Monday, 20 July 2009

Visiting Open Gardens

One of the things I was really looking forward to on this visit to the UK was visiting gardens. Being summer (well, British summer anyway) it is the height of open garden season. The National Gardens Scheme (founded in 1927 and patronized by HRH The Prince of Wales) raises funds by opening gardens to the public. The funds support several health and garden-related charities. On Sunday July 12 we set out to take part in this charming tradition.

We had 2 gardens on our list to visit that day and the first was just outside one of our favorite villages, Dogmersfield. We started with a country walk planned to circle around and deliver us to Whispers (name of the house) just in time for its opening. It was a dry and comfortable day and we enjoyed our usual walk routine of starting off with a plan and then diverting from it until we were lost. At one point I stopped to take a panoramic video to illustrate how the public footpaths actually pass through different fields and properties so that you are walking well away from towns, houses, and roads at times.

We arrived at Whispers just a bit after opening, purchased our entry, and entered a real beauty of a private garden. John, the owner, is a former nurseryman who used to own the next door property. When this property went on market he didn't want to see someone build something he might not like next door and he wanted a retirement project so he and his wife purchased it, built a new home, and set about creating a real paradise. Of course "teas" were for sale featuring homemade cakes provided by friends and family for purchase. We wandered the garden and sat on the back patio enjoying our tea and the gorgeous water feature which drained magically under the flagstones and got a chance to talk to John for a bit. He was a wonderful character and reminded us a lot of Robin's dad.

We tore ourselves away from the garden and teas to make our way to our 2nd garden for the day at Farleigh House just outside Farleigh Wallop. This property is the family seat of the Earl and Duchess of Portsmouth so we knew this garden might have a different feel than Whispers. It is a very nice property and an impressive house but we both felt we preferred the personal touch and care of Whispers.

The teas offered at Farleigh House were in the barn down the road. We stopped in there and felt
the clear demarcation of the public having tea in the barn as opposed to sharing in it with the owners on the patio was a bit too much for our American sensibilities so we skipped the tea! Uppity revolutionists we!

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