Garden Visit Reviews

28th October 2019

By Teresa Yeates

Exbury Gardens offers something all year round and we weren’t disappointed in October.  When we set off  with our guide, Theo, we were joined by Lionel and Nicholas de Rothschild and the Head Gardner Tom. What an opportunity to inquire about plants, planting, family history and of course the Centenary Garden.

The Centenary Garden is contemporary in style designed by award-winning designer Marie-Louise Agius, Lionel’s great grand-daughter. It provides a peaceful haven to sit among the many interesting plants, which were annotated on a plaque at the entrance to the garden. Adjacent to the centenary garden is the sundial garden which had numerous butterflies enjoying the autumn sunshine.

Although Exbury Gardens are probably best known for their Azaleas and Rhododendrons, it was the collection of Nerines, only on show in October, that gave us a truly ‘wow’ factor.

We visited the Gallery which has some Nerines on show. Under the bright lights we could see the petals sparkle  with crystalline flecks and enjoy the unusual aroma of chocolate emanating from them. The glasshouse which contained a vast amount of Nerines was stunning with a spectrum of colours ranging from original oranges, scarlet and white through to purples, pinks, mauves, reds, scarlets, copper and bronzes. Both Nicholas de Rothschild and Theo were enthusiastic about the collection and told us in detail how they produced new hybrids and more importantly how to look after them!

Theo assured us that they were difficult to ‘kill off’!

When the tour ended we were able to enjoy wandering around the rest of the gardens or be tempted to buy something in the Five Arrows Gallery.

Exbury Gardens

2nd October 2019

By Teresa Yeates

Forget Brexit ! As soon as we entered Arundells we were transported into the beautiful home of a former Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath.  Every room reflects both his public life and personal interests, and felt like a home rather than a museum. The entrance hall displayed his sailing trophies  that he won aboard his Morning Cloud yachts, and many other fascinating objects.

In the music room his piano was covered with numerous photographs which he insisted were replaced in their identical positions after dusting!   The dining room, which was frequently used for entertaining, had a book containing a long list of guests from various backgrounds. Every room had a vast collection of ornaments, pictures and furniture, which really needed a longer visit to fully appreciate.

There were numerous paintings and cartoons in the corridors and some fascinating wall paper from China on the staircase. His study had a wonderful view of the garden, which was full of mature trees and shrubs and lead down to the confluence of the rivers Nadder and Avon. We were fortunate that the gardener was present to help with any questions and the bonus of a sunny dry day in a week of atrocious weather.

Carol, our guide, was very informative and enthusiastic. Unfortunately the visits to Arundells have declined since the adverse press about Salisbury and Sir Edward Heath. I am very pleased that HGT supported them by arranging our visit.


25th September 2019

By Teresa Yeates

We were very lucky to escape most of the rain during this visit, especially since Marina Christopher gave her talk and demonstration outside in the garden grounds. She introduced us to the concept of mixed planting using grasses and small bursts of colour from tall plants to achieve an interesting affect, which our subsequent guided tour of the front garden demonstrated. The front garden was rather over grown , by Marina’s own admission, and we could not fully appreciate the design by Christopher Bradley-Hole of the formal grid pattern of square flowerbeds with a central seating area and pool. However, we were able to walk through the maze of tall grasses around the central portion of the garden and appreciate their impact.

We had a very enjoyable lunch with a wonderful selection of desserts. There were a few plants on sale to tempt us and several hand tools that Marina had introduced during her talk. Unfortunately, this appears to be the last Plantsman’s Day being held at Bury Court Barn, we were pleased to be part of it.



Bury Court 

19th September 2019

By Jo Bolt

Members recently enjoyed a visit to The Holt Estate, Upham, home of HGT Chairman Ted Wake. Ted, and his wife Katherine, proved the perfect hosts giving a wonderful guided tour of the gardens followed by refreshments in the Old Workshop. Set within the South Downs National Park, it was well worth the early start on a beautiful September morning.
The outdoor theatre, designed by Kim Wilkie, looked atmospheric against the backdrop of ancient woodland. A contrast which works beautifully! The event raised over £400 for the Trust. Our special thanks to Ted & Katherine for hosting the event, which our members thoroughly enjoyed.

The Holt

13th August 2019

By Jo Bolt

Members enjoyed a lovely afternoon at the spectacular Deans Court, in Wimborne Minster, Dorset.  The earliest part of the house formed part of the Saxon Monastery of Wimborne in 705AD.  Deans Court has been owned by the Hanham family for 500 years.  The tour of the house was followed by a tour of the garden which features trees planted by explorer Thomas Hanham in 1607.

Members particularly enjoyed a tour of the kitchen garden.  One of the gardeners talked about their permaculture system and ‘no dig’ method of gardening with a stringent no chemical/pesticide policy.  They are extremely proud of their organic garden, producing chemical free produce to the house kitchen & the café nearby.  The whole ethos of Deans Court is ‘living sustainably within a heritage environment in the 21st Century’.  Music to our ears!

A cream tea was served in the marquee.  A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon was had by all!



Deans Court 

22nd July 2019

By Mary Martyn

We were lucky to have the opportunity to visit this exceptional garden, which is now seldom open to the public. The owner, Rosamund Brown, welcomed us and she and her head gardener and his wife took us on a tour of the garden. Rosamund herself is an artist who created the garden together with her architect husband and the French garden designer Pascal Cribier. Their combined talents have made a spectacular garden that is full of colour and surprises. The 4 acre walled garden, full of both flowers and vegetables and subdivided by lawned tramlines, was particularly impressive. This visit was a real treat on a warm July day.



Woolton House 

26th June 2019

By Leslie Shaw

Stephen Hackett, Head Gardener at Horatio’s Garden and his team of volunteers gave us a warm welcome with coffee and delicious home made cakes in the modern garden room.  After a very  informative talk, which gave us a good insight into the effect the garden has on the patients in the spinal unit,  Stephen took us round this beautiful area, with its abundant planting in vibrant colours and different textures and multi sensory qualities.  An atmosphere of peace and calm prevails.   Cleve West’s brilliant design is kept fresh each season by Cleve himself.


After a pub lunch we went onto Heale House, where we were given an interesting talk by the owner, Mrs Frances Rasch, who told us about the history of the house and the development of the site.   We then looked round this lovely garden with its abundant planting, Japanese bridge and teahouse and the clear chalk stream running through it.   A cup of tea in the sun and the chance to buy a plant or two from the well stocked plant centre, rounded off the afternoon.

Horatio’s Garden


Heale Garden


15th May 2019

By Georgina Craufurd

The owners of the Crichel estate, near Blandford, Mr and Mrs Richard Chilton, very kindly invited a party from Hampshire Gardens Trust to visit the gardens and park (of 40 acres) on 15th May.  It was clear from the immaculate state of the grounds (and the scaffolding on the house) that a huge amount of care and resources are being put into the property.  We also realised that the history of the whole site is more complex than it appears at first. (See the  Country Life article of April 3rd 2019.)

After coffee and biscuits in the beautifully built stable yard (which English Heritage dates to the 1770s building campaign), we were given a résumé of the history.  The two main periods of construction of the house (and likely development of the park) were 1742 (after a fire which destroyed the previous house) and an enlargement of the 1770s.  We then walked down past the mansion.  The west side suggests that it is a house of two halves; the northern half of the west side has plain Palladian windows with pediments.  This northern half may represent the earlier house of 1742, while the southern half has rather plain Venetian windows, suggesting a later enlargement or embellishment to match later work.  The south and east elevations continue the theme of Venetian windows, but with pronounced rustication, which must date from the 1770s enlargement.  On the south front there is also a grand portico in antis (set into the building), which looks down over the lake and park, and of course which can be seen when one looks back from the park.

Nothing remains of Harold Peto’s 1905 Italian parterre in front of the mansion, but the ornamental parterre design of 1972 for the walled garden (by Lady Salisbury, who was then a neighbour at Cranborne) has been beautifully restored.  Perennials are used throughout, even for two ‘carpet’ beds which use herbs in contrasting colours of foliage.  Throughout our visit the weather was kind, and the sun sparkled on the lake: a memorable day.

Crichel House

23rd May 2019

By Leslie Shaw

We visited the gardens on a beautiful early summer’s morning and were lucky enough to be given a conducted tour by Marylyn Abbott herself.  Marylyn has created the garden over two decades out of nothing much more than brambles and rubble.   It was evident that she has build the garden round her love of opera, with unfolding rooms opening into larger informal areas, allowing a dramatic backdrop to the annual opera festival held in the garden.   All the very diverse areas have been designed with flair and imagination and particularly with a sharp eye for colour.   We appreciated hearing the history of the house and her reasons for the design of the garden and her ongoing plans.   She proved an excellent and amusing raconteur.  We also enjoyed coffee and lunch in her very large greenhouse amidst  well stocked and exotic plants.

West Green House