42 Reading Gardeners and friends took the (longish) coach trip to two Northamptonshire gardens.
First, Coton Manor there was something for everyone in this delightful ten acre garden. The first impression was of enormous yellow tulips by the welcome desk (and for the less horticulturally-minded, a showroom-condition 1960s Rolls Royce). Much more was to follow. We wandered the sloping garden where our senses were stimulated with the scent of the Lilac, Wisteria and Azaleas, with closely-manicured lawns and borders, many beside spring-fed rills. On each ornamental pond, equally ornamental exotic ducks. It was with some surprise that we came across four brightly coloured flamingos sleeping by one of the many ponds. Beautiful clematis and primulas were abundant, with a wide range of other plants for all tastes. Other glories included the bluebell wood, great wisteria, and a well-stocked nursery (which many of us couldn’t resist).
The second garden of the day was Cottesbrook Hall, a huge estate with a Queen Anne stately home (1702). The head gardener gave us an informative tour of the gardens on this vast, beautifully landscaped estate with formal gardens surrounding the Hall in a series of individually planted rooms. Central was a magnificent Cedar of Lebanon. The wild garden was very attractively laid out around a stream with many specimen Acers which were looking very bright and fresh at this time of year. The long vistas, ha-has, sheep fields studded with specimen trees, and workers’ cottages beyond the park gates, all spoke of a Capability Brown – style design, though no records exist of who laid it out. In the recent past the gardens had been subject to designs from James Alexander Sinclair, Angela Collins and Arne Maynard. The tour highlighted the work the new head gardener who with his team is reinvigorating the planting, exposing once again some of the overgrown features and told us us of the many interesting and expensive shrubs on order. This is a very fine park and garden, and promises to be even better in a year or two.
Thanks to Hazel and Valerie as ever for finding these gardens and organising everything for us.