Sunday. The rain stopped. The garden too soggy to do much either constructive or destructive. We thought we’d go and visit the gardens of others, to see how they were coping. Caistor is a small town in the Lincolnshire ‘wolds’ (the hilly bit of the county if you don’t know the region), half an hour’s drive away. It was a prosperous place in Roman times (parts of its walls still remain), it must have been doing OK in the 14th century, and was really doing well in the 18th. Now, it’s a bit of a muddle, with some splendidly restored 18th century houses, a few derelict ones, some picturesque streets, a bit of modern development. And some completely obsessed gardeners.
First up, the garden at Hope House, at the bottom of the Horsemarket. It’s owner, designer, maintenance person, is garden designer Sue Neave. Built around a prettily restored house, it packs a great deal into a space of perhaps a third of an acre? A pool, a fountain in a little dining courtyard (table, chairs, wall sconces for candles, tiny trellis pavilion, lots of plants), a formal garden at the house front, a wavy-edged lawn surrounded with some very nice planting, and generally lots of fascinating detail. Ideas I’m going to copy: using a flat piece of stone as a way a way of dripping a pump-fed fountain into our top pool with some sort of backplate to conceal the source… using Clematis ‘Alba Luxurians’ somewhere, anywhere, Ornithogalum narbonense, ditto, oh, and…. well, see more at http://www.hopehousegardens.co.uk/
Then, immediately opposite, a garden around a modern house, on a steep slope… Ok, not quite me, nicely planted borders cut across the slope, grass paths between, then some veggie beds with amazingly immaculate cabbages of which i was deeply envious… Again, more clematis, including a gorgeous variant of C. texensis, with whopping (not too whopping) flowers.
Then, a mooch around the town. Some very garden conscious folk… Most fun, high above an ancient spring from which real Romans must once have drunk, a proper cottage garden with a bewitching mix of hydrangeas, runner beans, nasturtiums, gooseberry bushes, roses, cabbages.
But then on to something quite unusual, and rather moving. A car park garden. Mark and Lauri Fox run the Crocosmia National Collection from a minute strip of garden behind their tiny house. Their strip (filled with some very stylish plants indeed) runs alongside and above a not especially distinguished car park. The slope between the two was something of a wasteland, and they asked the local council if they could garden it. We visited last year, watching Lauri furiously planting at one end while council workers were still clearing and composting the other. Only a year later it looks astonishing – luxuriant, some marvellous sidalceas, foxgloves and, of course, crocosmias. Initially, we couldn’t see the Fox folk, until we found them working in yet another bit of the car park, taking out brambles, nettles, dense ivy, assorted car park rubbish, planting more fine things, tying up fine things already there. http://www.thecrocosmiagardens.net
Then back to Rose Cottage, and thoughts about rainproof plants… And it did start raining.