Earlier this month we spent a most pleasant weekend garden visiting and cake hunting. I have been meaning to post more about the garden visits so will do so before June slips away. Both gardens are in Shropshire and are within a couple of miles of each other. Depending on your energy levels they could be visited in one day or you may prefer to spread the visits out and linger longer at both.
Our first port of call was Hodnet Hall Gardens in the village of Hodnet, some twelve miles away from the town of Market Drayton. We had visited once before but memories of it were a blur. Images of a lot of space, lakes and a rather unique tea room were at the back of my mind but I could not recall any specific planting details. The main reason for this recent visit in fact was to attend a Plant Hunters' Fair which was being held in the grounds that weekend. These specialist plant fairs are held mainly in Cheshire, North Wales, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire and take place in some fine garden venues. They are well worth looking out for.
So our first port of call was the plant fair which offered plenty to peruse and plenty to tempt. Himself headed back to the vehicle with my purchases before we set off to meander through some of the sixty three acres of gardens. There have been gardens at Hodnet since the eleventh century but most of the current gardens were developed during the twentieth century. In the 1920s the owner Brigader Heber-Percy made a decision to flood the valley which lies below the house. During the next forty years the pool margins and slopes were planted with various shrubs including spring flowering magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. He was helped in this project by the renowned plantsman EA Bowles. The present owner has added to the structure with herbaceous planting. I think that we were most fortunate with the timing of our visit which coincided with the gardens being at their peak in terms of seasonal colour and interest. The late spring played its part too as some of the flowers we encountered would normally not still be out at the beginning of June. Everywhere we looked there was an absolute riot of colour whilst our noses were assailed by powerful scents. A magical moment occurred when gazing up at the handkerchief tree, which you can see in the bottom left hand photo, when the sound of church bells started to drift through the air. A celebratory peal we supposed for a bride and groom on a perfect sunny Saturday afternoon.
We would like to return there later in the year as I'm sure that the gardens would be splendid in the autumn. However sadly there does not seem to be an opportunity to do this, as there appear to be no open days between the middle of September and late November. Maybe this might change in the future. The gardens are not open each week but have specific open days throughout the year, which you can check on the Hodnet Hall Gardens website. They are also open by appointment to groups of over 25 people.
Final image of the day is of this monster that himself spotted lurking in the foliage of yellow tree peony ~
Neither of us had seen such a creature before so out came the wildlife books as soon as we got home. We are fairly sure that it is a cockchaffer beetle, otherwise known as a May bug, which too was another late arrival on the scene this year. On to the second garden later this week.