Sunday, 30 June 2019

Holiday in Devon

Not too far in terms of miles, but the Devon Roads off the main arteries are  a little more challenging than the Somerset ones!!  High banks, with few passing places, twisty roads, and unfamiliar journeys made us thankful for the Satnav on getting us from place to place!

On our way down, we chose for our lunch break to stop at Knightshayes.  In true Gothic Revival style the entrance is heavily panelled.

We often choose a National Trust Property to visit and this one not only had an interesting mansion, but some lovely borders, and the very biggest walled garden I have visited for some time.  Usually I pack up a lunch for a picnic, but this time decided to start the holiday mode early, and had our lunch at Knightshayes, sitting outside in the courtyard of their cafe.

The upstairs of the house was being used for a function, and since this was a quick visit, after viewing some of the rooms, and part of the garden, it is on our list for a second visit.  The grounds had some magnificent trees and great views towards Tiverton.

With interesting borders, and tranquil areas:

 Cherub of the Day at Knightshayes

We arrived at our holiday rental in Huntshaw,  just at the given time and was met by Jenny, who lives next door.  We were in a 'wing' to her home, where her mother lived.  The accommodation was absolutely 'topnotch'.  We had free rein to use the garden which had the most wonderful uninterrupted views.  The bird life ranging from nesting swallows, to a tame pheasant were literally on our doorstep.  We took a few walks along lanes in the evening.

And each evening looked out to see whether there would be a sunset......only a couple of evenings had any cloud cover!

Our first day long garden visit was to Rosemoor, which is an RHS garden.

Firstly we walked along the long seasonal borders by the entrance and my first photograph was this one of Pelargonium Pink at first sight...but 'none for sale' in the shop! A Pelargonium, pink scented, with lovely leaves and a name that could be my 'middle' name!

It was their Rose Festival weekend: what a coincidence!  The garden was rather packed, and Mr S being the darling that he is, insisted that he was fine and even joined me on a talk and a tour of the rose garden, by their specialist.  I looked out for 'roses I have grown', like this 'Shropshire Lad', but I still think for late blooming Crown Princess Margareta, is a finer shrub rose..

We had our lunch etc outside but thankfully in the shade of their canopy, close by the small alpine house.  As we rested, I made several trips to view the small treasures, where one of my favourites was Silene pusilla.

My favourite part of the garden was Lady Anne's Historic Garden, particularly The Stone Garden where we rested in the shade.  After a minute I was up, exploring and looking at plants in depth!  Mr S rested in the heat after his lunch,  adjacent to their large troughs of Sarracenias: insect eating plants.  I was surprised that they appeared to be growing in gravel, rather than any trough of water.  Maybe there was an underlying tank which was replenished each day...there was no one around to ask!

Sarracenias at RHS Rosemoor, Lady Anne's Historic Garden

As we went around I noted some good forms such as this Thymus camphoratus used here as an edging in the Herb Garden.

A superb form: Iris Ensata 'Rowden Satrap'

I enjoyed seeing mature stands of plants which I am just starting on, and noting clever planting combinations.  My biggest disappointment was not finding plants like this ensata, or the thyme or the geranium for sale in the plant centre.  On the plus side it gives me time to work out if I do have the right conditions...well the Iris ensata wouldn't like it!

The following day Mr S and I visited two gardens.....

Mr S could remember our first visit to Marwell Hill Gardens around 25 years ago...he said it had been one of his favourite gardens, and after our morning there, it still is.  Getting there along the narrow lanes is another thing....but well worth it.  We had morning coffee and later lunch, sat on the settee in the little shop area, in front of a large picture window...eating, watching the scene and the little garden warbler checking all the flowering stems for insects.  The tree, lakes and relaxed planting a delight....and spotting little plants seeded along a little out of the place they were first planted gave a more realistic feel compared to the very manicured RHS Rosemoor.

Poppies growing in the quarry close by the Upper Lake

 Part of the Astilbe collection starting to flower

 Cornus Kousa Marwood Dawn

Listening to the bird song

Azara Microphylla Variegata

Then on to our next garden....on the same day.

Earlier this year I acquired a  Phlomis fruticosa Bourgaei, and had guidance and help from Beth Smith.  Before I heard that they were difficult to propagate I went ahead in my own sweet way, and started five cuttings straight away, with no heat or special propagators.  I used a cutting compost with added grit, and placed the cuttings on a mirror on the shelf against the shed window.  On sunny days right from the start, I would give them a few hours in a sheltered place, before putting back in the shed...we did have a warm February, and I think this helped.

As soon as the roots showed through the bottom, they were potted up in John Innes No 3 with added grit and vermiculite, and I had three plants growing on nicely.  

We visited Beth and her son Tim and had a wonderful tour of their garden: Foamlea,  which fills the space between the road and the coast.  These two are the most knowledgeable of plants people I have personally met, and charming and hospitable as well.  As we sat chatting I could not imagine a more idyllic spot...but in the winter with gales and sea spray, perhaps this is when Tim remains inside, if he is not out on his 'day job'.

 Beth Smith in her garden on the Devon Coast

 Garden view at the meeting of the paths

Downhill towards the sea

 Phlomis samia 'Green Glory'

Geranium Silver Cloak

When I asked Beth and Tim about was generously added to the Phlomis Green Glory, as well as the Geranium Silver cloak, of which Tim quickly potted up  a couple of seedlings for me. 

What did we do with the rest of our week?  Visits to Oakhampton, where we visited the little Museum, had the most delicious of sandwiches in the cafe in their courtyard, walked back up to the Station through Simmons Park.  Sadly the trains only run at weekends...

Visits to Bideford, where we had a very good Sunday Lunch at the Royal Hotel, visited again during the week, with a visit to the Museum and the Pannier Market.

Visit to the Appledore which is a great place to walk around, and where I had excellent cod and chips  at The Royal Plaice, plus enjoyed looking over the railings at gardens, and finding quirky names for cottages...serendipity really

As for the ride down the Tarka Trail on a felt far too precarious on the back, so instead of a bicycle made for two, we had to make do with riding side by side some of the time.  We saw so much, and just being off the road for half a day was excellent.  

We hired our bikes at Great Torrington and cycled to Instow and back.  Had we done this early in the week, we would then have hired bikes at Bideford and explored further, on another day.  

One day our walk took us from the car park in Great Torrington, down to the River, almost to Rosemoor passing the stone obelisk commemorating the Battle of Waterloo.  We walked along the old canal that is now filled in, alongside the river.  In the heat, walking through the woods was a lovely cool thing to do...

What a week that was....and now back to decorating!!!!!

Many thanks again to Jenny for the wonderful week's hire....won't forget the great wet room, the lovely views, birds, garden, etc......


  1. It sounds as if you had a fabulous holiday Noelle. It's been a good few years since we visited Devon. Maybe time for a return visit one of these days. Has Beth Smith's garden been on 'Gardener's World'? I'm sure that I've seen it somewhere on a screen. I'm glad to read that you tracked down the geranium :)

  2. Beautiful planting along the stream