In the middle of June we had a weeks’ holiday and decided to use our time visiting gardens and having nice meals!
We often visit gardens which are basically ornamental in nature and whose main aim is to attract as many visitors as possible. On this trip we decided to visit gardens/venues which had more practical aims.
Our first stop was at Jekka’s Herb Farm, outside Bristol. Jekka McVicar, the owner, is well known for her organic herbs and regularly shows at Chelsea. She has decided to create a Herboretum at her herb farm (which is in essence a herb nursery) and has created two main areas of raised beds filled with different plant families, with each bed containing a number of herb varieties. It was very interesting and well done.
We then went on to visit two Botanic Gardens.
Bristol and Oxford Botanic Gardens
It was very nice to visit these Botanic Gardens, who also aim to research, educate and record the various aspects of our plant heritage.
Bristol Botanic Gardens are tucked away in the suburbs and a bit tricky to find. I think it was worth it though. Judy, who was a volunteer in the shop, was very helpful and welcoming and the gardens were of a high standard. There were a number of different ‘gardens’ all of which were very interesting. There was a Medicinal garden, a Chinese Medicine Garden and many other themed areas, all of which were really well done and properly labelled. The glasshouses were also very interesting.
We then went to the Oxford Botanic Gardens. This was difficult to park near, being in a busy part of Oxford. Again it was well laid out with beds for the different plant families, plus glasshouses. Not so big as the Bristol Garden but a quiet oasis in a busy part of Oxford
Neither of these locations had cafes, so go prepared!
Productive Gardens – Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons, Barnsley House Hotel.
On a similar line, we also visited Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons, the restaurant and hotel of Raymond Blanc. The gardens are a beautiful but also an essential adjunct to the restaurant. Many of the vegetables which are served at the restaurant are grown in the large kitchen garden, and in a beautiful herb garden ( with herbs for teas) plus polytunnels for crops and salads.
There is also a lovely Japanese garden and tea house – Raymond does like his teas!! It is all immaculate and interesting for those like myself who grow herbs and veg. The gardeners lead tours around the garden on week day mornings – cost £20. We didn’t do this, preferring to have afternoon tea here and walk around the gardens at our leisure ( afternoon tea £30 per person – we shared!) The staff were incredibly helpful and courteous.
Our final visit was to Barnsley House Hotel, the former home of Rosemary Verey, the famous plantswoman and designer. Again the gardens were of a high standard. I first saw the kitchen garden there many years ago and was completely wowed by it – a real potager. This was something I had never really seen before and has been the inspiration for my own garden — a tangle of herbs, flowers and vegetables. The young gardener I met there was very knowledgeable and happy to help with any questions – I will be buying some seeds of red flowered broad beans that he recommended from Garden Organic for next year.
The food in the hotel was excellent and again, the staff were extremely helpful; so Barnsley House Hotel is highly recommended. Just be aware that this are is obviously some sort of honeypot for Japanese tourists as the area was completely swamped by them.