-known as it was used in 'Death Comes to Pemberley'. That was not really my reason for wanting to go. I had seen images of the spring bulb display, but every time I looked up the weather from mid-March on, it was dire. I have therefore come to believe that Disley has the worst weather in Britain. However last weekend I checked the weather and although not terribly warm, it looked like the rain would hold off. My son said he would rather help me with some household chores - needless to say, we went to the garden instead.

    Getting out of the city was a nightmare, as there were diversions everywhere and in the end, we had just got beyond the city limits when we should have been half way there. It's an interesting route with fantastic scenery, so we both thoroughly enjoyed it.

    When we arrived, we had our picnic on the lawn. Then we headed straight into the house. It is amazing, I could not remember any of it from the TV series, and I have seen that twice but maybe they used private rooms or maybe, more likely, I had just forgotten. I could not even picture the entrance (which looks more like the private entrance to Chatsworth on the TV, maybe it is.) Anyway it is just so enjoyable, I loved all the ceilings and I was very taken with the figures on the golden harp. You'll find information on the furniture and paintings in each room. The rooms and furniture are magnificent. You can even dress up as an Edwardian! I was tempted, but my son had that 'oh my god, she's going to show me up' look on his face. We then headed past the formal beds of Dahlias and Cannas and into the Orangery where there was a wonderful Abutilon, ferns, and Ophiopogon, then round to the formal rose beds. Most of the gardens are formal, but I like that. People were playing croquet on the lawn. We worked our way round the lake, offering a great view of the house, and round to my favourite bit, which is sunken below the house but above the car park, what is known as The Italian Garden. There is a huge deer park too. We had tea and cake and headed home very happy. I would love to see the spring bulbs one day.

    The house and gardens are open from February to October, and the garden is also open at weekends in winter, check dates and times on the National Trust website. Well worth a visit.

    Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • Burghley House and Gardens

    I have wanted to go to Burghley House for years, fortunately I made it. The outside of the house is fantastic. Inside it is more Georgian than Elizabethan but still awesome. This was the house of William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer of Elizabeth I and is grand as only the Elizabethans knew how.

    As the weather was not set fair for the whole day, we did the gardens first. The garden of surprises is just that - a garden full of water features and wonderment. The unsuspecting could end up with a shower even in fair weather! There is a water rill, fountains, water 'curtains' and all manner of wonderful things. Kids will love this space, some of the features are interactive. There is also a fernery and borders in a courtyard garden with 'busts' that turn and a sundial. I don't think I have ever seen anything so miraculous. Everything is a discovery. I don't know who the gardens were designed by, but they are a wonderful.

    We then had lunch, with my son saying I had prepared a picnic for 6, there were 3 of us. Then it was off to the sculpture garden. Again I was not disappointed, it is fantastic, with a wide range of beautiful sculptures to suit all tastes. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    There was a food fair but I resisted paying 12 pounds for a tiny packet of tea, quite easily. Another attraction on this weekend was a Rolls Royce event, so we could see all the old cars, in beautiful condition with their wonderful lines. Looking across you could clearly see the ha-ha, a feature Capability Brown pinched from a Frenchman. It keeps cattle from crossing to the land near the house.

    Last of all, we went into the house, I think the painted walls and ceilings are the most striking feature. Elizabeth's State Bedroom is there, but she never slept in it.

    All in all a wonderful day, that I thoroughly enjoyed. The gardens are near Stamford, on the A1. Stamford is also worth a visit.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • Nostell Priory

    Nostell, near Wakefield is owned by the NT. Parts of the house and the grounds are open and there is a cafe, plant shop and places to picnic.

    The house and parkland are magnificent, set around the lakes. The land is green as far as the eye can see. There is a formal area to one side of the house, at this time of year planted with spring bulbs. The tulips were few in number and still in bud, but the daffodils were hanging on and there was a central walk planted with daffodils and scented hyacinth. The herbaceous border was just beginning to wake up. It has a backbone of shrubs with many Ilex (holly) and the Euphorbia was looking good. I was feeling a little disappointed however, as spring had not really sprung here. Then I turned the corner and noticed something in the grass - fritillaries and suddenly I felt so glad that I had come. To one side they were large Ensete (bananas), still in their winter garb, wrapped in old leaves against the chill and at their base Cynara, the globe artichokes whose silver leaves were sparking in the cold sunshine.

    I walked through the children's adventure playground and found a bug's home. The winter beech leaves were shivering in the wind, still clinging to the twiggy branches. A little further on, round the back of the house, you come to the lakes, looking wonderful at this time of year. I circled the large lake with its Typha (bullrush) and came round to the Menagerie Garden, where the Magnolia were in bloom. This area had many shadows and felt particularly cold, and the Magnolia had suffered some light frost damage, but still made a terrific outline against the blue sky. Again, I was glad I had made the trip.

    At the shop I loved these carved wooden chickens. I entered the house to be awed by Adam's plasterwork and ceilings and the Chippendale furniture. Then back outside to walk to the smaller lake and the Obelisk.

    It was a wonderful day out, well worth a visit and I might return in summer. I took the train from Sheffield and then the bus from Wakefield bus station. It was an easy journey. Whilst in Wakefield, you might also wish to visit the Barbara Hepworth Gallery.

    I know many criticise the NT and their care of houses and gardens, but without them, many of these places would no longer be there at all. I do have one criticism however, the standard of the NT cafes/restaurants. I think they are rather poor, not only in their selection and quality of food but in the length of time you have to queue, even when there are only a couple of people in front of you and the cleanliness, price and poor service. This is true of three NT properties I have visited this spring. Take your own food and drink.

    If you love gardens, take a look at my gardening books in the online shop

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • Walking Chatsworth Estate

    Five years ago today, walking around the Chatsworth Estate, with the sheep, deer, a view of Edensor Church and the house.

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    Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • Walking Cromford Mill

    It was the epitome of grey, but there was something to celebrate. As it was so cold, I elected for an inside rather than outdoors venue. Driving towards Matlock is a pleasant drive, even with the steep descent into the valley. The scenery is fabulous and I am reminded of Shakespeare's 'This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England' and of William Blake's words for Jerusalem 'England's green and pleasant land'. Blake's 'pleasant pastures' do still exist. This is what people who do not live in England imagine it to be like. Green and quaint, countrified and gentile. Not a garden to visit as such but an area where one can walk and enjoy the scenery.

    Ah but is was greyer than grey and cold, with a northerly wind. Green maybe, but not pleasant. Still I could not help admiring the landscape and wishing I could wake up every day to gaze on such a scene.

    Cromford Mill was Arkwright's Mill but when it closed all the machinery was taken away so there is little left except a display with an annoying over-excited actor's voice-over. The building is still very imposing, but apart from the building itself, what is there now does not reflect the history or heritage of the place at all. The shops are dismal and smell of damp, the cafe is too small even at this time of year it was full by 11.30am and it is all very disappointing. The best shop by far is the quilting shop - that is really good. There is a small plant shop. The spring plants were adding much needed colour and the owner obviously had a liking for Primula. The Ranunculus were looking perfect too. On warmer days there are many walks along the canal and more. There is an estate church, but it was closed. There is another cafe across the road by the canal, a tiny cheese shop and probably the tiniest shop in the world selling canalware art.

    There is some redevelopment of the site, so I hope it improves with a new vision. This has to be the most disappointing venue for a World Heritage Site.

    We were directed to Masson Mill to see textile machinery but we arrived at the wrong time to see the machines working so opted not to go in. There is something akin to an outlet centre here, all smelling very musky. Not at all what I expected, but the setting is fabulous. It seems a shame that the Mills' current usage has not been developed by someone who loves textiles, who could have created an experience for this site that includes the former most prominent cotton mill. As it was the best thing about the venue, apart from the views, was an antiques shop outside the centre across the road.

    Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2016

  • Plants and Flowers in Lincoln

    A trip to Lincoln revealed plenty of evidence that autumn is on its way. Leaves were falling in the gentle breeze. Large conkers were hanging from branches; seed pods and berries hanging down, the late summer light shining through leaves as well as the decaying process.

    September always has one foot still in summer and late summer perennials were still providing colour. Echinacea planted with Echinops and Perovskia, making a dream threesome. Pink Asters found a colour echo for their golden centres in Achillea.

    Large containers were planted up in the city centre with flamboyant petunias and other basket-type summer annuals such as Bacopa and Fuchsia. Bedding was dotted around the city with Pelargonium, Rudbeckia, Solenostemon (Coleus) and Diascia interspersed with silvery Senecio and Ricinus (castor oil plant) taking pride of place. Zinnias were evident in oranges and reds - the hot late summer combination.

    Private gardens are always a source of inspiration and I found a Ficus carica (fig) and a lovely combination of Cotinus and Rudbeckia as well as a Hibiscus. A beautiful Buddleja peeped over a wall.

    At the Old Bishop's Museum I discovered a contemporary garden planted with rows of trees, dahlias, roses, acanthus and lavender as well as a vineyard. I also visited the Arboretum and took many images of trees.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • London Out Of Sight


    London Out Of Sight, paperback published by Black Dog Publishing. ISBN 78-1907317965, price 9.5 available from www.blackdogonline.com

    Explore green spaces in London and find calm amid one of the busiest capital's in the world. Find lesser known spaces where you can chill from the busy office or shopping spree. The book is split into Central, North, East, West and South London with around a dozen spaces in each category. Each section starts with a map, showing the spaces and nearest tube stations. Descriptions include access information, entry fees if applicable, historical facts and notes on plants. The varied spaces include church grounds, conservatories, walled gardens, parks, city farms and community gardens. It is beautifully illustrated throughout.  If like me, you often have an hour or two on your hands waiting for a train, or interview, with a copy of this book you could be contemplating life in quieter surroundings. Repose, relax or discover and learn. Encounter ancient trees, plants, biodiversity, wildlife, gravestones and sculpture. Who would not want to find time to treasure the open heaths, ancient woodlands, shared gardens and green spaces of London? As an avid gardener, I was surprised to find that I have only visited four of the spaces in the book. That's something I must amend. Highly recommended. Excellent for those who work in London and those who visit.

  • Over The Wall - Chester

    I walked the walls of Chester last week and these are the plants I saw from the wall. Gorgeous trees, a fabulous canal-side garden, plants clinging to the walls and the Roman gardens. There were a smattering of black plants - some of the dark Acers were putting on their greener summer cloaks, so I did not photograph them. There was a marvellous specimen of Ligularia 'Britt-Marie Crawford' in the Roman gardens. If you love Lichen, there is plenty on the wall.

    Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2015

  • Garden Design - Chatsworth

    In this new series, which started last week, I am looking at gardens to see what can be learned from each one. I am giving design and planting tips too.

    Chatsworth in Derbyshire is the second garden I have chosen. It is a beautiful and vast garden with many areas. Capability Brown came and landscaped the gardens. Recently new areas have been created. It is difficult to look at stately home gardens and take home ideas for your small terraced garden, so most of the ideas are for very large country gardens

    Garden design tips I learned at Chatsworth:

    1. Use that view if you are lucky to have one, Chatsworth is set in acres with splendid views

    2. The kitchen garden is fantastic

    3. If your garden is large enough, you can dedicate an area to one plant - Chatsworth does this with Dahlias and in the rose garden

    4. Incorporate historic garden features such as a maze and a crinkle crankle hedge

    5. Place appealing large containers, statues etc for interest

    6. Have some of the garden hidden from view with interesting walks and paths that meander

    7. Have the most amazing water features that fit in with your setting

    8. Include a sensory garden

    9. Chatsworth has the largest rock garden I know, but if you have space it is worthwhile creating a small area for rock garden plants

    10. Include an arboretum

    Visit Chatsworth

    My gardening book, Lifestyle Gardening has all you need to know to design the perfect garden for you. You can buy a copy here and take advantage of the half price offer by entering 50OFF at checkout

    Words, images copyright Karen Platt 2015

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