South Gloucestershire Holiday

Houghall Holiday 26th – 29th June 2017

David Austin Rose Garden and Gardens of South Gloucestershire.

Not unlike Chaucer’s pilgrims, a merry band of us set off on 26th June for Houghall’s annual holiday – this time to visit gardens that specialise in growing the nation’s favourite flower, the rose – calling at David Austin’s Rose Garden en route.

Considered to be one of the finest rose gardens in the world, and home to over 700 varieties, the visit did not disappoint – indeed it was the highlight of the holiday for me. We toured the gardens with the enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable Diane and it was a both a sensual and visual delight for me to be able to put ‘faces’ to names as it were for I am in the process of attempting to develop a ‘literary garden’. (Jude the Obscure, The Lady of Shallot and many others, including the 2017 newcomer, Vanessa Bell, are already delightful additions to my library of roses). After a cream tea, we repaired to the plant centre and Allison persuaded Darcy Bussell to join us on the coach for the journey onward to our hotel on the outskirts of Cheltenham!

The following morning, the charming Henry Robinson, owner of Moor Wood Gardens, who holds the national collection of rambler roses, was our guide. He explained that we had visited at the perfect time as there was only a 3-week period when the roses were at their best. Over 150 rambler varieties were to be seen and Henry’s ambition is to collect all known varieties of each species, a life-time’s work. The gardens also boasted a floriferous flower meadow and an overall charming, romantic ambiance.

Wooed by delicious cake, we embarked for Rodmarton Manor, an 8-acre Arts and Crafts Cotswold house and garden, home to the Biddulph Family. The garden was designed to be an extension to the house and was laid out as a series of outdoor rooms with lawns, topiary, troughery etc. There were colourful herbaceous borders with superb vistas. We were given a tour of the house by the young owner who had only recently taken up residence and his pride and delight in his inheritance was plain to see.

Heavy overnight rain on day 3 had somewhat dashed the borders at Hodges Barn Garden where the lady gardener gave us a guided tour. Originally a 15th century dovecote, the Cotswold stone building was converted into a family home in 1938 and the extensive garden created thereafter. Stone walls played host to many climbing roses, vines, hydrangeas and clematis. Perennial herbaceous planting, often themed by colour, mixed with flowering shrubs amongst old-fashioned roses. Duncan, who as last year was our guide throughout the entire holiday, supplemented the narrative, pointing out the tapestry hedges and his delight at the unusual variegated iris in the water garden was infectious.

We had just enough time to fit in a brief visit to Tetbury at lunchtime to peruse the Highgrove shop for tasteful souvenirs before our second visit of the day – to Organic Blooms – near Bristol. This is a working cut flower nursery,

run as a social enterprise and committed to helping both those with special needs and mental health problems. This worthwhile project had recently been featured on Gardeners’ World. Jo, one of the organisers, spoke to us in the midst of the cutting fields, advising us to beware of the free range chickens which were liable to peck any red nail- varnished toes in evidence in their search for food!

Organic Blooms specialises in growing traditional cut flowers- ranging from sweet williams and anemones to zinnias, dahlias and sweet peas – and is under conversion to organic status with The Soil Association. As well as holding flower workshops, they grow flowers for special occasions and operate a delivery service. We were treated to a practical demonstration of hand-tie making , using their home grown flowers. We all left with a feeling of well-being, charmed by Jo’s enthusiasm and empathy for her charges – and yet more cake.

On the homeward journey we even managed to fit in a visit to the National trust property, Hanbury Hall, the gardens having recently been restored to their original layout. It was interesting to see the formal sunken parterre with its ‘specimen planting’, and the wilderness area together with orangery and walled garden. As ever, Duncan was on hand to explain the context of the garden and we were all sorry to have to say goodbye to him after this final garden visit.

As yet another interesting and stimulating Houghall holiday came to a close and a vote of thanks was given to all those who had helped make it happen.

Where to next year, Lillian et al?                                       

Gillian Wales

Photos courtesy of Alison Young

David Austin Roses


Moor Wood


Rodmarton Manor

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Organic Blooms


Hanbury Hall