Virtual Open Gardens
Undeterred by the coronavirus, Stanhoe’s gardeners have again come up trumps for the annual Open Gardens event.
Open Gardens is usually a great day for the village, with a good number of visitors coming – often from surprising distances – to see a range of garden styles and sizes, buy plants and enjoy cream teas. stanhoe.org has been proudly covering the event since 2009, a year notable for its bloom of colourful umbrellas.
This year, of course, we had no visitors, and no gate money in aid of All Saints’ church either. But our gardeners did enjoy some fine weather, and perhaps more time than they had expected to work on their gardens.
And so the idea of a virtual Open Gardens was born. It’s no substitute for getting up close with the sunshine and scents of early summer, of course, but we hope it will provide a memory of a unique time.
This year we had eight gardens – about the usual total, and an impressive figure in the circumstances. A feature not seen at previous Open Gardens is the notes telling us the story behind each garden. Scroll on down to see them.
Thanks to Pamela Austin for the idea and for most of the hard work collecting photos and stories, and to all the gardeners for their beautiful creations. We all miss the late Terry Patterson.
Stanhoe’s Open Gardens event dates to 1977. See the bottom of the page for more information.
The Coach House
The Flint House
“The long border on the north side of the lower lawn was originally a shrubbery which is now fronted by a fifteen-foot-wide herbaceous bed. Balancing this border is a line of three yew pyramids.
Border and pyramids edge a vista to a broad woodland walk terminated by a high dovecote as its focal point. The dovecote backs on to a long woodland path which in Spring is smothered with snowdrops followed by bluebells and a specimen collection of hellebores. An antique curved stone seat at its south end gives a wide view back to the lawns and house, shaded by mature beech trees and fringed with naturalised rhododendrons and beautiful magnolia trees.
The whole big-lawned garden in front of the house faces south, looking over a ha-ha flanked by grand Irish yew to the park. There is a huge copper beech tree, set away from the house, shading the west end of the garden.
Before the long south face of the house a matched pair of herb beds and a wall of figs at its west end precedes a white wisteria-covered loggia for outdoor dining, with a gravel walkway in front of the main eighteenth-century body of the house.
At its east end a pattern of box hedges reflects the shape of the Gothic-arched stoop and a chequerboard lawn bounded by short blocks of clipped beech sit in front of this early twentieth-century Arts and Crafts extension. A magnificent Banksiae rose spreads over this end of the house, flowing with yellow blooms in May.”
The Coach House
“According to the particulars of the 1932 sale, when many properties in Stanhoe were sold, including the post office and the Crown inn (now the Duck), our garden was the:
‘Enclosed kitchen and flower gardens and orchard” for the house next door. There was “a small range of glass houses comprising: peach house, cucumber house, tomato house, 2 vineries containing 11 established vines with stoke hole and heating apparatus’. Also ‘a 21ft conservatory, range of brick pits, excellent fruit and potato house with large soft water cistern’.
Sadly only one of these structures remains and it is in rather a sorry state, but does contain two very healthy vines.
When we took over the garden in 1991 it had been laid out as a formal rose garden. We had three young children and needed more play area so we took out the central rose beds and laid that down to grass.
The current layout remains a formal one, and we are lucky to still have a few of the original espaliered apple trees, but the planting is now very random, varied and informal.”
“A small cottage-style garden with borders surrounding a lawn with a few interesting specimens dotted throughout. The new addition of the Summer House Studio adds another feature to the garden this year. We don’t have a gardener and we both work full time, so things like edging the lawn get dropped down the list of priorities!”
The Flint House
“When I bought the house in 1999 and Terry and I moved in, the garden was all lawn, front and back. I never “designed” it: it happened quite gradually, and I’m astonished how few cardinal errors were committed. I deliberately planted trees I love – Davidia and Ginkgo – which a successor must remove before they reach full height. All the rest, including the arbour, which Terry’s brother made, just happened. I hope you like it.”
“The garden was redesigned in 2009, building on my mother-in-law’s earlier design. The walled garden is the most important feature.
Roses are an important part of the garden especially climbing roses. The third photo shows Paul’s Himalayan Musk, planted by my mother-in-law, climbing through an apple tree over the wall. It looks like apple blossom in June.
This year Brian has redesigned the vegetable garden by putting in raised beds. They seem to be working well.”
“For two non-gardeners, creating a new garden for Isabel Lodge has been a great pleasure. Starting with the former kitchen garden of the Old Rectory we were very fortunate to start with a special site, beautifully situated opposite Stanhoe’s Grade 1 All Saints’ church, with superb established trees and wonderful views and sunsets to the west.
As rank amateurs we were keen to build a house that was a credit to such special surroundings, and only belatedly woke up to the fact that this very much needed to include the garden surroundings for Isabel Lodge. With the vision and help of our landscape gardener Bridget Diggens, driveway and paving of appropriate scale formed the basic ingredients to which were added a formal “Lutyens” lawn, flower beds and vegetable garden with raised beds, as well as a tree and hedge planting programme.
Much of the new planting is now coming into its second year, and the response of the local insect and bird population has been tremendous! With All Saints’ founded by Sir Hervey de Stanhoe in the 13th century we very much hope his wife Lady Isabel will approve of our new garden.”
“The barn conversion was completed in 2002, and we bought it in 2003, when both the main garden and the east-facing ‘morning’ garden were both basically lawn, surrounded by borders. The main garden was planted with six trees and a row of shrubs along the fence.
We set about increasing the planting, beginning with a large number of items – including several tree seedlings – which we had brought with us from our previous house. In 2011 we had the raised bed built in the main garden, and the morning garden hard landscaped so that the old sunken patio, rockery, and lawn were replaced with a planted central and gravel surrounded garden carried out by “Shades of Green”.
Another five years on, in the interests of reducing the labour intensity of the main garden, we had about half of the lawn removed, and a new gravel garden constructed and planted by “Perfect Surroundings”, to which we have added many more plants since. We originally planted eight trees in the main garden, which, now mature, give us shade and privacy, and the entire garden and drive area is planted with more trees, shrubs and perennials.”
“I designed the garden 15 years ago with help from the local garden designer Tim Lees. Roses are my passion.”
Stanhoe’s Open Gardens tradition “one of the first in Norfolk”
Stanhoe people have been opening their gardens in aid of All Saints’ church every year since 1977.
A small newspaper clipping from the Stanhoe Archive collection records the first event, which involved six gardens and raised £500. A later undated clipping says that the village was one of the first in Norfolk to open its gardens to the public.
A longer article from 1978 carries photos of Jean Barber and Ken Beckett in their gardens. In its second year the event had grown to nine gardens and £651 raised (that’s about £4,000 in today’s money).
Th earliest village-wide open gardens days seem to date to the early 1970s: Cerne Abbas in Dorset, for instance, started its tradition in 1974. These days you can find Stanhoe in the National Directory of Open Gardens.
Pen Roche guessed that our event began in 1979 or 1980, but Rosemary Brown and her sister Jenny were able to suggest 1977 – as confirmed by the newspaper reports.
Rosemary said: “Jenny also reminded me that the spark for opening came because Gillian and Ken Beckett started to open their garden as a Yellow Book [National Garden Scheme] garden and it became an integral part of the Stanhoe opening.” You can read more about Gillian and Ken’s garden at Bramley Cottage in newspaper clippings here (main article) and here (photo).