Batsford Arboretum

A couple of weeks ago I visited Batsford Arboretum, to see their collection of trees in all their autumnal glory. I first visited Batsford two years ago in spring, when their magnolias and cherry blossom blew me away.

Views of the Arboretum




IMG_7726I was really looking forward to seeing the arboretum at a completely different, but just as beautiful, time of year – it didn’t disappoint in any way.

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’

Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'


Acer pubinerve

Acer pubinerve


IMG_7772It has 55 acres of natural Cotswold countryside and one of the largest private tree collections in the country with almost 3,000 tree varieties.

Ginkgo biloba



Liquidambar styraciflua



IMG_7688As soon as I stepped into the garden colour hit me from every direction. A fine Ginkgo biloba specimen was like a tower of gold, several Euonymus and Sorbus species had beautiful berries.



Sorbus pseudohupehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’



Sorbus pseudohupehensis 'Pink Pagoda'

Rhus succedanea

Rhus succedaneaA small woodland area primarily of beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) was very dramatic with a carpet of russet brown leaves on the ground, mirrored in the leaves still hanging in the trees.

Woodland area



More acers


IMG_7652The acers truly stole the show however. From a distance every pathway was lit with a splash of red, orange or gold, as I got closer I realised every tree was an acer! Some trees looked like they were on fire in the sunlight.

Acers again




IMG_7740I became so inspired I even wrote a quick poem! I have a lot of scribblings in my notebook that I haven’t typed up yet. . . here’s the one I wrote at Batsford:


blood red ‘Bloodgood’

foliage flickering flames

even on the greyest, dankest of days

your colour doesn’t wane

it burns, brighter and brighter

reds and golds

chasing the cold away

a light of life

on this autumn day.



Last few acers


IMG_7769The arboretum was a truly sensational display of colour, I always think autumn is the farewell party nature throws until spring. . . and everyone’s invited. I hope you enjoyed the photos. 🙂



Batsford Arboretum

At the weekend I went to visit Batsford Arboretum in Gloucestershire, a garden with 55 acres of natural Cotswold countryside. It has one of the largest private tree collections in the country with almost 3,000 tree varieties. Click here for more information on the history of Batsford.

Batsford Manor House


View from the arboretum


Swamp garden


Daffodils and hellebores were scattered all over the garden, as well as the first primroses I’ve seen this spring.







Yet more daffodils!







First primroses of the season


Batsford has the National Plant Collection of Japanese flowering cherries which were just sensational. I’ve never seen so many Prunus trees in one place before, the impact was stunning.

Prunus trees






Prunus blossom

IMG_0935 Edit





The magnolias were blossoming too, one cultivar in particular was especially striking with gorgeous pink flowers.

Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’

Magnolia 'Caerhays Belle'



IMG_0963 Edit




The Pinetum was seriously impressive, the sheer scale of trees such as Sequoiadendron giganteum and Pinus sylvestris was breath-taking.

Acer opulus


Acer palmatum




IMG_1000 B&W

Conifer pollen


The Japanese area was a lovely part of the garden, the statues and house gave it a very authentic feel.

Japanese garden



Statues (the buddha is my favourite!)




Japanese house


The café, plant centre and gift-shop was great too, I found the perfect present and card for Mother’s Day whilst I was there!

I spend half the day wandering round in awe, I got so excited by it all that I ended up taking hundreds of photos! I hope you enjoyed the edited highlights. 🙂

Spring Has Sprung!

Now that spring is here the days are just flying by – I can’t believe I am halfway through my placement at Ashridge, before I know it the end of summer will be here and it will be time for me to move on.

By only spending a year in each garden whilst on the PGG traineeship it makes me appreciate each season even more than usual, because I know it will be the first and last time I’ll see spring, summer, autumn and winter in each garden.

Daffodils in the arboretum at Ashridge






I was comparing my work diaries the other day and I suddenly realised how different everything is now compared to this time last year. In 2013 the weather was cold, with a big freeze in March – as a result spring was about a month later than normal.

This year is the total opposite, we’ve had an incredibly wet but mild winter, and the past two weeks have been pretty much summer temperatures. The snowdrop season was ahead of itself, now the daffodils are out in full force with cherry blossom, camellias and magnolias almost at their full flowering peak – it’s only the middle of March, spring is about six weeks early!

Cherry blossom (Prunus)



What makes me love nature so much is the way it just does its own thing. You can’t tell it what to do, no matter how much humans try and control it nature always wins through in the end. As someone who works with plants daily the trick is trying to work with nature, not against it.

Ashridge life has really picked up pace, me and the team have been working like trojans in order to get on top of the propagation of the summer bedding. Two hundred and eighty trays of Salvias, one hundred and twenty trays of Rudbeckias and sixty trays of Lobelia are just a few of the plants we have been busy pricking out the past week or so. We’re mean, green fighting machines!!

Trays of seedlings



We’ve also been working in one of my favourite areas at Ashridge, the Italian Garden. It has a mixture of herbaceous beds which we have been weeding, edging and generally giving a good tidy. The Italian Garden has a water feature in the middle of it, I noticed a pair of ducks swimming in it the other day – for a minute I thought the heat was making me hallucinate!

The Italian Garden – spot the duck!


I saw a frog too!


Before tidying. . .


and after



It’s a real joy to wander around the gardens, the winter bedding we planted out in October is now looking gorgeous. Places like the Terrace and Fernery have come alive, the pots in the various courtyard areas have splashes of colour too. I love seeing the hard work we did in autumn pay off in spring, it’s a feeling of satisfaction no amount of money can buy.

The Terrace




The Fernery



Courtyard areas




The Lazell Garden is looking particularly stunning at the moment, it is mainly planted with Acers and heathers, the pinks and whites of the latter make it a winner at this time of year.

The Lazell Garden




The Dry Garden has bulbs peeking up out of the gravel, dots of blue and yellow highlight the rest of the garden perfectly.

The Dry Garden


Narcissus and Chionodoxa



The area which has looked the most wonderful recently has been the bank near the staff car park. It has drifts of dark crocus which now has clumps of bright yellow daffodils scattered amongst them. The colours contrast each other beautifully, I swear that sight is what makes people come to work each morning!

Car park bank




I can’t wait for the seasons to unfold, and to see what the rest of the year has in store. Watch this space! 🙂

Snowdrop Season

First written and posted on 28th February, 2014. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

This year I have been lucky enough to witness a spectacular snowdrop season, I’m quite sad it’s nearly over! I’ve seen fantastic specimens at Ashridge, the arboretum has been full of wild snowdrops dotted amongst the trees and carpeting the woodland floor in massive clumps. I love having a wander round there after work and seeing the wood become whiter and whiter.





I’ve been on the snowdrop hunt in several different gardens too, such as Waterperry in Oxfordshire. I went there a few weeks ago for their snowdrop weekend and I wasn’t disappointed – it was stunning. At first glance it looked like the ground was covered in snow, that’s how many snowdrops there were!








I visited two other gardens this week, as part of work’s monthly garden visits. We went to Coton Manor in Northamptonshire and Benington Lordship in Hertfordshire. Both were known to have outstanding snowdrop collections, which is the reason we decided to go and see them.

Coton Manor was having its seasonal snowdrop and hellebore fortnight, I loved the whole garden but the woodland walk was just a feast for the eyes! Hellebores, crocus, and of course snowdrops stole the show, I could have stayed there forever enjoying the beauty of it all.

Coton Manor






Snowdrops and Hellebores


Snowdrops and Crocus


IMG_0235 Crop

Benington Lordship had their snowdrop event happening too, the sight of so many snowdrops took my breath away. The ground was literally smothered in them, like a sheet of white had been placed over the entire garden – it was spectacular!

Benington Lordship






I hope you enjoyed the photos! 🙂

Last Touch of Autumn

First written and posted on 3rd December, 2013. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

Here is a collection of photos from the past few weeks at Ashridge, I can’t believe December is here already! A few trees are still hanging onto the last touches of autumn, it feels like winter is creeping ever closer though. I hope you enjoy the shots! 🙂

Trees in the arboretum

Trees in the arboretum at Ashridge

Trees in the arboretum at Ashridge

Trees in the arboretum at Ashridge

Ashridge House and Chapel

Ashridge House and Chapel

Liquidambar styraciflua

Liquidambar styraciflua

Cotoneaster with Liquidambars in the background

Cotoneaster shrub

Beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) in the arboretum

Beech trees in the arboretum

Beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) in the arboretum

First frost!

First frost!


First written and posted on 8th September, 2013. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

Since my last post life has been a whirlwind because a week ago I left my home in Devon for pastures new in Hertfordshire. I started my new job as part of the Professional Gardeners’ Guild Traineeship at Ashridge on Monday; my first week has just flown by!

Ashridge House

Ashridge House

I don’t know where to begin with Ashridge because it’s a place steeped in history. The house itself is over seven hundred years old, and has been inhabited by monks, churchmen, Earls, Dukes, politicians, royalty, soldiers, millionaires and students – now it’s used as a business school, people from all over the world come to study here.

The Dry Garden

The Dry Garden, and view of the house and chapel

Firstly Edmund of Cornwall, the nephew of King Henry III, founded a monastery in 1283 and turned it into a monastic site. At the time of the Dissolution the community departed and the building was left to fate where it then became a royal home to the children of Henry VIII. Ownership was passed down to Edward VI then Princess Elizabeth, and from there it became the home of the Earls and Dukes of Bridgewater and their relatives from 1604 to 1921.

My parents, in the Rosary!

Mum and Dad!

During the Second World War it was commandeered as a branch of Charing Cross hospital, with over a thousand patients – the woodland also proved useful and provided deep cover for several army camps and the Home Guard. Finally it became a college that developed into a prestigious, international business school – it is classed as one of the world’s leading schools in tailored executive education.

View of Ashridge House from the Italian Garden

The Italian Garden

I’ve had a brief tour of the house and it is incredible – the sheer grandeur of the place is breathtaking, the only thing I can liken it to is a castle or palace! I love the library, it was restored in the 1980s but the room was kept as much as possible to the original design – whenever I go in there it feels like I’ve stepped back in time.

Sunset at Ashridge

Sunset at Ashridge

The chapel is another favourite area of mine, it literally is a masterpiece. I don’t follow any religion (the quote “I believe in God but I spell it Nature” sums up my religious beliefs!) but I can still appreciate the sacredness and holy feel it has.

Impressive vista

Tree avenue

The Gothic wood carvings, silk velvet kneelers and cushions, and stained glass windows dating back to the 16th century make it a truly special place. It’s not surprising that Ashridge is a popular wedding venue, prices start at twenty thousand pounds and go upwards. . . not somewhere to choose if you’re on a budget!

The Arboretum

The Arboretum

The Ashridge Estate sits on the edge of the Chilterns scarp within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – it stretches over five thousand acres and belongs and is maintained by the National Trust. The archaeology of it shows continuous occupation of the estate from pre Roman times, evidence of the early history of the place is apparent everywhere.

The Skating Pond

The Skating Pond

I love the ornamental carriage driveways which were developed along the eastern edge of the valley in the early 19th century – long vistas draw the eye straight towards the central point of focus, Ashridge House itself. I spent one evening cycling along the carriage ways, it’s a great way of seeing the estate in a short amount of time.

The Herb Garden

The Herb Garden

The gardens of Ashridge is where I will spend the next year working, they were designed by the famous landscape gardener Humphry Repton (1752 – 1818). The Regency period of the early 19th century was a time of transition and change in garden design because a movement was developed away from the great landscape gardens of the 18th century towards the smaller scale, more intimate gardens that epitomised the Victorian period.

The Orangery

The Orangery

The emphasis was based on linking the house to the garden with small shrubberies, flower borders, conservatories, trellises and a return to small formal gardens – Repton became one of the prime movers of the new style of garden design. The gardens are split into different sections, my boss gave me a tour of the whole grounds on my first day which took over two hours – I didn’t realise how vast the gardens were!

The Italian Garden

Italian Garden and Orangery

The Orangery is a building designed by Sir Jeffry Wyatville in 1817 as an extension to the house, at the front of which are beautiful herbaceous flower borders.

I love these thistles!

The Italian Garden was actually designed by Lady Marian Alford in 1871 who was undertaking the refurbishment of some of the rooms in the house at the time – it was fashionable during that period to add Italianate gardens to the grounds of many houses.

The one at Ashridge has a main feature of a central raised pond with a water fountain. It is completed with urns on pedestals, surrounding them are box parterres in semi-circle patterns, which are planted with annual bedding and herbaceous perennials.

View of Ashridge House from the Rosary

Chapel and house, from the Rosary

The Main Lawn is a substantial area of lawn which is a striking feature, when I first saw it I thought walking on it wasn’t allowed because it was so perfectly mowed and manicured! The garden divides roughly into two, with the main lawn and associated shrubberies forming the eastern side and the numerous small gardens forming the western side.

A line of ancient yew trees dating from the 17th century runs between the lawn and Italian Garden. Also on the lawn is a majestic oak tree which was planted by Queen Victoria (then Princess) to commemorate her visit to Ashridge in 1823.

The Flower Garden

The Flower Garden

The Terrace is immediately south of the house, and was created in the late 19th century – the main lawn had previous run up to the steps of the house. The planting is made up of clipped yews, below which is a parterre of clipped box – the beds between the box are planted with annual bedding to provide seasonal colour.

Courtyard area

Another bed in the out buildings

The Monks’ Garden was an attempt by Humphry Repton to link the monastic past of the site with his plans for the garden. He proposed an enclosed garden with two rows of narrow flower beds, each with a false headstone to represent the graves of the monks of earlier times.

It was redeveloped in the mid-19th century into the armorial garden that is present today. Under the direction of Lady Marian Alford the coats of arms of the four families that had been associated with Ashridge (Egerton, Brownlow, Compton and Cust) were planted in box and yew.

The Monks’ Garden

The Monks' Garden

The Rosary is laid out as eight rose beds in the form of the petals of a flower with a central fountain, surrounded by a yew hedge. There were still roses out when I looked last week, stunning pink, red, and yellow varieties. Give me roses over diamonds any day!

A rose in the Rosary

Rose from the Rosary

The Lazell Garden is an enclosed garden found near the Monks’ Garden, created in 1972 by Malcolm Lingard within what used to be the gardeners’ frame yard. It’s planted with a range of winter and spring-flowering heathers; the rock garden side of it was constructed of Westmorland limestone and is planted with a combination of alpines and Japanese maple trees.

The Lazell Garden

The Lazell Garden

The Fernery is a lean-to glasshouse which was designed by Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt in 1864 for the growing of ferns, which were very popular in the Victorian era. Immediately in front of it is what’s called The Fernery Garden, which is planted twice yearly with spring and summer bedding.

Archway from the Rosary

Rosary archway

The Dry Garden is situated at the rear of the Monks’ Barn, a mixture of drought-tolerant plants such as eucalyptus, euphorbias and different varieties of grasses were used to create this garden.

The Liquidambar Walk is near the Fernery, this distinctive avenue of trees was planted in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of King George VI. These trees are renowned for their autumn colour, I can’t wait to see them in a month or so’s time!

Acer foliage

Acer trees!

The Souterrein and Grotto exist as features, the souterrein is a tunnel consisting of iron armatures hung with flints – Humphry Repton planned that the tunnel would link the grotto with the Countess of Bridgewater’s Flower Garden.

The Grotto is constructed in the form of an amphitheatre of Hertfordshire pudding stone – to one side is a flint-domed tomb in which one of Earl Brownlow’s horses, Duke, who died in 1857, was buried.

The Mount is above the souterrein and is believed to be composed of rubble from the old house that had been demolished before the construction of Wyatt’s house.

The Fernery

Inside the Fernery

The Flower Garden recreates the style of planting of the early 19th century. Within it is a border stone representing the old county boundary between Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. It is overlooked by a copy of a statue of Bacchus (the Roman god of wine) that was added in 2008 – the original statue was removed in 1928.

The Moat and Skating Pond are both distinctive features in the gardens, the pond was built during the 1870s, the base originally being concrete. The moat adjoining the pond originally held water, the inflows to the pond from the Italian garden and the moat can still be seen today.

The Fernery Garden

The Fernery Garden

The Herb Garden is a formal garden with topiary yew, flanked by two beech houses. It was created in the late 19th century as a herb and lavender garden, and was redesigned in 2003. The layout of the beds is based on the design for the rose garden, with twelve petal shaped beds and an armillary sphere as the focal point.

The Arboretum was planted during the second half of the 19th century and contains many specimen trees including sweet chestnuts, Cedars of Lebanon and purple beech along with avenues of horse chestnut, beech, holm oak and Lawsons’s cypress.

The avenue of Wellingtonias (Sequoidendron giganteum) was planted in 1858 on the axis with the house – a mound which is believed to date from Tudor times is the avenue’s focal point.

Another view of Ashridge House from the Italian Garden

View of the house again

The Bible Circle is a circle of incense cedars (Calocedrus decurrens) planted around a memorial to Gertrude, Countess of Pembroke, who was the eldest sister of the wife of the 3rd Earl Brownlow.

Repton’s Arbour was constructed in 1998, consisting of yew from the garden and larch from the estate. The arbour is representative of the rustic nature of garden buildings which were popular in the early 19th century.

There is so much to take in about Ashridge, I begin my second week tomorrow but I already feel like I’ve learnt loads. What makes this experience even better is the fact I have a flat on site, next to the arboretum. I have the grounds of Ashridge as my back garden, how awesome is that?!

The garden team is very small, with only nine people. I’ve gone from working at Eden with a horticultural team of over thirty people, which was a botanical garden open to the public all year round, to Ashridge with a team in single figures and the only people we have wandering round the garden are business school students and clients!

Me, working in the Italian Garden!

Me working!

The two places couldn’t be more different but that’s what I love about it – the contrast is so great that I’m learning all over again, which is the whole point of this traineeship. I’m really looking forward to what the next few months have in store, and to see the gardens and estate come alive with autumn colours.

This is one of many posts to come about Ashridge, I will have more to update you with soon – until then I hope you enjoy the photos! 🙂

Visit to Kew

First written and posted on 8th November, 2013. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

Last weekend I visited the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to see my friend Neville and to look round the gardens of course! Nev is a student on Kew’s three year long Diploma course, he is working full time and studying like mad but he still made time to give me a guided tour of the gardens, which were as amazing as ever.

Me and Nev!

There was a display of pumpkins in the Waterlily House, done especially for Halloween. It was strange seeing it looking so different from when I had last been there, in the summer! The glasshouses had the usual variety of exotic plants, my favourites were two Hibiscus flowers. The outside grounds were just spectacular, the arboretum was full of autumn colour – Acers, Photinias, Fagus sylvaticas, Liquidambars and many more trees and shrubs were at their best. I took plenty of photos, I hope you enjoy the selection! 🙂

Bed of grasses

Bed of grasses

Hibiscus “Orange Beauty”

Hibiscus "Orange Beauty"



Pumpkins outside the Waterlily House

Pumpkins outside the Waterlily House

Salvia border

Salvia border

 Arbutus unedo, the Killarney Strawberry Tree

Killarney Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo

View from the Treetop Walkway

View from the Treetop Walkway

Photinia tree


Shots of the trees in the arboretum