It was raining at the beginning of May as I drew up at the entrance to the garden, but there was no doubt about the attractiveness of the estate. I parked on the grass opposite what was the original main entrance to the house prior to about 1860. Four wonderful, mature, Wellingtonia stand guard at the corners of the lawned area in front of the house, and a long neatly clipped hedge of Senecio runs across the width of the lawn in front of me. Just the other side of the shallow hedge is a nice gravelled pathway. A very nice approach to the garden. I can see that it will be a good location for fairs and fetes in the Summer. I note that a 'Rare Plants Fair' will be held here in late May.
I decide to walk left first, away from the main garden area. The border behind the old stables has attractive shrub and flower plantings, retained by an old moss covered wall lending an air of authenticity. The contrasting green and purple foliage planting along the border is striking, and I see a nice fan trained Prunus against the wall. Back again towards the herb garden leads me through a gatehouse complete with large white gates, and a cobbled area in front of the old stables, then through an arch into the walled herb garden. This garden is operated as a separate business from the garden, and plants are available here for purchase.
There is a lovely selection of lavenders, and herbs of many kinds. There are neatly organised beds, plantings of multi-coloured Pulmonarias and a Pulsatilla flower already in bloom. Tidy yew hedges in two parallel rows form the edge of the currently cultivated area, and one of the glasshouses has a small conifer in a large pot together with planters containing various herbs. A tall cream coloured flower spike looks good, and then I realise it is actually rhubarb! On the way out of the walled area I notice a superb Gaura in flower.
Walking back around the visitors entrance to the house provides a distant view of the countryside extending beyond the meadow area at the edge of the estate. There are some lovely mature trees, and the blue, white and pink swathes of bluebells grace the spaces between the trees; there has obviously been a good display of Narcissi, now past their best. Moving on past the clipped box hedges alongside a wall and down the start of the main drive I find myself in the 'woodland garden'. The centre of this has a wide grassed pathway edged with interesting shrubs, terminated at the far end with another handsome Wellingtonia. There are Camellias in flower (unusual in this area) and I wonder about the soil pH here.
Other shrubs in flower peep through the trees, and the purple flowers of a Cercis are open before the leaves. Other woodland plants add to the attraction of the route. Out of the woodland area there is a border labelled ' shrub border', that looks like a continuation of the woodland path. A closer inspection reveals a nice selection of shrubs and small trees. the mown lawns of the formal areas make a nice backdrop.
The selective mowing of the grassy areas has been carried out with care, leaving the longer grass and wild flowers to grow through. The flower and seed heads of short grasses look good. Back through the edge of the wooded area alongside the terrace there are yew trees growing through the walls, they look as though they are supporting the wall. A yellow shrub (looks like a Cytisus, but I'm not sure) lights up the trees. I now remember that a plant list is published, but I forgot to purchase a copy. The old stone steps lead up to the top of the terrace and a walk overlooking the main lawn and the long herbaceous border. At the end of the terrace is a small folly with a nice view along the edge of the lawn. A Clematis tumbles down through a tree.
I walk back along the terrace at the bottom, and observe that the Paeonia are already in flower, beautifully contrasted with white Tulipa. On my right is the very wide impressive herbaceous border, already looking interesting with early blooms. This is a very well planted border, and
will clearly be very impressive later on in the season.
This garden deserves a visit in the Summer, normally open on Sundays only, except for special events and some bank holidays.
Location: South Oxfordshire OX13 5AX
Map: SU 408979
Geology: Surface, sand and gravel, sandstone. Bedrock
mudstone and sandstone.
Disabled: partly; gravelled paths, lawns
Refreshments and toilets: yes
Opening: see web site or phone 01865 820259
Dogs: guide dogs only