Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Unexpected memories...

A few weeks ago I went to visit the most beautiful garden on one of its open days with the National Gardening Scheme. Its owner, Philippa, had tweeted some photographs of her garden earlier on in September and I commented that it looked like the garden of my dreams. To see it for myself was a treat I couldn't resist. And so, one bright Sunday morning we set off.

My photos really don't do any justice to the garden, but here are a few of my favourites.

I adored the planting and came home brimming with inspiration for next year.

This chicken wire fox would be a welcome addition to my garden - somewhere down near the chicken coop would be perfect! Isn't he fabulous?


I hadn't been in the garden very long when I realised that it had a very familiar feeling to it:

When I was young, we had family in rural Essex who we visited maybe once a year and were always told to be on our absolute best behaviour (as if two young girls could ever be on anything else!). My great-aunt lived there, with my Dad's cousin (her daughter) but I only ever remember going there when it was just my great-aunt at home. Perhaps we were too naughty to be presented to this elusive relative and her husband? There was also a second cousin (I think that's what he was to me!) but he went to boarding school and so he was also very mysterious to my sister and me at such a young age. The threat of boarding school was always present, as though it were a huge punishment.

There was lots about the house that kept us in awe. It was huge for a start and set in 27 acres of land, 26 of which were woodland that edged up to the lawn at the back of the garden and into which, we were warned NEVER to set foot in. I remember begging my Dad to take us in, but I don't think we ever went further than a few feet to collect mushrooms.

I asked my mum to dig out a few photos to see if my memory was being reliable about the similarities to Philippa's garden. I think the style of the house and the gravel drive are quite alike and probably what set the memory machine in motion.  This photo was probably taken in the late '60's.

The gardens were my aunt's pride and joy. To have the space to run around in was always such a treat; there was always a new area to discover - a kitchen garden, a greenhouse with peaches and cacti, a rose garden with a fountain. (That's me, in the anorak!) It all looks quite newly planted in these photos and I've been wondering what it would perhaps look like now. I have looked on Google Earth, but it is all a bit grainy.

The biggest thrill for my sister and I was the trampoline and climbing frame, and in later years, there was a swimming pool. (That's me, below, hanging upside down!)

We absolutely loved going there for so many reasons. It felt so far removed from our normal lives in the suburbs of London. We played croquet on the lawn and were allowed into the sitting room in the afternoon, where I started my love affair with Scrabble. My aunt was my inspiration into the world of craft and sewing and I would love to sit and sew with her. Her embroidery was a thing of beauty and I always wanted to have a sewing purse that I carried with me at all times in my (vast) handbag.

It's funny, isn't it, what will trigger a barrage of memories? Philippa, thank you so much for opening and sharing your fabulous garden. It was an absolute treat and the cake was excellent ; )


  1. Wow! That garden is gorgesous. Where is it? I adore NGS open gardens.....the lure of nice cake encourages my family to come with me! I have almost given up on my garden for this year.... I feel like i need to put it to bed for the winter...

  2. oh wow. I wonder what the hens would think of mr foxy.....

  3. Oh, I wish I was that clever with planting, it's all so beautiful. And yes, the fox especially!

  4. Your pictures have triggered some memories for me! We had a climbing frame exactly like that, and I also remember that style of trampoline as well ...

    Pomona x

  5. These are wonderful pictures of Philippa's beautiful garden, I can imagine walking around that garden and enjoying it's magic every day - that would be blissful. My favourite pics though are your childhood ones, probably because they remind me of my childhood too - though we didn't have anywhere that grand to visit. What wonderful memories you must have of the place, thanks for sharing x


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