Tag Archives: RHS

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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Video of the slide down from the Westland Magic garden at Chelsea Flower Show (that big pyramid thing)

I can only apologise for the terrible witch-like cackle at the beginning and end of this video. However, I did come down from this enormous several storey garden in a metal slide. he poor chap at the end is just a random person who happened to come down after me.







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To get up there, first you queue – unless you are a celebrity in which case you queue-jump – then you go up a few floors in a lift. The queue is long.  I probably wasted an hour of garden exploring but figured it would be worth the wait. Goodness only knows if they will be opening up on public days – the queues will be enormous.

Inside is a LOT of scaffolding, but also a lot of plants. And planters. And trees, and a greenhouse, and a shed. It’s an extraordinary thing Diarmuid Gavin has created.

Once out of the lift there are two very steep, very rickety wooden ladders to climb to get the view from the top. Then you have to navigate them backwards to get down to the top of the slide (there are more ladders if you want to descend by steps or you can wait for the five-person lift).

The slide is the easiest way to get down, and it is fun, although you do go very fast.

Is it a show garden? Yes of course it is. And worth it just for the inevitable headaches it will have given Heath & Safety officers.

All words and pictures © Northamptonshire Gardens


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Diarmuid Does it Again: Show stealing pyramid dominates press day at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012

Diarmuid Gavin’s big slide

IT’S that time again, garden designers and plantsmen are in a state of panic as Chelsea Flower Show press day arrives.

An strangely subdued air to this year’s build-up – there are 16 large show gardens and Main Avenue seems somewhat empty.

Brewin Dolphin

But what is there is pretty spectacular. On the first corner as you come in from Garden Gate past the Royal Hospital is Cleve West’s Brewin Dolphin (that’s a company by the way) garden.

Next is Joe Swift’s Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust garden. The designer was banned from presenting the BBC’s usual nightly coverage this year, as were all the presenters who are exhibiting, on the grounds of impartiality. (They are probably quite busy and knackered too.)

Thomas Hoblyn’s Arthritis Research Garden has some impressively tall skinny cypress trees as its backdrop.

Joe Swift for Homebase

Andy Sturgeon’s M&G garden comes next, with its copper rings coming out of the water feature. Lovely planting though.

Arne Maynard has returned to Chelsea this year after a 12 year absence for Laurent-Perrier, and although the pink punctuation is gorgeous, it was looking a little floppy on Monday morning.

Sarah Price’s Telegraph Garden next door is quite muted, but again the plants are the star.

Across the path is the RBC Blue Water Garden (which I read as the BBC Blue Peter Garden on first glance), by Olympic Park designer Professor Nigel Dunnett, with a distinctive conical-roofed seating area.

Joe Swift, in there somewhere

Don’t miss Jo Thompson’s gorgeous Celebration of Caravanning garden on the opposite side of the run, with so much delicious planting crammed into the space it seems Doris the caravan might never actually hit the road.

Across from Jo is Adam Frost’s Land’s End: a Rural Muse, which apparently draws inspiration from Northamptonshire’s own 19th century wandering poet John Clare.

Coming down to the end of Main Avenue all eyes shoot upwards. You simply cannot avoid the ridiculously huge and rather scary-looking pyramid offering from the ever-adventurous Diarmuid Gavin. Which has a slide from the top. It simply has to be seen to be believed, the scale of it is so enormous. I feel slightly sorry for the Quiet Time:

DMZ Forbidden Garden which is simply dwarfed on what is usually the key site.

Thomas Hoblyn for Arthritis Research


All words and pictures © Northamptonshire Gardens

Jo Thompson for the Caravan Club

Telegraph Garden

Arne Maynard Laurent-Perrier

M&G garden by Andy Sturgeon

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Off to Chelsea Flower Show 2012

So, what will we see at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show?
Northamptonshire Gardens will be live blogging the action throughout the day, at least, until we get kicked out for the queen’s private view . . .

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Photos from Gardeners’ World Live, Birmingham NEC, 2011

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All photos are copyright Northamptonshire Gardens 2011

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