The hotel at Sandown was comfortable. In the dining room we were served by a waitress who moved so fast I am sure her feet only skimmed the floor. We certainly noticed the difference on her day off!
Friday dawned bright and sunny and where better for Hardy Planters to start tour than a nursery? Eddington Nursery was stocked with a good range of well grown plants in tidy and weed free sales areas. Then on to see more of St Helens.
We split into two groups for the next gardens. One was mostly wild flowers with the accent on wildlife. At the next garden ‘West Meads’ field grasses and wild flowers ringed the neat lawn that surrounded the beds and terrace. The beds were full of well grown plants and gnarled fruit trees playing host to clematis and roses. The terrace with pots of half hardy’s and seats gave a view of the gentle hills.
Victoria and Albert’s country cottage-that is Osborn House- was our next stop. We all went our different ways and had a very pleasant afternoon visiting the house or the beach or Swiss Cottage. I went round the house (after a good lunch) and I can understand why the next generation gave it to the nation!
Saturday was just as sunny and even warmer as we were driven to Carisbrooke. The first garden called Meadowsweet is a garden of gentle surprises, created from a field by the current owner. The arbour made of four saplings with a clematis on one side and a rose opposite does away with rusty metal and rotting wood! The very natural looking gap in the hedge became a window onto the fields beyond when viewed from the terrace. A ‘wild’ orchard and pond had been added recently to extend the garden.
Badminton was our next garden reached by a very steep path; the ‘bad walkers’ were taken by the owner in his car thankfully. The garden had beds around the house with interesting plants and mature trees on a site that sloped down to a stream occupied by a pair of mallards. One large fir tree had recently been felled and the bed around it was in transition from shady site to full sun.
Back up the path for some (not as many as came down) the rest by larger car to visit Carisbrooke Castle. This has a large inner courtyard with a donkey sanctuary (and a treadmill), a museum and a recreated Edwardian garden designed by Chris Beardshaw. This walled area was originally made for Princess Beatrice who spent her summers here. All this is surrounded by battlements with good views.
The sun shone on us again on Sunday as our intrepid driver found Cranmore and then the garden at Highfield. Billed as a garden for all seasons, it certainly was. A woodland area with mature trees and beds edged with logs held the remains of spring bulbs & hellebores with foliage plants to keep up the interest. The garden sloped upward to a lawn and large flower beds- the shelter belt was cricket bat willows. The owner is the developer of ‘plastic wood’ and the terrace where we were served tea & coffee, had many chairs and tables and benches made from the product.
Back down the narrow lane we came to Funakoski a garden being made from old nursery- old greenhouses large areas of concrete and a caravan was mentioned as having to be cleared. The results of a garden in progress were impressive with a wild area of trees and flowers the latest venture.
Ventnor Botanic Gardens was our next port of call. We had been warned that the garden was being restored and that was clearly the case, but being open to the public a few labels should not have been too difficult. The huge Echiums dominated the long border and were truly magnificent!
Monday and the sun still shone, how lucky could we be. Much organising of luggage and plants went on and then we were off to the ferry and the end of our island odyssey, and on to Hampshire.
We lunched at Brambridge Garden Centre and thence to Eastleigh and the garden at 53 Ladywood. The garden is made up of low raised beds surrounded by narrow gravel paths. It is surrounded by trees giving dappled shade. The planting is dense and interesting. The front garden is in full sun and had a lovely specimen of Mathiasella bupleiroides ‘Green Dream’. I have never seen this before (only read descriptions) and it really is a dream!
Just a couple of streets away was Breamore Close were the garden had evolved with changes in family life. Good plants in well-kept beds and a pergola displaying a wisteria to perfection – the tea and cake was good too! And so to the last leg of our journey and home.
Rowena and the subcommittee did us proud and the format of formal visits in the mornings and a place of interest (where we could get lunch) and then please ourselves was a brilliant idea, many thanks to all concerned.