Garden Historian Advolly chooses Winterbourne House and Garden, Birmingham University. Her ‘Introduction to Garden History in 10 Objects’ is at the garden on April .
I first went to Winterbourne House for a meeting regarding the Capability Brown tercentenary celebrations. The elevated terrace in front of the beautiful Arts and Crafts House looks down on to the pergola, the herbaceous borders and sunken garden. Down the steps is a large lawn, then a lime tree walk and yew trees. The walled garden has a crinkle-crankle wall; I use an old picture of it in my lecture and people always ask what on earth it’s for.
As a typical Arts and Crafts garden, everything is compartmentalised. Each one works in its own right and this allows you to experience a section at a time. It is a bit like reading a trilogy, each book stands alone but the story is better if you read all three!
Winterbourne was laid out in 1903 and is contemporaneous with Hestercombe in Somerset, which dates from 1902. Its original owner, Margaret Nettlefold, had a number of books by Gertrude Jekyll; you can really see that influence in the design and this taps into one of my specific periods of interest.
The glasshouses have the most amazing collection of cacti, and succulents and orchids as well. I was delighted, I hadn’t realised this place existed! The nut walk leads to a geographical collection of trees, a magnolia border and a beautiful alpine garden, too. People think Birmingham is just built-up and urban but Winterbourne is an oasis. It achieves what many places struggle with – year-round interest.
Everything is really well labelled and the interpretation is very good. I like discovering new plants and gardeners and volunteers are very knowledgeable. You look at something and think ‘that’s nice, what is it?’ and then realise that somebody has helpfully put a sign next to it.
Their dahlia selection is fabulous and I’ve found some brilliant plants there. They really have had a resurgence and it’s inspired me to create a dahlia border at home this year. I looked at it and just thought, ‘oh my God, I want some of that!’.
Winterbourne House and Garden, 58 Edgbaston Park Rd, Birmingham, B15 2RT
Award-winning photographer Clive Nichols chooses Pettifers in Oxfordshire as his favourite place to visit. He has been described as ‘Britain’s Best Garden Photographer’ by Canon Photo Plus Magazine.
I first visited Pettifers in 2000. On the recommendation of fellow photographer, Jerry Harpur, I contacted Gina Price the owner and she invited me to take a look. Now I live in the same village, which is a gift, as I can go any time and know that I can get great shots.
I was struck by the combination of formality and planting, it was absolutely beautiful. It slopes downhill to the east and the morning light floods into the bottom of the garden. In midsummer I set my alarm so I am there for sunrise – as early as 4.30am – when the sun back-lights the plants with an incredible orange glow.
Being there in the ‘golden hour’ is a celestial experience; it doesn’t last for very long, but the adrenalin starts to flow and the hairs on the back of your neck start to stand on end. It is a feeling of being somewhere special and magical that you don’t get very often.
It isn’t that big, I’m guessing only a couple of acres. The front garden is quite small and unobtrusive, but to the rear is a generous lawn, flanked by two large colourful borders of perennials, bulbs and grasses dropping to the parterre, so there are nice changes in level.
The garden changes throughout the season so there’s always something of interest. There are the snowdrops, then waves and waves of daffodils. There are fritillaries and Anemone blanda, and she is really good with tulips. The box and yew parterre gives structure, especially noticeable in the winter, and Gina and her gardener Polly are constantly updating and tweaking the borders.
Pettifers is where I learnt the most about light and colour. It taught me that the bones of a garden need to be strong, it isn’t just about the planting. And, also, that every element should be to the same high standard, or it detracts from the whole. I took to it straight away and it still excites me now, 20 years later.
Words: Naomi Slade
Pettifers, Lower Wardington, Banbury, Oxford, OX17 1RU
Tel: 01295 750232, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Open to groups by appointment
Huw Richards is aged just 20 but already has almost 120,000 subscribers to his youtube gardening channel. While he’s very much a 21st century gardener, he is always drawn back to the traditional feel of the walled gardens at Llanerchaeron in his native Wales.
Llanerchaeron was the first walled garden I ever visited!
We live about half an hour away and we used to go with my parents. I suppose I was too young to even remember the first time I went! But when I was a bit older I can remember my dad explaining how a walled garden can create a microclimate and extend the growing season. I just loved all of the old apple trees and the fruit and vegetables, and I fell in love with it.
It has so much character
Sometimes in gardening I think there’s a trend towards too many straight lines, too much perfection. I look at some of the Chelsea gardens, for example, and I think they look a bit artificial - they don’t have any personality. But Llanerchaeron has been the way it is today for 200 years - I love it because of its imperfections! I just think it’s an amazing place.
I think my favourite time to visit is early spring
Just when it’s coming to life. Everything starts that little bit sooner, because of its south-facing walls, so that’s when I think that my garden won’t be long in getting going itself. You know that when the apples are in blossom at Llanerchaeron then everyone else’s apples won’t be far behind!
It’s most famous for its apples and they are incredible
The way they have been shaped over the years is wonderful and they just add to the character of the place.
You really do feel at one with nature
There’s a lovely walk if you go through the garden and head down to the River Aeron. There is so much wild garlic along there and you just get hit by the scent. It’s incredible. We live up the valley from Llanerchaeron; there’s a stream that runs by my garden and eventually it runs into the Aeron, so whenever we’re there it’s as if the water in the river has come from ‘our stream’.
Llanerchaeron, Aberaeron, Ceredigion, SA48 8DG
Tel: 01545 570200
Jekka McVicar is best-known as one of the UK's foremost herb experts, but had no hesitation in choosing RHS Garden Rosemoor in her native south-west as her favourite place.
I first visited RHS Rosemoor soon after it opened in the early 1990s, with my two young children and a girlfriend and her toddler. I thought it was very linear, with some very new hedges all lined up, and I just couldn’t see how it would ever work. But over the years I’ve watched it evolve into just the most exquisite use of space.
It's linear, of course – it follows the river – but wherever you are in the garden it gives the sense of rooms. I think that’s the thing that draws me to it the most, this idea of different rooms that all have different feelings. It was first designed by Elizabeth Banks (later RHS president) in its current form and it’s a remarkable feat.
One of the things I really like about Rosemoor is it’s not too big. There’s an awful lot to see but you can get around everything easily. It’s hard to say what my favourite part is – the vegetable area is superb, the roses are spectacular, the hot beds are something else. All of the different garden rooms give you something else and there's really something for everyone here. The planting is just wonderful throughout.
It's a genuine year-round garden.There's something to interest you at any time of year; the winter foliage, for example, is just spectacular. But you can go there in any month and always see something new.
I was inspired to plant hedges by seeing them at Rosemoor. I'd never really thought of using hedges before but now I have them around my vegetables – they keep animals out but they're wonderful for the birds. Finches and blue tits love to hide out in the hedges, and you see dunnocks on the floor underneath them. Birds are one of the best ways to keep an organic balance in the garden.
It feels very much as if it's a West Country garden, which of course it is. But I'm from the West Country and it's important – it's rooted in its community and the whole look and feel of it is true to that.
RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington, Devon
Tel: 01805 624067;