Monthly Archives: May 2011

Bank holiday gardens: what’s opening just as the weather turns

Wrest Park House & Gardens, Silsoe, Luton, Bedfordshire, MK45 4HS

JUST down the A6 past Bedford is Wrest Park, a glorious stately home and gardens which you’ll be hearing much more about soon.

But this weekend on May 28, 29 and 30, there’s an enormous garden show with over 100 exhibitors.

The Wrest Park Garden Show is open 10am-5.30pm each day and the (not inconsiderable) admission price of £6.50/5.50/4.50 includes access to the vast gardens. English Heritage members get in half price and under 5s go free.

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NGS openings this Bank Holiday weekend

SEVERAL gardens are open for the National Gardens Scheme in Northamptonshire this weekend.

They are:

Sunday May 29, 2-6pm. Charlton Gardens, Banbury, Northamptonshire, OX17 3DR. Teas and plants for sale.

The Cottage
Home Farm House
Walnut House
The Croft
8 Cartwright Road
Holly House

Sunday May 29, 2-5.30. Turweston Gardens, Brackley, Northamptonshire, NN13 5JY, open. Teas and plants for sale.

Four large and lovely gardens are open.

Versions Farm
Oatleys Hall
Turweston House
Turweston Mill

Sunday and Monday, May 29-30, 2-6pm, Tile House Farm, Finmere, Northamptonshire, MK18 4AS

This is the ‘home’ garden of Tile House Plants. Lovely teas and plants for sale.

Monday, May 30, between 11am-5pm, you can see a new addition to the NGS calendar. Foxtail Lilly, Oundle, Northamptonshire, PE8 4BP, which has teas available. Featured in the gardening press.

Finally, how about Titchmarsh House, Northamptonshire, NN14 3DA which will be open on Monday, May 30, 2-6pm.

This is the home of Sir Ewan and Lady Harpur, and is a 4.5 acre plot developed over almost 40 years.  Enjoy!

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And the Queen approved too. Chelsea Flower Show photos from Monday’s press day

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Northants Gardens got the chance to visit Chelsea Flower Show on Monday, press day. This is when the judging takes place and the press are booted out at 3.30pm before the Royal Family visits and a gala dinner takes place.

Cleve West’s Daily Telegraph Garden took Best in Show, as many designers battled with weather that for once, was actually too good. Plants were at least two weeks ahead of schedule and some last-minute changes had to be made. All in all a beautiful day, blessed with sunny weather while back in Northants there were welcome downpours.

Here’s a few photos from the plant pavilion and show gardens. If you have a chance to visit Chelsea this week, let us know what you think.

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Northants Gardens at Chelsea Flower Show



Northants Gardens is in the press tent at chelsea. The hacks and supposed are discussing the quality of celebrity, rather than the gardens. Gwyneth Paltrow was lovely, apparently, but the scrum of snappers made it hard to see anything. On the more important garden front, NG rather likes the planting on LuciAno’s Perrier garden, and some how even likes B&Q’s tower block.

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Open gardens in Northamptonshire May 22

A new addition to the Northants NGS trail this weekend, when Jericho, Oundle, Northamptonshire, PE8 4AJ    opens. This is a 100 metre, south-facing town garden inspired by Vita Sackville-West’s concept of garden ‘rooms.’

Extensively re-planted in recent years, Jericho is a surprisingly tranquil oasis in the centre of busy Oundle. There are dozens of roses, some mature trees and an orchard, and surprises around each corner.

Open 12noon until 5pm on Sunday, May 22, there will be teas and plants for sale.

Over on the other side of the county, near Banbury, you can visit Lady Connell’s Steane Park, Northamptonshire, NN13 6DP   which is open on Sunday between 11am and 5pm.

In contrast to Jericho, this is an 80 acre garden with old waterways and an ancient church in its grounds. Constantly evolving, it’s a glorious example of English gardening on a grand scale.  Teas available.

There are also two midweek opening this week, with Deene Park, Corby, Northamptonshire, NN17 3EW opening Wednesday May 25 between 2-5pm, and Greenway, Desborough, Northamptonshire, NN14 2SN  staging an evening opening, with wine, on Thursday May 26 between 6-9pm.

Let us know if you’ve visited any NGS gardens this year, we’d love to hear your views.

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Two ‘boroughs’ open gardens, Northants, May 14-15

The open gardens for the National Gardens Scheme in Northants this weekend are:

Guilsborough Spring Gardens, Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, NN6 8PT  which sees eight private gardens open to the public on Saturday May 15 and Sunday May 15, between 2-6pm. Admission £5, kids free.

 Two small cottage-style gardens, one belonging to a keen flower arranger, the other a secret walled garden crammed with fruit, flowers and vegetables. Lots of large (enviable) gardens including a woodland garden on a very steep site to ones with sweeping lawns, mature trees and beautiful views.

Plants for sale  plus teas and cakes.

The individual openings are:

Nortoft Grange 
Guilsborough House
Four Acres
The Old House
The Old Vicarage
The Gate House
Oak Dene
Dripwell House
Also open on Sunday, May 15 is Greenway, Desborough, Northamptonshire, NN14 2SN, between 2-6pm.

A popular garden on the NGS calendar, especially for its collection of over 90 acers (Japanese maple) in containers and open planting. Also has a gothic folly with fernery. There’s also an evening opening on Thursday May 26 (6-9pm). Visitors also welcome by appointment during May only.


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Cottesbrooke Plant Finders’ Fair – expensive plant supermarket or enriching day-out?

Cottesbrooke Plant Finders’ Fair started four years ago in the grounds of a magnificent stately home in Northamptonshire.

The ethos was to be up-market, presumably to entice the wealthy North London-folks up the M1. Potential exhibitors, paying a lot for a stand on which to sell their wares, were vetted before being allowed into what was being pitched as an exclusive club. Garden gnomes and bedding petunias wouldn’t be entertained in such exclusive company.

However, after a slow start, and despite the economic climate, the up-market  ethos seems to have worked. The number of exhibitors at the Cottesbrooke plant fair for 2011 has nearly doubled from year one and currently stands at 60.

This year’s fair is set to take place from Friday June 24th – Sunday June 26th and is open daily from 10:00am until 5:30pm

For the uninitiated,the Plant Fair brings a lot of nurseries and horticultural sundries all together in one place selling their wares, plus your admission fee gives you a chance to tour the very lovely gardens.

There are also high-profile guest speakers, including Dan Pearson, Helen Yemm, Stephen Lacey, Val Bourne, Derry Watkins, Juliet Roberts and local garden buffs Ursula Buchan and James Alexander Sinclair. Last year they charged extra for access to the talks but the 2011 entry fee includes the talks (subject to availability (of seats, presumably)). 

There’s a plant crèche to stash your purchases, a free plant swap for those organised enough to bring a pot of something with them and help available to take purchases back to the car park.

A word of advice: The food queue was horrendous last year so a picnic might be advisable. It’s not too far from the car park to nip back for your lunch.

A mixture of plant nurseries from as far afield as Ireland will attend, including Crûg Farm Plants from North Wales. Visitors can see craft demonstrations and browse the garden sundry stands including two from Holland who specialise in tools.

Carla Cooper, Cottesbrooke’s Administrator said “This is all good for the local economy and in time may give the county’s tourism a little boost. In fact next year we hope to offer local hoteliers a preferential ticket price so that they can offer a Fair weekend break deal”. 

Here’s the price for up-market though: entry to the fair is £8.50 on the gate. Thankfully, this year there is an advance booking line where tickets are £6.50, although annoyingly, there’s an additional £1 ‘booking fee’ PER TICKET. The booking line is 0845 130 7778 and charged at a local rate. Children get in free.

If the weather stays fine, this could be the CPFF’s best year yet. Visit for more details and a list of exhibitors and speakers.

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Northants Open Gardens for the NGS May 8

YOU have to hand it to those hardy gardeners who open their private plots to raise money for the NGS. It’s been the driest start to spring on record and they’ve probably been watering more than weeding. Whatever happened to those April showers?

This Sunday, May 8, you can visit two villages who are opening their gardens for the NGS.

A hugely popular open event is for the nine gardens at Spratton, just north of Northampton, which are open on Sunday between 11am-5pm. Spratton Gardens, Spratton, Northamptonshire, NN6 8HL usually attracts hundreds of visitors, and entry is just £5 for all the gardens.

Waltham Cottage

The gardens are:

The Stables
Mulberry Cottage
The Granary
Waltham Cottage
11 High Street
Spratton Grange Farm
Dale House
Forge Cottage
Virginia Cottage

Spratton has a mixture of different types of houses and gardens, some dating back to the 17th century and some very modern. The gardens too are a mixture of formal and informal, with ancient trees and new vegetable plots jostling for attention.

Several of the gardens have wonderful views over rolling countryside. There are eight in the centre of the village and the ninth, and largest, was created from a farm. As usual, there will be teas and cakes at St Andrew’s Church and one of the gardens will be hosting a massive plant sale.  

Also open on Sunday are Islip Gardens, Islip, nr Kettering, Northamptonshire, NN14 3JY which includes a new opening at Headmaster’s House.
This ancient village features a mixture of gardens, with teas and plants for sale. The featured gardens, all open between 12noon and 5pm, are:

8 Lowick Road
Manor Farm
30 Lowick Road
Headmasters House

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