It’s February. A shorter month than the rest, and definitely not as dark and dragging as January (although that said, this January flew by for us. I suppose it was the house move). It’s still too early for seed sowing here in the Pennines really, […]
As you may have read previously, I’ve just been allocated an allotment about a 15-minute drive away from our new home. I’m over the moon with this, as I haven’t had my own space to garden for several years now. I’m itching to get designing, […]
I had the pleasure of visiting the Abbeywood Estate Gardens in Cheshire twice in 2017. Both occasions were markedly different in terms of the weather and flora. The first was a warm day in early August with interesting clouds flitting overhead and a great deal of captivating flowers. The second by contrast was a cold afternoon in late October; the colours had been drained from the gardens, and movement became its key note.
Abbeywood thrilled me so much on both visits that it took the top spot in my review of top gardens enjoyed in 2017. Its café-restaurant is charming, combining contemporary and Georgian tones, yet isn’t unique. Likewise, I’ve browsed numerous gift shops similar to its own, lovely as it is. The estate is a picturesque wedding venue with plenty of space for the big day, both indoors and out.
However, what I truly appreciate is the sheer variety of elements woven together at Abbeywood. There are a number of differently stylised spaces – I hesitate to use the term “garden rooms”, bleuh – which all appeal to my tastes. It’s in a similar vein to East Ruston Old Vicarage (which I really should write about).
Now, I’m aware that this combination of styles might be what turns other people off the Abbeywood Estate. Some like their gardens one way, and one way only. No mingling. Precision all the way. And if you can get beyond this variety, perhaps one or two of the styles aren’t your thing. I’d like to look on the bright side and believe it means there’s something to please everyone.
From what I can glean, the property is a family-owned affair. They offer up accommodation as well as being a celebratory venue, and host workshops too.
You’ll find Abbeywood on Chester Road at Delamere, between Northwich and Chester. Adult entry is £5.50, purchased at the café counter, children get in free. For the latter, there’s an outdoor play area tucked away, as well as a 2km wildlife walk through 27 acres of woodland. Tree enthusiasts can visit its young seven-acre arboretum.
The garden is a continually unfolding experience of distinct designs. I’d be so bold as to say the show begins before even entering the café though. I was bewitched by the beautiful, overflowing terracotta pots by the main doors. The majority of the pots were hidden in fact, by cascading embers of Begonia boliviensis and variegated straps of what I believe were Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold‘ (correct me if I’m wrong!). Reptilian green Iresine lindenii rose up in green and gold, alongside funky cousins I.herbstii in a purple and pink get-up*. Topping it all off were the luxuriant leaves of a Canna. It was a sort of prelude to the knock-out space you first see leaving the café on the other side…
…which is the Exotic Garden. The Exotic Garden at Abbeywood simply beckons you in, to then be consumed by its towering, groping foliage. On my visit in August, everything was lush and flourishing. You come face-to-face with soaring banana plants and palms. In the bright sunlight, the rich green of the leaves seem to pull you into their depths. Orange-flowering cannas, passionate pink and yellow dahlias and ruby red Ricinus communis specimens bring heat to the scene. The sheer range of foliage is resonant of tropical environments, even if by my October trip the Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ leaves had been shredded by stormy winds. The Echiums were still fulsome, although the previously intimidating Pseudopanax ferox were little more than brown bare stems by late autumn.
I next headed westward, through the gate to the vegetable and cut flower plots. Even for those with no passion for grow-your-own, this was a place of wonder. At the right time of year thriving herbs and soft fruit bushes meet you. The owners have laid out two traditionally straight beds, as well as concentric ones which gently encircle you. I’ve never seen so many Echinacea ‘White Swan’, Centaurea cyanus or Antirrhinums. The throng of different dahlias was astounding, from single-flowered through pompoms to semi-cactus types. It was glorious.
Head back towards the main gardens and you can pass through the shadier Chapel Garden. There’s not much to this in my opinion, though its white roses, trumpet lilies and Stachys byzantina are pleasing.
However, it acts as a great palate cleanser to stepping through into the Pool Garden. The surrounding yew hedge originates from the time when this was a tennis court apparently. It works remarkably well in screening off the sheltered Exotic Garden and conceals this area as another gift to the visitor. Its design evokes Moorish thinking, with its unfussy long pool, but it goes beyond this to incorporate more temperate cottage garden planting in formal beds. Plants include the ever-reliable Verbena bonariensis, Phlox paniculata and penstemons. A sea of aptly named Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ waves in the breeze in late summer and autumn. Miscanthus give an air of movement, and a hint of more to come.
You need to stroll along the Pergola Walk. It feels amazingly Edwardian. Roses and clematis adorn its brick and timber structure. The planting of the Pool Garden has spilled over: more persicaria, sedums and echinaceas. Four adjacent borders, stretching south, are also packed full of flowering perennials such as Hemerocallis and Kniphofia ‘Tawny King’. 12 stately Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’ mirror one another. Passing between them towards the woods and hills beyond is like facing soldiers on inspection.
If you go no further than the southern end of the gardens, it’s worth it. This is the magnificent Prairie Garden, begun in 2013. The colour may have been more muted on my second visit in October, but the structure was no less stunning. In fact, the feel of the Prairie Garden was amplified by the simplicity and the windy conditions. I couldn’t help but stroke the bronzed and browning swathes of Miscanthus, Stipa and Panicum. Matt even caught a few shots of me leaning into their swaying masses. The truth is, I could have stood and watched the tranquil dance of the grasses for a long time. In August, pockets of shining Rudbeckia and glossy Echinacea purpurea greet you. It’s an area of the grounds I’m sure will delight even through the dullest days.
Throughout the garden, the theme of showstopping container planting abounds.
Several facets are well worth taking away from the Abbeywood Estate for implementation in our own gardens. If you haven’t noticed already, the most inspirational feature for me was the terracotta pots overflowing with flowers and foliage. In recent years I’ve forgotten the art of combining different forms and habits in one container. Abbeywood has reinvigorated me (as with my autumn pots, done for my parents’ house). Be brave: grab as big a planter as possible and fill it with trailers, scramblers, spiky specimens, dark plants, firework blossoms…
I also deeply appreciated the common threads of Abbeywood’s gardens. While each section was distinct, points threaded through the overall fabric. So we see dahlias in the Exotic Garden, the cut flower patch and the Pool Garden. Echinaceas and Hylotelephium pop up by the veg plot, in the Pool Garden, the Pergola Walk and the Prairie Garden. No matter how big or small our own gardens, we should always remember to echo elements throughout. If not, we risk our outside space losing its identity and confusing guests.
*Many thanks to my friend Philip (Head Gardener at Canterbury Cathedral, Twitter @PhilipHGCC) for help with the identification here!
Follow my blog with Bloglovin If you read my last post, you’ll recall I mentioned visiting the marvellous Hunte’s Gardens during our two-night stay on Barbados in November. In actuality, marvellous just doesn’t cover how awe-inspiring this sunken space is. While the entrance fee doesn’t […]
It’s the thirtieth day of November 2017, which means this is the final entry of my 30 by 30 posts. I’d like to finish off by pulling together everything I’ve discussed into one summative sentence. Here goes. Focus on the positive.
Focus on the positive!
I know as much as anyone that focusing on the positive in life can be really tough at times. Life loves to throw problems in our faces. It enjoys dropping obstacles in our way.
Just step outside of yourself and what you’ll find every time though, is that there’s a plus to every minus. Every coin has two sides.
The true challenge in our lives is picking the positive out of every situation. Occasionally you might need someone else to help you do this. Nevertheless, one of you will find the silver lining.
Remember to be the positive too while you’re at it – easier to practise when you’re channelling optimism.
I hope over the past 30 days that I’ve shared some useful life lessons with you. If not helpful, then at least reassuring. Let me know in the comments section if there’s anything you think a worthy life lesson for all to share.
And now, I’ll leave you with a simple but profound “thank you” for reading my 30 by 30 posts, and my blog.
Oh, and here’s a list of the 30 articles with links:
- Find a sense of place
- Every moment a new beginning
- Experiencing the outdoors
- Follow your own path
- Be a learning sponge
- Be grateful to your family
- All life is sacred
- Experience matters most
- Money matters
- Be open to everyone
- Giving new things a go
- Work with your abilities
- Develop independence
- Develop your own sense of validation
- Ready to give up
- 100 per cent but no more
- Giving it a second chance
- Keep making plans
- Love is two souls walking one path
- Considerate and kind
- Take a chance
- Be grateful every day
- Forget the rules of romance
- Don’t complain be forthright
- Friendships change
- Discuss mental health
- Avoiding bitchiness
- Start saving sooner
- Focus on the positive
I’m afraid to say that I can complain. I’m capable of moaning a lot. It’s safe to say many of us fall into this trap. How about not complaining. Instead, be forthright. This uncomplicated shift in mentality moves us from negativity to positivity. We drop […]
It’s Thanksgiving Day in the USA today. What a fantastic idea for a national holiday. A day that embraces the concept of showing gratitude for everything you possess and all the help received. Then again, every moment is a new opportunity to show gratitude. We need to be grateful every day.
I’ve touched on the concept of a gratitude journal before here. That was to shift your mentality towards verifying your own self-worth. Practising keeping a gratitude journal will also help with daily thanksgiving. Note down at least three things you’ve been blessed with every day. It’s useful in the evening before bed, but can be re-read the next morning to start your new day.
Be sure to demonstrate thanks to those who help you. Do you have supportive parents? Bake them a cake. Is there that one friend you can always turn to as an attentive listener? Take them out for the day. How about the colleague who always offers advice? Pick up their favourite magazine or snack on the way into the office one day.
Most powerful of all, however, is simply remembering to tell someone thank you for even the smallest thing. It feels like good manners are disappearing in society sometimes. Be the change you wish to see – start bringing those manners back with your own words and deeds from today.