Category Archives: Open gardens

Secrets of the Swiss Garden…in Bedfordshire: How Shuttleworth’s garden is maturing a year on from £3.6million restoration.

All images copyright Hilary Scott unless stated

Swiss Garden, Old Warden, Bedfordshire. All images copyright Hilary Scott unless stated

IT’S a curiosity, that’s for sure. A nine-acre landscaped garden based on a Regency fondness for all things Swiss.

Swiss Garden, between Bedford and Biggleswade, has a ferny grotto, thatched hideaways on handmade hills, a whole load of 150-year-old fake stonework and a meandering stream with precarious humped bridges.

But in recent history – on and off between the end of the Second World War and the recent £3.5million restoration – the Swiss Garden was neglected and all but forgotten, vandalised throughout the ’70s and ’80s and kept just-about intact, thanks to the cash-strapped local councils and determined volunteers.


With not so much as a hillock in the flat Bedfordshire landscape with which to create his mountain-style retreat, the wealthy Lord Robert Ongley started his European fantasy almost 200 years ago. He began by making some fake hills and valleys – bearing in mind this was long before the advent of the JCB.

Swiss Garden, 1901

Swiss Garden, 1901, pic © Swiss Garden

Ongley fashioned a fantasy of the times, a mock Swiss landscape in 1820s England at the time when wealthy Brits were in the habit of splashing their cash on the Grand Tour of Europe, although there is no evidence that Ongley ever visited the Alps himself. He did, however, use the garden for extravagant parties and had the staff dress up in Swiss costume to complete the fantasy.

Five years before his death, in 1872 Ongley sold the estate to industrialist Joseph Shuttleworth, who gave his name to the nearby museum, estate and agricultural college.

Tucked away behind the aircraft hangers of the now famous Shuttleworth Collection of aviation history is a quirky and historic garden which is far older than its more famous neighbour. With no fewer than 13 Listed buildings, structures and artefacts, the Swiss Garden was adapted by Shuttleworth but much of Ongley’s structure remains, making it one of the most complete Regency era gardens.

When the Shuttleworths moved in, the garden had been dilapidated and forgotten for 20 years. Joseph and landscape gardener Edward Milner set about bringing in a more Victorian feel, with boardwalks and terraces, but retained the Swiss structures and added the beautiful stained glass in many of the buildings.

Pulamite stonework in the grotto

Pulamite stonework in the grotto

What seems odd to the modern visitor is the use of Pulhamite – a kind of fake rockery material where hardcore and rubble was coated in the ‘secret recipe’ of James Pulham – to create sandstone-like (or rather, concrete-like), stonework, most noticeable in the glass-domed grotto/fernery, the underpass and the punt station at the Swiss Garden.

The Swiss Cottage at the centre of the garden is a curiously pretty building and not particularly Swiss when you get up close. It has an intricately restored bamboo and pine cone ceiling and the interiors seem more oriental than Swiss, but the two-storey building is utterly charming nonetheless, and has survived intact, with one of its doors showing the scars of being dumped in the lake during the garden’s neglected years.


This neglect is what made it necessary for the Heritage Lottery Fund and Central Bedfordshire Council to step in with a funding plan for 18-months-worth of historic restoration. It opened at the wrong end of last summer and 2015 sees it open for its first full season. (Unlike most historic gardens it is actually open pretty much all year round if you fancy seeing it truly alpine – with snow on).

All images copyright Hilary Scott unless stated

DSC_0012 The wooden sculptures in the woods

There’s a large lake (with fishing) and a walk through the wilder woodland area, with rhododendrons and some unusual, sometimes Lovecraftian sculptures fashioned directly from fallen trees.

The trees are some of the best you’ll see in an open garden and together with the buildings – the cottage, the oddly magical glasshouse-fernery-grotto and the small Indian Kiosk (a cylindrical summerhouse with not so much as a Cornetto in sight) – it all add to the interest of the garden for the visitor. There are many other structures dotted around as well as huge green archways, waiting for clematis and roses to start clambering up them to soften their newness.

The planting, despite the garden’s age, is still new in places. The team had to rip out both mature trees and borders and start again, due to the vandalism and decay. Some of the mature planting has a distinct ‘municipal park’ feel to it – quite possibly because the council parks department were responsible for keeping the place going with no money or time for so many years, and this is all in the plan to gradually open out the space and show what was intended when this all started 200 years ago.

Planting is beginning to mature

Planting is beginning to mature

But the bedding is replaced regularly and the herbaceous borders and beds are starting to take shape and mature. There are issues the gardeners have to battle with thanks to Ongley’s vision of Switzerland – the steep man-made banks mean water and nutrient run-off – something that will improve as the ground cover planting starts to mat together and the impressive landscaping settles.


DSC_0042The team of historians and gardeners at Swiss Garden are keen to show off their amazing work so far, and there are trails to be followed for kids both big and small, and some very friendly peacocks. There’s plenty of grass for running about on and picnicing too. There is a smartphone app and you can hire headsets for a guided tour. The garden is mostly accessible to all, wheelchair access is possible in most parts of the garden except for very steep banks and assistance is available if you ask at the entrance.

Entrance to the garden on its own is £8, or you can get a joint ticket with the Shuttleworth aircraft collection included for £20 if you want to make a full day of it. There’s a good-sized car park, cafe/restaurant and gift shop on site, and away from the garden there’s a children’s play area.

There are some special events coming up, including a photography workshop with lunch included on July 16 and a Regency Garden Party on July 19, 2015.

You can follow the garden on Twitter @swissgarden_OW or find out more at Make sure you click on the gallery to see more of the garden.

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Update for Open Garden visitors: Here’s the link for NGS 2015

Hello! If you’re looking for the 2015 pages for the National Gardens Scheme in Northamptonshire, here is the link.

If you click on the main photo and then underneath choose list view, it is easier to see the gardens open over the next seven days.

Fingers crossed, it’s going to be sunny by the weekend!

Yeay! Sunny by the weekend!

Yeay! Sunny by the weekend!

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Gardens open for the NGS in Northamptonshire in July 2012

Castle Ashby Gardens, NN7 1LQ

Open  Sun 8 July (10-5.30) Admission:Adm £5, chd £4.50 (chd U10 free)

Facilities:   Teas and plants for sale, disabled access (gravel paths in places) dogs welcome.

Location:6m E of Northampton, between Denton & Yardley Hastings.

Description:25-acres within a 10,000 acre estate of both formal and informal gardens, incl Italian gardens with orangery and arboretum with lakes, all dating back to the 1860s
Rare breed farmyard, tea-rooms and gift shop


Hostellarie, 78 Breakleys Road,  Desborough,  Northamptonshire,  NN14 2PT

Opening dates and times: Sun 8 July (1.30-5.30)

Admission:Adm £2.50, chd free

Facilities:  Teas and plants for sale

Location:6m N of Kettering. 5m S of Market Harborough.

Description:Over 180ft long town garden divided into courtyard garden, colour themed flower beds, ponds and water features, cottage gardens, fruit and vegetable areas all linked by lawns and grass paths. Long town garden, which has seen many changes since the owners moved in over 40 years ago. Lawns and grass paths draw you through ‘rooms’ of different character, from the courtyard garden by the house to the wildlife pond at the bottom. Roses, clematis, and plenty of herbaceous perennials grow in the borders. The few vegetables grown are mainly hand-me-down heritage varieties grown by local gardeners for generations. Stella’s collection of Hostas, over thirty different varieties from the small sword-like ‘Kabitan’ to the large ‘Borwick Beauty’, are the pride of the garden.


Moulton Gardens, NN3 7UX 

Opening dates and times: Sun 8 July (11-5)

Admission:Combined adm £5, chd free

Gardens in this group:
2 Eady Close
91 Park View
Quarrybank House
Sandy Hill Farm
The Grange Garden
The Hanging Garden

Facilities:   Teas and plants for sale, disabled access, Home-made teas at WI hall, dogs welcome at some gardens

Location: Just N of Northampton.  Turn L off A43 at small r’about to Overstone Rd. Follow ‘one way’ in village centre to Church car park & The Grange car park (NN3 7UF) Further parking at garden No.6 up lane off Park View & E side of Park View (NN3 7UZ) Also from A508 via Broughton to Moulton. Follow ‘one way ‘ system to car park
Description:Moulton is a typical Northamptonshire village which has a distinctive character. There are many historic and visually interesting houses built from local stone. There are 8 beautiful gardens open to the east side of the village. These gardens vary from 3½ to ¼ acre. One garden incl a relaxing 2-acre woodland walk, another has the remains of a stream mill. Two gardens have only been re-established over the last 3yrs, but still are a blaze of colour, variety and interest. Overall, there is a good range of annual perennials, shrubs and fishponds, which will make an enjoyable and interesting visit. Dogs welcome at some gardens


Ravensthorpe Gardens, NN6 8ES. Opening dates and times:Sun 15 July (1-5)

Admission:Combined adm £4, chd free

Gardens in this group:
Mill House
Quiet Ways
Ravensthorpe Nursery
The Old Forge House

Facilities:  Teas, dogs welcome, disabled access

Location: 7m NW of Northampton. Signed from A5199 and the A428. Mill House immed on R as you turn off A428 down Long Lane. 1m from village.

Description:Attractive village in Northamptonshire uplands near to Ravensthorpe reservoir and Top Ardles Wood Woodland Trust which have bird watching and picnic opportunities. 5 very different established and developing gardens set in beautiful countryside displaying a wide range of plants, many of which are available from the Nursery, offering inspirational planting, quiet contemplation, beautiful views, gardens encouraging wildlife, fruit and vegetable gardens owned by Heritage Seed Library Guardian, rose garden and woodland walk


Rookery Barn, Water Lane,  Bradden,  Towcester,  Northamptonshire,  NN12 8FG.

Opening dates and times: Thur 19, Fri 20, Sat 21 July (2-5)

Admission:Adm £3.50, chd free

Facilities:   Teas and plants for sale, dogs welcome

Location: 3m N of Towcester.  From Greens Norton take rd to Bradden. Follow signs L into Water Lane

Description:1/3 acre plantsman’s garden in picturesque village. Extensive range of plants, many unusual. Terracotta pots with rare tender perennials, gravel and courtyard garden leads to stunning herbaceous borders
Owner artist pictures on display and for sale. Specialist plant sale


The Maltings, Clipston. LE16 9RS. Opening dates and times: Sat 21 July (2-6); Sun 22 July (11-6)

Admission:Adm £3, chd free

Facilities:   Teas, disabled access

Location: 4m S of Market Harborough, 9m W of Kettering, 10m N Northampton.
From A14 take junction 2, A508 N. After 2m turn L for Clipston. 2 houses away from Old Red Lion

Description:¾ acre sloping plantsman’s garden designed for yr round interest by the present owner. Many unusual plants, shrubs, old and new trees. Over 60 different clematis, wild garden walk, spring bulb area, over 30 different species roses, 2 ponds connected by a stream, bog garden. Fruit, vegetables and greenhouse. Swing and slide for children 

Disability information:Partial wheelchair access. Gravelled drive, some narrow paths & some steps

Further details:This sloping ¾-garden is now a plantsman’s haven. Purchased by the present owners in December 1996 the garden was mostly a boggy lawn with some good specimen trees. Building stables at the top of the hill necessitated a driveway being taken through the middle of the garden meaning a complete change. Shrubs were planted around the perimeter first, then came the productive area which has grown more extensive each year. Now two raised beds contain a variety of vegetables, with a greenhouse also for vegetables and two marvellous peach trees. Outside is a large variety of fruit trees and bushes. The perimeter was cleared to make a wild garden reached by steps and a bark path. Then came two ponds connected by a running stream followed by a change in the boggy lawn to form a bog garden with a large variety of cornus and salix amongst other unusual plants and shrubs. The other side of the drive looked dull and had a bad lawn so poles linked by heavy ropes were added for climbing roses behind which there is now a winding grass path through three shrubberies planted with unusual shrubs and perennials. There are now more than sixty different clematis and twenty different species roses in the garden. Also many unusual plants & shrubs, old and new trees together with a spring bulb area and a sunny patio and herb garden. There is plenty of seating areas to enjoy the homemade cakes, scones and teas served on open days


Bulwick Gardens,  NN17 3DZ. Opening dates and times: Sun 22 July (2-5)

Admission:Combined adm £3, chd free

Gardens in this group:
19 Church Lane
Bulwick Hall
The Shambles

Facilities:    Teas and plants for sale, dogs welcome, disabled access
Location: 10m SW of Stamford.  ½m off A43

Description:Unspoilt Northamptonshire stone conservation village. Interesting C14 church and PH. Bulwick Hall is a formal terraced 8 acre walled garden leading to river and island,50 metre double herbaceous borders, topiary, walled kitchen garden. C17 wrought iron gates, C19 orangery and C17 arcade.Peacocks and rare breed hens. 19 Church Lane is a small cottage garden with courtyard and water feature.The Shambles has an original village well, lawns, hedges and stone walls


Froggery Cottage, 85 Breakleys Road,  Desborough,  Northamptonshire,  NN14 2PT. Opening dates and times:Sun 29 July (11.30-6.30)

Admission:Adm £2.50, chd free

Facilities:  Teas and plants for sale, disabled access, dogs welcome
Location: 6m N of Kettering. 5m S of Market Harborough. Signed off A6 & A14

Description:¾-acre plantsman’s garden full of rare and unusual plants. NCCPG Collection of 435 varieties of penstemons incl dwarfs and species. Artefacts on display incl old ploughs and garden implements
Workshops throughout the day

Further details:Plantsman’s garden set in the heart of Northamptonshire close to the historical Triangular Lodge and the Naseby battlefield and divided into separate rooms. Scree garden comprises hot plants such as agapanthus, yucca, phormium, watsonia, codonopsis etc. Water garden with Chinese bridge and various aquatic plants. Ornamental herb garden. 2008


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Northamptonshire Open Gardens, Sunday July 1, 2012 – Arthingworth and Finedon

Open this Sunday for the National Gardens Scheme:

Arthingworth Village Garden, just north of Kelmarsh, south of Market Harborough, LE16 8LA

Open:Sun 1 July (2-6)

Admission:Combined adm £5, chd free

Gardens in this group:

1 Church Farm Way

1 Sunnybank

10 Oxendon Road

11 Oxendon Road

2 Hall Close

3 Church Farm Way

Bosworth House

School House

Facilities: Some disabled access, Teas and plants for sale
Description:Arthingworth is a small village off the beaten track. It has a 12th century church, village hall, manor, pub and nearly 225 villagers, 16 of whom are welcoming you into their gardens. Many others will help on the day with the cakes, cream teas, coffee and parking. This year, there are 6 new gardens, all different in spirit, tended by young, and weathered gardeners, some with stunning views, some pocket gardens, some artisan, a couple of traditional with herbaceous borders, vegetable patches and orchard, and a futurist one. A day for all tastes


Finedon Gardens, two miles north east of Wellingborough, Northants, NN9 5JN :Sun 1 July (2-6)

Admission:Combined adm £3, chd free

Gardens in this group:

11 Thrapston Road

24 Albert Road

29 Eastfield Crescent

67-69 High Street


Facilities: Disabled access, teas and plants for sale

Description:The village has a varied history dating from Roman times and evolving through farming, ironstone mining, shoe and leather manufacturing. An ancient parish church with a collection of ‘green men’ and many other historical buildings. All three gardens are very different – everything from vegetables to flowers on show. 24 Albert Road has an array of pots, containers and border plants and many cacti, boasting a period dolls house, gypsy caravan, patio and summerhouse. 67-69 High Street  is an ever evolving rear garden of1/3 acre of C17 cottage (not open). Mixed borders, many obelisks and containers. Planting for varied interest Spring to Autumn [see separate entry at 67-69 High Street]. 29 Eastfield Crescent This is a garden in 4 sections. Lawn with mixed borders and pond leading to paved area with containers, water feature and arbour seat. Fruit and vegetable garden with 2 greenhouses. Shady end section with borders and summerhouse. Front garden with varied hanging baskets and containers. 11 Thrapston Road  has a super cottage garden with mixed vegetable plot, soft fruit and apple trees, summer house and tree house.                    Large selection of home-raised plants for sale – all proceeds to the NGS

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Cottesbrooke Gardener’s Fair 2012 – Friday


Plant fanatics braved the weather on day one of the fifth annual Cottesbrooke Gardener’s Fair.
While there were no queues for the car park, visitors did have to cope with rather a lot of mud.


As gardeners tend to manage in all weathers, numbers through the gates were high.


But some visitors voiced surprise the show wasn’t cancelled, especially after coaches got stuck in the boggy conditions and the passengers were asked to walk the rest of the way.
The fair is bigger than when it launched as the plant finders’ fair five years ago, and the organisers have done well to spread the excellent nurseries and craftsmen down the hill.


The food and drink stalls are far more plentiful and you can take picnics. There’s still free access to Cottesbrooke’s gorgeous gardens, and talks and advice this year from the likes of Chris Beardshaw, Helen Yemm, Mark Diacono, Coton Manor’s Caroline Tait and James Alexander Sinclair.


Saturday will see Chelsea gold medal-winning Cleve West added to the bill.
On Friday there were a lot of people leaving by lunchtime, possibly because of the rain and boggy car park, but all seemed to have cars full of plants. The majority stayed and, dressed for the weather as gardeners sensibly are, enjoyed the Cottesbrooke gardens.


By 4pm, the sun had come out. Hopefully the ground will dry out a little overnight.
There’s not a lot Cottesbrooke could have done about the weather, and the car park team did a great job helping anyone whose car needed a push and there’s even a tractor on standby.


The show goes on tomorrow and Sunday, and you shouldn’t be put off if you wear a decent raincoat and wellies.


There’s some great plants for sale and even in the rain, Cottesbrooke is a lovely garden visit. And at least it’s not the Isle of Wight!
Fingers crossed for a couple of dry days . . .

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Easton Walled Gardens – a forgotten gem brought back to life

A garden is always a labour of love, but what if your garden is 400 years old, covers 12-acres and is completely overgrown by brambles, elder and sycamore trees up to 25 feet high?

This is what faced Ursula Cholmeley in 2000. A young mother with a toddler and a new baby, she decided (and persuaded husband Fred) that the once magnificent gardens at the ancient family seat at Easton in Lincolnshire deserved to be brought back to life. And two years later they started work, having to bring two nine tonne tractors in just to remove the top growth.

Easton Park’s story is rather sad. In 1901 an imposing manor house, Easton Hall, stood proudly above the steep tiered steps down to an immaculate terrace and huge walled garden, split by an imposing 106 metre line of clipped yew, planted in 1852. Franklin D Roosevelt honeymooned there, and David Niven was a later guest.

But the hall was requisitioned by the army during World War II and the soldiers based there – from the parachute regiment – are said to have literally trashed the place, letting off live rounds in the house and throwing hand grenades into the greenhouses. Later the lead was stolen from the roof and the entire building was demolished in 1951. It was only the fact that the bulldozer broke down that the gatehouse and stables remain today. In one part of the garden, there’s a steep spoil heap where you can still see the debris from where the bulldozers simply tipped hundreds of years of British history down the hill.

After ten years of hard graft with a small team and no corporate budget, the Cholmeleys have performed a minor miracle. A hidden garden has been coaxed out from the undergrowth. There are cutting gardens with hundreds of sweet peas, billowing summer borders, lawns and steps, clipped hedging and smart pathways, leading to hidden walkways. Some of it, as you expect, is still work-in-progress and you can see the scale of the task that still faces the team.

However it is a fabulous place to visit for gardeners, or families who want a day out with room to roam and a treasure around every corner. I even found giraffes. Yes giraffes. And unlike many historic houses, children are positively encouraged to stay ON the grass: there are containers with an assortment of footballs to borrow.

The once derelict buildings that remain (you have to get your head around where the actual house once stood by reading the helpful information boards dotted around various vantage points) are now transformed into pleasant tea rooms, and you can sit on a sunny patio overlooking scented gardens. There’s even a viewing platform for great views and at the moment, a ‘swallow cam’ where you can see the feathered visitors nesting in the potting shed roof. The History Room has photographs which show the astonishing task taken on over the last decade.

It took me just over an hour to get there from Northampton, up the A43 and the A1. Entry is £6.25 or £2 for 5-15s.

You can visit the garden’s website here

All photographs and text © NorthamptonshireGardens

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Open Gardens for Northamptonshire – June 2012

Open for the National Gardens Scheme in Northamptonshire in June

Evening Openings Thurs 14, 21, 28 June (5-8.30)

67-69 High Street Finedon, NN9 5JN

Constantly evolving, 1/3-acre rear garden of C17 cottage (not open). Mixed borders, many obelisks and containers, kitchen garden and herb bed, rope border. Summer borders rose/clematis pergolas; All giving varied interest from Feb through to Oct
Plant surgery by local expert. Bring along your plants or questions 

Opening dates and times: Evening Openings Thurs 14, 21, 28 June (5-8.30)

Admission:Adm £3.50, chd free

Facilities:   Disabled access, plants for sale

Refreshments:Light refreshments

Postcode:NN9 5JN :6m SE Kettering, J A6 & A510.


Sat 16, Sun 17 June (11-6)

Flore Gardens, Flore,  Northamptonshire,  NN7 4LQ

Description:Flore gardens have been open for many years as part of the Flore Flower Festival and the partnership with the NGS started in 1992. Flore is an attractive village with views over the upper Nene valley, a C12 Church and Victorian Chapel which are open in June with floral displays. We have a mix of gardens that provide interest throughout the yr and a selection of garden buildings, structures and seating providing opportunities to rest while admiring the gardens. There is planting that tolerates shade and areas for full sun. The June gardens incl formal and informal designs with lots of roses, clematis and many varieties of trees, shrubs, perennials, fruit, vegetables and herbs
Gardens open in association with Flore Flower Festival

Admission:Combined adm £5 June & July, chd free (share to Flore Flower Festival)

Gardens in this group:
20 Brockhall Road Sat 16, Sun 17 June (11-6)
24 Bliss Lane Open all dates
Bliss Lane Nursery Open all dates
Russell House Open all dates
The Croft Open all dates
The Garden House Sat 16, Sun 17 June (11-6)
The Old Bakery Open all dates

Facilities:  Teas and plants for sale

Refreshments:Home-made teas & lunches at Church & Chapel School Room (June/July

Location:7m W of Northampton. 2m W of J16 M1.
5m E of Daventry on A45. Garden map provided at official free car park

The Maltings, 10 The Green,  Clipston,  Northamptonshire,  LE16 9RS

Opening dates and times:Sat 16 June; Sun 17 June; (11-6)

Description: This sloping ¾-garden is now a plantsman’s haven. Purchased by the present owners in December 1996 the garden was mostly a boggy lawn with some good specimen trees. Building stables at the top of the hill necessitated a driveway being taken through the middle of the garden meaning a complete change. Shrubs were planted around the perimeter first, then came the productive area which has grown more extensive each year. Now two raised beds contain a variety of vegetables, with a greenhouse also for vegetables and two marvellous peach trees. Outside is a large variety of fruit trees and bushes. The perimeter was cleared to make a wild garden reached by steps and a bark path. Then came two ponds connected by a running stream followed by a change in the boggy lawn to form a bog garden with a large variety of cornus and salix amongst other unusual plants and shrubs. The other side of the drive looked dull and had a bad lawn so poles linked by heavy ropes were added for climbing roses behind which there is now a winding grass path through three shrubberies planted with unusual shrubs and perennials. There are now more than sixty different clematis and twenty different species roses in the garden. Also many unusual plants & shrubs, old and new trees together with a spring bulb area and a sunny patio and herb garden. There is plenty of seating areas to enjoy the homemade cakes, scones and teas served on our open days

Admission:Adm £3, chd free

Facilities:   Partial Disabled access, teas
Home-made & cream teas

Location:4m S of Market Harborough, 9m W of Kettering, 10m N Northampton.
From A14 take junction 2, A508 N. After 2m turn L for Clipston. 2 houses away from Old Red Lion


Opening Sat 16 June

Titchmarsh House, Chapel Street,  Titchmarsh,  NN14 3DA

Open 12-5pmAdmission:Adm £3, chd free

Facilities:  Disabled access, Home-made teas & Village Fete on 16 June

Description:4½-acres extended and laid out since 1972. Cherries, magnolias, herbaceous, irises, shrub roses, range of unusual shrubs, walled borders and ornamental vegetable garden

Location:2m N of Thrapston. 6m S of Oundle.  Exit A14 at A605 J, Titchmarsh signed as turning to E


Open Sunday June 17

Foxtail Lilly, 41 South Road,  Oundle,  PE8 4BP

Open 11am-6pm June 17

Description:A cottage garden where perennials and grasses are grouped creatively together amongst gravel paths, complementing one another to create a natural look. Some unusual plants and quirky oddities create a different and colourful informal garden. Lots of flowers for cutting, shop in barn. New meadow pasture turned into new cutting garden

Admission:Adm £4, chd free

Facilities: Teas and plants for sale, dogs welcome

Location:1m town centre.
From A605 at Barnwell Xrds take Barnwell Rd, 1st R to South Rd
click here for a map

The Old Rectory, Sudborough, NN14 3BX

Open 2pm-6pm June 17

Description:Classic 3-acre country garden with extensive herbaceous borders of unusual plants. Magnolias and cornus in spring, containers of bulbs and large plantings of tulips and daffodils, early rare hellebores. Formal rose circle and box edged potager designed by Rosemary Verey, woodland walk and pond alongside Harpers Brook

Admission:Adm £5, chd free

Facilities:  Disabled access, teas, plants for sale

Location:8m NE of Kettering.

Exit 12 off A14. Village just off A6116 between Thrapston & Brigstock

Weedon Lois & Weston Gardens, NN12 8PJ

Sun 17 June (2-5.30)

Description:Two adjacent villages in S Northants with a handsome medieval church in Weedon Lois. The extension churchyard contains the graves of the poets Dame Edith Sitwell and her brother Sacheveral who lived in Weston Hall. Weston has some fine stone houses incl Armada House, Weston Hall and a cluster of village centre farmhouses. Large beautiful garden with magnificent trees, a plantsmans garden, newly designed award winning garden and a charming cottage garden

Admission:Combined adm £4.50, chd free

Gardens in this group:
Home Close
Lois Weedon House
Old Barn
Ridgeway Cottage
The Wilde House Garden

Facilities:   Disabled access, at The Wilde House Garden, Ridgeway Cottage & Lois Weedon House only. Dogs welcome, Cream teas at Weston Community Centre

Location:7m W of Towcester. 7m N of Blackley.
Off A43


Friday June 22

Canons Ashby House, Cannons Ashby,  Daventry,  NN11 3SD

For NGS: Fri 22 June (11-5)

Description:Home of the Dryden family since C16. C18 London and Wise style garden enclosed by walls with fine topiary, paths and terraces. The garden has been restored using Sir Henry Drydens 1880 plans and features a fernery, reinstated beds and borders, seasonally planted to reflect Sir Henry’s Victorian tastes. Created by Edward Dryden from 1710 – 1717, the gardens at Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire are a rare surviving example of early 18th century garden design having. since defied the changes in taste which saw many contemporary gardens substantially altered. The London and Wise style design of descending terraces and axial paths, enclosed by stone walls and ornamented with fine topiary, still remains .Following a period of neglect during the 2oth century the house and gardens were acquired by the National Trust in the 1980s. Although much work was undertaken to restore the gardens to an acceptable standard of presentation, resources were limited and the more labour-intensive features of the garden were dispensed with.However, the garden is once again in a state of change since the commencement in 2008 of a four year restoration program aiming to reinstate the elaborate, decorative planting schemes present during the gardens’ Victorian heyday. Work has so far concentrated on recreating the bedding schemes once present on the top terraces, and the next stage of the project will be to replant soft fruit and decorative vegetables on the lower terraces in order to reveal the view currently obscured by inappropriate planting.

Admission:Adm £3.60, chd £2.05

Facilities:  Disabled access, teas, plants for sale

Contact:National Trust,  Telephone: 01327 861900

Location:12m NE of Banbury, 9m S of Daventry.
On unclassified rd between B4525 and A5. Follow NT signs
click here for a map


Evening Opening, Sat 23 June (7-10); and Sun 24 June (2-6)

West Haddon Gardens, NN6 7AP

Description:Traditional village with a mix of houses, many of which are listed, mainly brick but some local stone and thatch, with ages varying from C16 to modern. A few shops, 3 public houses, 2 with restaurants, school, village hall, church and chapel. An interesting mix of larger and smaller gardens, a large walled garden with rockeries, shrubbery, rose garden, herbaceous border, croquet lawn, courtyard with tubs, many ornaments, and mature trees. Two sheltered walled cottage gardens with terraces, decking, various levels, water features and a wide range of shrubs, a large very well stocked walled garden with many separate areas and features, a range of interesting ornaments, seating areas and vistas. A public house courtyard with C16 outbuildings, hanging baskets and window boxes, a small low maintenance garden with decking, pots and shrubs
Live music on Saturday evening

Admission:Combined adm £4, chd free

Gardens in this group:
16 Field Close
Clover Cottage
Lime House
The Crown Courtyard
The Mews
Weslyan Cottage

Facilities:   Teas, dogs welcome, disabled access

Location:10m NW of Northampton.  Off A428 between Rugby & Northampton, 4m E of M1 J18. Village now bypassed. Tickets and maps at all gardens


Sunday June 24

Aynho Gardens, Banbury, OX17 3BG

Sun 24 June (2-5.30)

Description:The village is an ancient settlement with a Stately home – Aynhoe Park – opening its gardens. This is a Grade I listed C17 Country House with grounds laid out by Capability Brown currently undergoing restoration. The house is in private ownership and this is a rare opportunity to visit. Other houses are Grade II listed and some have views over open countryside. The gardens vary in size and style with a mixture of romantic, cottage and formal

Admission: Combined adm £5, chd free

Gardens in this group:
Alms Cottages
Aynhoe Park
Friar’s Well
Old Dairy Cottage
Swallows House
The Grammar House
Yew Tree Cottage

Facilities:  Teas. Dogs welcome

6m SE of Banbury on B4100

Cedar Farm, Copelands Road,  Desborough, NN14 2QD

Sun 24 June (2-6)
Description:3-acre garden plus 7 acre beautiful walks through an arboretum containing many unusual trees leading to wildlife ponds, new avenue of quercus coccinea, vegetable garden, a mature avenue of lime trees, garden underplanted with spring bulbs, great autumn colour. Main garden large colour planted borders, Secret Garden with roses and clematis and a large mirror pond, many rare fowl Visitors also welcome by appt

Admission:Adm £3.50, chd free

Facilities:  Teas, plants for sale, disabled access

Location:6m N of Kettering, 5m S of Market Harborough, from A6.
Signed from centre of Desborough on NGS open day only

Litchborough Gardens, Litchborough, NN12 8JQ

24 June (2-6)

Admission:Combined adm £4, chd free (share to St Martins Church, Litchborough)

Description:Litchborough Gardens offer a wonderful, diverse selection of gardens varying in size from several acres to the more conventional small back garden. On show is a landscape architects country garden designed for low maintenance, a small family garden featuring a play area with willow tunnel and vegetable patch. Visit a modern cottage garden offering a wonderful display of tulips in the spring and spectacular views over the countryside and a large garden with clip yews, extensive woodland and winding walks through specimen trees and around the lake. Lastly, but most definitely not least, admire the ornamental lakes with rock stream and fountain and the rhododendrons, azaleas and herbaceous borders in this 3 acre landscape garden. A garden for every taste

Gardens in this group:

2 Kiln Lane 24 June (2-6)
41 Towcester Road 24 June (2-6)
51 Towcester Road  24 June (2-6)
Bruyere Court  24 June (2-6)
Orchard House 24 June (2-6)
The Hall Sun 1 Apr (2-6)

Facilities:  Teas, plants for sale, disabled access

Location:10m SW of Northampton, nr Towcester.
Please use car park nr village green. Maps provided


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Cottesbrooke Gardener’s Fair celebrates fifth anniversary in June 2012

Cottesbrooke Gardeners’ Fair (formerly the Plant Finder’s fair) is celebrating its 5th anniversary this year offering lots of plants for sale from some of the country’s most prestigious nurseries.

The Fair, held in the stunning grounds of Cottesbrooke Hall in Northamptonshire, takes place from 22-24 June and is open daily from 10:00am – 5:30pm.

Parking is promised to be better this year although visitors may have to expect some queueing seeing as it is located in a lovely rural village. Ignore the satnav and follow the signs.

Speakers are always a highlight at Cottesbrooke – and this year you can catch Helen Yemm, Chris Beardshaw, Cleve West, James Alexander Sinclair and River Cottage’s Mark Diacono sharing their wisdom. Talks are £5, bookable in advance when you buy tickets , or first come, first served on the day.  Top topiary snipper Jake Hobson will be offering wisdom for free.

In the Skills Tent will be a free rolling programme of practical, drop-in/drop-out, hands-on talks and demonstrations given by horticultural experts from Northamptonshire’s Moulton College. Subjects range from sustainable water use, allotment gardening, pests and pruning to general gardening advice. It is not necessary to book – first come, first served.

In the Inspire Tent, hosted by James Alexander-Sinclair, you can have a free 20-minute, one-to-one session with a garden designer to help you with your own garden design challenges. These are bookable on the day on a first come/first served basis.

There are over 70 hand-picked exhibitors including some of Britain’s leading specialist nurseries and growers.

There will be extra food stalls this year too, or you might want to bring a picnic to enjoy in the grounds. There’s also a chance to have a posh tea on the lawn with full china, tea and cakes.

The ticket price is £12 on the door Friday and Saturday and £10 on Sunday (it’s £9.60 or £8 in advance by calling 0845 130 7778) and children 14 and under are free. (The website booking seems to change a £2 fee, which seems to defeat the object of buying in advance).

This includes free entry to the gardens, plant shuttle, parking and Plant Swap. There is also a NGS Plant Creche for visitors, and additional car parking in place for this year.

Upon arrival to the event please do not use satnav, but follow directional signage.  If you have pre-paid tickets follow signs for the HALL CAR PARK and please have tickets ready and display rear-view mirror hanger.  Visitors who wish to buy tickets on the day must follow signs for the AVENUE CAR PARK.

It’s a lovely day out if you love your plants. We’d recommend taking plenty of cash for your purchases. And perhaps a brolly, although we hope you won’t need it.

Here’s a link to pictures from last year’s Cottesbrooke Plant Finder’s Fair

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Coton Manor Gardens open for next fortnight (Feb 18, 2012)

THE glorious winter gardens at Coton Manor In Northamptonshire  will be open from this Saturday (Feb 18th) for two weeks until Sunday 4th March – 11.00am – 4.00pm. The snowdrops are now coming into full flower while the aconites are putting on a good display and the Helleborus are beginning to come into their own.

There will be a good range of healthy plants for sale in the nursery and as always, lovely teas for sale when you’ve been for a walk.

Coton Manor’s details are in the links to the right of this page.


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New opening for the NGS at Collingtree, August 21

A new opening for the National Gardens Scheme charity this weekend as Jenny and Jim Redmond open Karell House, Collingtree Park, Northamptonshire, NN4 0PB on Sunday between 12noon and 5pm.

A large garden next to Collingtree golf course and the brook, the well-loved garden has manicured lawns, tree peonies, herbaceous borders and many shrubs and unusual plants. There are teas and cakes for sale and there is access for wheelchairs except for by the river bank.

Follow sign to Collingtree Park Golf Course, left onto winding Brook Lane, third right onto Turnberry Lane, first right onto Belfrey Lane

AS the gardening season comes to an end there are still a handful of openings in September, and most of the big homes and gardens stay open to the public until October to show off the autumnal colours.

One up and coming event worth marking in your diary is being held on September 3-4.

Althorp’s Garden Art Weekend, includes talks by garden experts Nick Hamilton from Barnsdale and local boy James Alexander Sinclair. There will also be ‘live’ wood carving by chainsaw artists Peter Schwartz and Carrie Yeun. More info to come.


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