Editor's Blog

A chance to visit some Dartmoor area gardens – 'face to face' or in 'parallel universe' mode!

I’ve been taking advantage of not having to work six-plus days a week over the last few months and enjoying having more time to pursue one of my favourite hobbies: my garden (I live in a small terraced cottage with a big garden, back and front, and am loving getting to grips with it this spring and summer). We’re just two weeks away from the DM contributors delivering their words and pix for the autumn issue, so I’m very aware that time is precious and that all too soon the print deadline will be looming!

Some of the area’s gardens have opened up again now, and the Garden House at Buckland Monachorum is on my list for a visit. I haven’t been there for a year or two – my photos were taken in May and September some time ago – but it’s a magical place all year round. Visit https://www.thegardenhouse.org.uk/visit for details.

For the last few years I have managed to miss RHS Rosemoor’s Rose Festival, which takes place every June – but not this year! We went a couple of weekends ago and spent five hours ‘losing ourselves’ in these amazing and glorious 65 acres in the Torridge valley near Great Torrington. The photos here were mostly taken on that visit; the one of the Cool Garden was taken at last summer’s launch, and the one of the Hot Garden in August a year or two ago. You need to book your visit, but it’s all very straightforward: visit https://gardentickets.rhs.org.uk/rhsrm/sessions.aspx?tid=40


Closer to home some of Dartmoor’s National Garden Scheme gardens are opening up too. Take a look at https://ngs.org.uk/product-category/garden-tickets/south-west/ to find out what is open, where and when – updated every week. At the moment there are lots of dates for Heathercombe, near Manaton, which is the garden we featured in the spring 2020 issue of Dartmoor Magazine (photo courtesy of Hazel Sillver). Also on my list!

And finally, some of those gardens that can’t yet open to the public yet are offering virtual garden tours, and others are keeping their fans up to date via social media. One of the latter is Buckfast Abbey (https://www.buckfast.org.uk) – I’ve just received the press release (edited down) which reminds us of one of the positive side effects of lockdown and reduced numbers of (in this case no) visitors:

Buckfast Abbey’s gardeners are taking to social media to provide updates during lockdown…
With most of his team having been furloughed or working reduced hours, Head Gardener Aaron Southgate says it has been a big challenge keeping things going. But Mother Nature has been providing a spectacular show as he plans for better days ahead:
‘We have been operating a skeleton rota, with everyone carefully socially distanced. We have only been mowing the grass and are managing a bit of weeding, particularly around the Lavender Garden. Surprisingly, despite this, the grounds are looking good. There are areas where we have sown wildflowers, hoping for an explosion of colour.
‘Some of the long-established plants are looking stunning: In the north wall border, we have Phlomis Russeliana (Turkish Sage). It is an herbaceous perennial which spreads very fast. It has a minimum of three whorls of yellow flowers clustered in an inflorescence and is very unusual. Ten years ago, when we first planted it here, it was rarely seen, but has become much more widely used in gardens now. Large, almost diamond-shaped leaves, help to shade out weeds too. Also, it flowers from May for several months. A tall grass is just coming into season now, Stipa Gigantea, giving a grace and air of lightness to the border.
‘In our hidden garden, the Crinodendron Hookerianum is looking amazing now, with lanterns of bright red hanging in profusion all over this evergreen shrub. It is a real delight. From the gift shop archway down, there’s honey bush (Melianthus Majus), an exotic-looking evergreen shrub; plus Cerinthe and Wisteria, the perennial English favourite. Also looking good are the gladioli and I have ordered some yellow seeds of sculptural flower for next year.’
Aaron says that one of the bonuses of lockdown has been the boost to wildlife made possible by the absence of human activity in the usually busy grounds: ‘There seem to be so many more birds in general. We have noticed that when lawns are not mown so often, some of the clovers and other flowering plants like daisies, provide bee food. The bees are certainly more in evidence everywhere. The pond in the Physick Garden is bursting with small frogs and large tadpoles still, whereas the pond in the Secret Garden is full of newts.’

My next blog will be back to Dartmoor ‘proper’. I’ve been working out my route for the autumn issue Walk & Eat (without the ‘Eat’ bit this time, I expect) which is all around Haytor. Just one more visit and it should be sorted – fingers crossed!