Saturday, 20 August 2011

Made with Love (VFTA No 6)

There is a garden on the borders of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire, tucked away in the countryside that I've wanted to visit ever since I read the story of its creation.  The story of this garden tugs at the heartstrings and ensures that any gardener with a romantic bent would want to visit to see the results of this garden made with love.

The Dorothy Clive Garden was begun by Colonel Harry Clive in 1940; it was to be a garden where his wife Dorothy, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, could take some daily exercise.  Sadly Dorothy died in 1942 but Colonel Harry continued with work on the garden in Dorothy's memory.  In 1958 the Colonel set up the Willoughbridge Garden Trust as a memorial to Dorothy and to provide a place of rest and recreation for the public.  Harry died in 1963 leaving a beautiful garden for us to enjoy. 

our first proper view from the first level across the pond and Staffordshire countryside
So you can see the appeal of visiting this garden - will the planting be as romantic in nature or will it be more formal as may befit the era in which it was begun?  My friend and fellow garden addict, A, and I set off from Holly Grove on a sunny Saturday morning to find out.

On arrival and parking the car I was struck that there seemed to be no garden visible, but following the entry signs we were soon under the tree canopy and climbing the grassy slope; soon the path spilt and we had several choices.  Although we had been given a map of the gardens on entry we decided rather to wander where our fancy took us, and so meandered along paths of gravel and grass.

meandering gravel paths lead you through the garden
 The planting at this time of year in the open areas of the garden consists of grasses, salvias, eupatorium, dahlias, sunflowers, rudbekia etc making colourful displays and, on our visit, swaying in the breeze.

pale lemon sunflowers and helenium make a lovely picture
Following our instincts we eventually made our way out of the sunlight and down into the quarry garden.  This garden must be stunning in late spring as it is predominantly planted with rhododendron.  The tree canopy is quite dense but very high and the quality of cool light is lovely; then around a twisting path...a small but perfectly formed waterfall!

ferns and that lovely sound of falling water
Walking up the paths from the waterfall we had another surprise awaiting us...a magnificent stag in the woods...

impressive garden wildlife!
Then onwards and upwards and back out through the laburnum arch and past the azalea walk (more reasons to visit in late spring) onto a wide grass path leading to another viewing point.  This time the view was across farmland right at the top of this steeply sloping garden.

golden harvest
So having made our way from the bottom to the top of the garden via the quarry we headed for the tearoom for a much needed cuppa, not to mention the carrot and St Clements cakes: homemade, delicious and heartily recommended!

Next to the tearoom is a small plant sales area.  All the plants looked healthy and were reasonably priced but, unusually for me, nothing took my fancy - the Handyman will be shocked!

I would have bought one of these if they'd had some - no label, so no idea of plant name
Following our stop for refreshments and a good old chat, we set off back down the hillside through the gravel garden.  Then reaching the pond we looked upwards towards the top of the garden and the vista of mature trees.

from the pond back up the hill
The garden has lots of places to sit, many of them with great views of the garden and surrounding countryside.  They are needed as the paths can be steep.  Although spread over 12 acres the garden is surprisingly intimate.  Like many gardens in this part of the world some of the planting is suffering from a lack of water but overall we enjoyed our visit and will ensure that we go back when the rhododendrons are in bloom.

The garden is a lovely and fitting memorial to both Dorothy and Colonel Harry!


debsgarden said...

I have been catching up on some blogging -August has been brutal on my time and schedule! I am glad I did not miss this post. Romantic gardens are my favorite. I wish I could transport that waterfall scene to my garden! Thanks for sharing your visit!

Susan@Holly Grove said...

Hi Deb - the photo of the waterfall turned out better than I expected, I think it was my favourite spot in the garden - secluded and peaceful with the lovely sound of falling water.