Not enough hours in the day

Not enough hours in the day

How can we add more hours to the day? A question I keep posing to myself regularly at the moment – the answer, of course, impossible.

The reason for this pondering: I’ve found a new lease on life and there’s just so much out there to be enjoyed! I guess I could just as easily ask “how to add more money to my life to do these things” too. However, then one risks losing even more time, by living to work and not vice versa.


Renishaw Hall

I stole 20 minutes or so on Friday while doing work experience to wander round a Renishaw Hall’s gardens. Of course, not much had altered since my visit the previous Sunday, except for a lack of visitors in comparison. I always love having somewhere more to myself on day trips. Selfish of me, I know. I managed to stumble into Renishaw’s small white garden: simple but satisfying, with its paired arbours and slightly different sundials.

Renishaw’s gardeners were employing that useful tactic – which I never manage – of growing plants in lightweight containers, and then dropping them into less mobile pots around the garden to eye catching effect. Take for example the Agapanthus:

Laskey Farm

Open gardens are becoming a teeny bit of an addiction for Matt and me currently. There were a couple of delights to be had by legitimately snooping around others’ gardens this weekend.

The first visit was on early Saturday afternoon, at Laskey Farm in Thelwall. It’s an odd place to turn up to. You feel you’re driving into a farm, in that it seems to be a working site, which it is. But it doesn’t have tractors and pigs everywhere. Instead its smaller outbuildings are offices and workspaces.

The garden belongs with the main property – the owners of the whole place. One of the owners is an ex-teacher who retrained in garden design and who now works with a friend as the Secateurs Sisters. The garden is on the whole very attractive. I particularly liked the Mediterranean courtyard when you first walk through the gate, and the small prairie garden is pleasing too.

There is a koi pond which struck a chord with me for two reasons. The first was that it was cleverly fed by water undulating down from a terrapin pit, through a bog garden, before entering the pure fish pool. Secondly, and more straightforwardly, is that my dad built a koi pond at the house I spent my primary years in. I loved those fish. Soothing to watch, and beautiful.

I did find the clear glass and chrome finish barrier around the koi pond a shame, though. I got it from a safety point-of-view, but in my eyes, it clashed with the traditional materials and informality elsewhere, and detracted from the scenery. It was a shock to the senses.

All was followed up with Campari, prosecco, cake baking (Nigella’s lemon polenta and a giant Jaffa cake) and Moulin Rouge at Matt’s, taking us through to more-or-less midnight.

Abbeywood Estate

On to open garden number two: the eight manicured and 37 wilder acres of Abbeywood Estate. This felt more like stepping back into the 20s or 50s, with the style of the stunning house and the woodlands dotted about. It’s the prairie garden and the outdoor exotic garden which brings one back to modernity.

It’s hard to know where to start when describing the highlights of Abbeywood. It has to be my favourite garden visited so far in life. For a couple of years now that title has been held by East Ruston Old Vicarage in Norfolk. They’re neck-and-neck, but Abbeywood has clinched it by the sheer exuberance of its tropical garden. This is what smacks you in the face when you walk out of the cafe doors. It’s stunning in its own right, but even more importantly, it’s a brashly embroidered curtain over the rest of the land beyond its borders.

We walked around to the hen coops and veg-cum-cutting garden (they run a cut flower shop). Wow. A sea of dahlias, herbs, and cottage garden plants. The polytunnel houses some fantastic and inviting tomatoes, and short coppiced eucalyptus with arrow- and saucer-shaped leaves.

The prairie garden, overlooking some lovely hills beyond, is artfully shaped and stuffed full of grasses big and small. These support the varied flowering perennials like rudbeckia, helenium, echinacea and verbena. Brilliant.

The pool garden is serene and stately. Nothing over-the-top. It was a marvellous melange of Edwardian herbaceous beds and Moorish water and symmetry. One other point to note: their pots were planted up fantastically! I had container envy…

We topped off our Sunday by dashing over to Offerton for the “after party” of Teddy’s christening (the little boy of Matt’s friends, Becky and Dave). The cakes I’d baked seemed to go down nicely, and I’ll readily confess that the buffet food and glasses of prosecco went down well with me!

Here’s a quick question for you all: which aspect of the two gardens shown above do you most admire? Exotic, prairie, or pool garden? How about Renishaw’s Italianate style, or Laskey Farm’s Mediterranean courtyard?