England Birds & Gardens Tours – Garden Highlights

By Lucy Chang

The exuberance of spring in the natural and cultivated environment is what England garden tours are all about!

Pleached lime walk, Tuscan pots, statue beyond

Pleached lime walk, Tuscan pots, statue beyond

 

Fritillaries and grape hyacinths

Fritillaries and grape hyacinths

 

flowers under lime tree

Underfoot plantings of lime tree

 

Samplings of the cultivated environment on our England Birds & Gardens tour include Sissinghurst Castle Garden’s pleached lime walk where hundreds, nay, thousands of tulips, narcissi, fritillaries, anemones and grape hyacinths at the feet of the pleached lime trees heralded the arrival of spring.

At the gardens of Great Dixter, we go beyond the much touted long border and whimsical topiaries and observe such gems as the native early purple orchis, plantains, checkered fritillaries, bluebells and naturalized blue quamash that stud the front meadow.

flower border

The long border – tulips, forget-me-nots, spurge, yew hedge

 

purple orchis

Early purple orchis

 

See nature versus nurture at the Lost Gardens of Heligan where trees, shrubs, vines and myriads of cultivated exotics succumbed or adapted to seventy years of abandonment.

Introduced by early plant hunters from China, the rare Hankerchief tree (or more charmingly called the Dove tree for its similarity to a dove in flight when blown by the wind) was in splendid display for our 2011 tour.

Davidia involucrata - Dove tree

Davidia involucrata – Dove tree

 

Handkerchief tree, Ghost tree

Handkerchief tree, Ghost tree

 

The fascinating part of Heligan’s gardens is not just the drama about their loss and rediscovery but also their ongoing restoration (Victorian gardens) that attempts to incorporate current sustainable practices – is that workable? We’ll find out with return visits.

Of the many botanical wonders at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, none is as striking as the Wollemi pine that has flourished to cone bearing maturity since 2005 when our tour group first saw the newly propagated stripling protected within a metal cage.

After a visit to Compton Acres, I have changed my view of statuaries and sculptures “littering” the garden. This is a garden with the largest display of such artifacts that could be amusing, inspiring, eye-catching or ornamental overload. Here are samplings from scenes in the Italian Garden, Japanese Garden, Wooded Valley (bronze tiger), Water Garden (Tom Merrifield’s dancer ‘Solitude’) and Sculpture Gardens.

garden

And for a completely different art form, there is nothing more artistically defined than the topiaries and clipped hedges at Nymans Garden.

topiary

The chess figures, huddled cones and pyramids, towering columns and flower basket in-the- making are just a peek at more to discover.