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Discovering new gardens

I’ve been venturing further afield with a Garden Media Guild trip to see two of Herefordshire’s notable gardens.

Not even icy air and occasional hail storms can dull the delight at discovering new gardens. Not that the two I visited last week were entirely unknown to me. I interviewed Sir Roy Strong and reviewed his book about The Laskett some years ago, while the country plot of Tamsin Westhorpe, former editor of The English Garden magazine, is well-known in gardening media circles. But I had never seen them and was intrigued.

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The Dingle is Tamsin’s favourite area

We started with the four-acre Stockton Bury, and what Tamsin describes as “quite a new garden”.

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White wood anemones made a lovely display

These include a working kitchen garden with beautifully shaped apple trees, shrub and perennial borders and a water garden, all set against some stunning old buildings: the dovecot with an entrance so low even I had to duck and barns that are now used for displays of old tools and as a restaurant.

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I’d not seen a white form of the skunk cabbage before
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Moss on walls and staddle stones gave the garden an established feel

Although horticultural standards are high with weed-free beds and neat lawn edges – helped by wooden edging boards – this is part of a working farm and the garden has to work with, among other things, moving stock.

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Tender plants were sheltering in the greenhouse

“It’s the scariest event when we have these sheep coming through,” Tamsin tells us.

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Tropaeolum tricolour

Among the highlights for me were the Dingle, a spring-fed water garden that Tamsin says is her favourite place to work, and the newly constructed auricula theatre alongside the farmhouse.

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The auriculas are a recent addition
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I also liked the informality of the garden with plants spilling out of walls

The Laskett is another relatively young garden, created by Sir Roy Strong and his late wife Julia Trevelyan Oman.

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There’s topiary throughout The Laskett

Sir Roy describes it as autobiographical, not least because the garden was funded by the couple’s work in the arts; Julia was a designer, Sir Roy director of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Colonnade Court replaced the kitchen garden in 2013.

The garden is like a four-acre series of stage sets, many named for events – ‘The Silver Jubilee Garden’ – or for the source of funding, such as the ‘Pierpont Morgan Rose Garden’, paid for with the fee for a series of lectures Sir Roy gave in New York. I particularly liked Elizabeth Tudor Avenue with its juxtaposition of pleached limes, swagged beech and clipped yew.

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Contrasting hedges in Elizabeth Tudor Avenue
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The pleached lime was much admired

There are numerous ‘props’: statues, urns, and rescued pieces of ancient stonework, including pieces from the old Palace of Westminster.

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Crowned rose from the old Palace of Westminster which burned down in 1834.

And, like any good stage set, there are multiple ways to enter and exit each space, with long vistas or tempting glimpses enticing you to explore.

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The Silver Jubilee Garden

The Laskett, once a purely private space, has opened regularly since 2010.

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The apple blossom was lovely

“It’s given me a new focus in my life,” says Sir Roy, who has bequeathed the garden to horticulture charity Perennial. “It’s such a delight to share it.”

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The Diamond Jubilee Urn at The Laskett

The Laskett is open to pre-booked groups from mid-April to the end of September. Details on the website

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Beehives at Stockton Bury garden

Stockton Bury is open to groups by appointment from April to the end of September. See website for details.

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