Friday, April 15, 2011

A day at Loseley with Zoe

Loseley Park is an Elizabethan (1562) manor house just south of Guildford, near Godalming, and about 45 minutes drive from me. It's on the edge of the North Downs, where the air is clear and sweet and smells of grass and trees.
The walled gardens are not particularly well-known by great English garden standards, but they are definitely worth a visit. They are a blend of formal yew hedges and cottage garden sprawl that is traditionally English and very restful.
Nothing is staked within an inch of its life as in more formal gardens - plants are allowed to seed around. The herb garden in particular is beautiful at this time of the year, with huge drifts of sweet cicely, woodruff and the bright new foliage of angelica.
The picture above shows the rose garden - astonishingly green at this time of the year, and rather attractive, in a stark sort of way. Below, the huge lime-yellow heads of Euphorbia characias subs. wulfenii act as pointers to the spring garden, where forget-me-nots, tulips and wallflowers run amok beneath pleached fruit trees.

I didn't notice the patterns on the bark of the fruit trees until I uploaded the photographs. But I loved the combination of the brilliant cherry red tulips and the ornamental rhubarb.

I'd gone to Loseley to meet Zoë, and to have a mooch around their spring garden show. This was held in the walled gardens themselves, which was a lovely setting. The stalls included plants, garden bygones, secondhand tools and furniture, but I have to confess that we spent most of our time sitting chatting.
I'd turned up with no cash, which I thought would stop me buying stuff. This ploy did not work. I bought two all-weather rattan garden chairs on my credit card (well, I had to have that to buy petrol), and Zoë lent me £14 to buy a secondhand half-moon lawn edger and a broom.
Memo to self: if you want to save money, do not go to garden shows with fellow bloggers. I'm kidding, of course - what could be nicer than to go to garden shows with fellow bloggers?
Zoë was very taken with a vintage chicken feeder (read her blog and you'll see why) and the lady on the stall was very impressed that she knew a, what it was and b, how it worked. So was I.
I never thought I'd be the sort of person who would get enthusiastic about old garden tools. When I was a child, everything in our garden shed was either rusting or broken. We had an enormous garden roller that weighed a ton and shrieked like some mythical creature if you tried to move it. My idea of the perfect garden tool has always been something that gleams and cleans easily - preferably involving stainless steel and bright coloured plastic, so I can see where I've left it.
However, there is something very nice about a spade or a hoe that someone has lovingly polished and restored. Worn smooth with years of use, the wooden handle on my half-moon edger seems to fall naturally into the hand in a comfortable position. The broom is new, but just the right size. Unlike my existing yard broom, which is huge and heavy, the head is small and neat but with stiff enough bristles to brush up dried mud and damp compost.
If you want to visit Loseley, the best time is June, when the rose garden and the organic vegetable garden are at their best. They're also having a Grow Your Own show on Sunday and Monday 1 and 2 May.