The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of our lives in so many unexpected ways. ‘Social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’ and ‘lockdown’ have all too quickly become phrases which trip off our tongues with a reluctant ease.
Lockdown has meant that a nation of gardeners, estimated at 23 million in the UK, has been able to spend weeks weeding and feeding, primping and preening their plots to perfection.
As the Government prepared to lock down the country, initial thinking was that gardens would remain open for visitors. Sadly though, as pubs, restaurants and theatres closed their doors, frustrated families flocked to our public gardens. The requisite two metre social distancing guidelines were quickly compromised and the garden gates of the nations favourite public green spaces were ordered shut. Despondent head gardeners reluctantly closed their creaking gates just as Mother Nature cut the ribbon to announce the start of another glorious gardening year.
Our gardens, now also in social-isolation from the publics’ gaze, have quietly grown away. Swathes of golden daffodils nodding only to each other, pink and white blossom falling gently onto deserted lawns and pathways, whilst only a handful of gardeners have delighted at the sweet fragrance pervading the empty spaces.
So enough is enough! I have contacted head gardeners across the country (who still have some limited access to their gardens) to send me a nosegay of hidden treasures from their glorious gardens now, and then again in summer.
The first in this short series is Stockton Bury Gardens.
Stockton Bury Gardens:
Location: Stockton Bury Gardens , Kimbolton, Leominster, Herefordshire , HR6 0HA
Size of garden: 4 acres
Who looks after the garden? Tamsin Westhorpe, curator and gardener at Stockton Bury alongside her two uncles Raymond Treasure and Gordon Fenn, who created the gardens 30 years ago. Jim is responsible for mowing the lawns.
What is the garden known for?
Stockton Bury is a real plantsmans’ garden. Raymond and Gordon were inspired by Raymond’s relative, the late John Treasure (well known for his garden at Burford House near Tenbury Wells). The gardens feature island borders which can be viewed from all around, which Tamsin says reminds her of looking at exhibits in a museum. Stockton Bury has no theme as such, but is amongst other things, a collection of beautiful plants.
How would you sum up your garden in spring?
Tamsin’s love of the gardens in spring is totally infectious, “The garden is amazing in spring”, she enthused. The Dingle Garden (a water garden) is a beautiful woodland garden including self-seeded primulas, wood anemones, Caltha palustris, Lysichiton americanus and daffodils galore including Narcissus ‘Winston Churchill’. “It’s a woodland garden, it’s water, its wonderful,” she says.
Tulips this season include the bronze and flame-coloured Tulipa ‘Brown Sugar’, raspberry rippled T. ‘Carnaval de Nice’, the lily flowered, lemon-yellow T. ‘West Point’ and the blousy, deeply fringed, yellow and crimson splashed T. ‘Flaming Parrot’ in terracotta pots.
Favourite spring plant in the garden?
Tamsin tells me her spring favourites include the charming Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal’, attention-grabbing trilliums and the exquisite and aptly named Erythronium ‘Pagoda‘ with its butter-yellow flowers.
Specialist Plants: Most gardens have tucked within their ranks some hidden treasures or plants with specialist appeal. At Stockton Bury these include:
The winter to early spring flowering climber Tropaeoleum tricolour with its myriad, paper-like red, black and yellow flowers.
The Chilean Glory Flower, Eccremocarpus scaber, with terminal clusters of tubular, reddish-orange flowers, and
Smrynium perfoliatum, an upright, euphorbia-like biennial with chartreuse foliage which flowers in late spring, which Tamsin says is best grown from seed.
What’s new in the garden for spring?
A plinth has already been erected in the garden, awaiting the arrival of a statue commissioned by a local artist. Tamsin told me “Stockton Bury revolves around local craftsmen, and businesses, recycling and reclaiming materials.”
With special thanks to Tamsin Westhorpe for allowing me access to her personal collection of photographs for this article.
We will revisit Stockton Bury Gardens in summer, when once again, the garden gates will be unlocked.