My love affair with succulents continues. I was happy with these little numbers in my conservatory even without their flowers, and then all of a sudden, they flowered. The one below has sprouted a stalk that’s about a foot long, from a tiny rosette. Another very similar-looking plant produced a completely different, star-shaped yellow flower.
I just love these little guys. As I’ve said before, the conditions in my conservatory are harsh – cold in winter and hot in summer. Many of the plants need watering every day at this time of year, but not so the succulents. Photographing them next to a watering can is a bit of a red herring, as they’re the ultimate drought-tolerant plant. They haven’t seen a drop of water for days. In fact I’ll confess that the plant below hasn’t been watered for months, hidden away at the bottom of a plant stand. I feel so guilty that I’m off to water it now.
I’ve cycled past the big, ornate gate of Belcombe Court several times, and never really given much thought to what might lie beyond it. But the other day I spotted a sign that said that the garden was going to be open for one day only, as part of the Bradford-on-Avon Secret Gardens Festival. It listed the all the delights that visitors would be able to see, including a walled garden designed by Arne Maynard. I knew I had to go.
As we strolled up to the house after visiting some other gardens, we soon noticed that there were a lot of people milling about. Parking had spilled into the field opposite and lots of folk were making their way through the gates. The place must, I realised, must be quite a big deal.
… And it is. The grounds cover 65 acres and are simply stunning. They’re a mix of parkland, sweeping lawns, woodland, wilder areas and garden rooms. It’s got an octagonal pavilion, a tennis court, a grotto and a cloud-pruned hedge (from Arne Maynard’s Chelsea 2000 garden). In fact I can’t think of a garden feature it hasn’t got.
My favourite part was definitely Arne Maynard’s walled garden. I loved the six tiers of lawn (that lots of kids were happily rolling down), the clipped box and yew, and the ebullient planting in the borders – lots of roses and perennials. I especially liked the cordon apples against the walls, and I’m now convinced that I want a Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ in my own garden.
As we wandered around, I observed that it was a bit odd that the place didn’t have a swimming pool. ‘Nah,’ muttered my boyfriend, ‘There’s definitely a pool.’ And of course there was – an infinity number that the great unwashed could just get a glimpse of, over the hedge.
By the end of the afternoon, I felt quite inspired by the garden’s awesomeness. My boyfriend, however, felt envious and inadequate. When we got home, we Googled the owner. It turns out he’s a director who has worked on a Mr Bean film and lots of adverts. And Belcombe Court is just his weekend residence! That left me feeling rather envious and inadequate too.
There are rich pickings for nosey garden bloggers in Bradford-on-Avon at the best of times, let alone when it’s the Bradford-on-Avon Secret Gardens festival. We had a jolly afternoon ogling at gardens large and small, many finding clever ways of dealing with the steep slopes that are a feature of this part of the world.
I really liked this unusual parterre in a front garden, planted with alliums, heuchera and sedums for a long season of interest. It was originally lined with box, but that had to be replaced with yew thanks to box blight. It will darken with age, making it look even more contemporary.
The Secret Gardens festival runs on four weekends and you can still catch the last two, on the last Sundays of June and July. The gardens vary each time, but they’re well worth a visit.
I’ve recently fallen hook, line and sinker for succulents. This is mostly because they are some of the most undemanding plants you can grow. They’ve pulled through a winter in my conservatory (unheated, so with some big extremes of temperature) and the benign neglect that I have bestowed upon them. In fact they’re even flowering now – proof that if you treat them mean, they become even more keen.
These aren’t my succulents (pic to come) but a container I walked past the other day. I liked it so much that I’m planning something similar. My neighbour and I have gone halves on three big plants that we can get tons of baby plants from – succulents are dead easy to propagate. I will bring you the results of our labours soon.