Many non-gardening people I know struggle to understand why I visit gardens during the winter. Indeed many gardens close during this period so that they can have rest and get vital work completed before spring brings new visitors. Gardens that do open during this time are prized. The weather can make getting outside in my own garden a challenge during winter, so a wander around someone else's garden is a pleasure. Finding an open garden is one challenge; visiting in decent weather is another. A good garden, however, will shine in weather good or bad.
Following on from my visit to Hodsock Priory we were invited to take a quick drive across to Ellicar Gardens. I knew of this garden from various magazine articles and it has also been featured on Gardeners' World. I thought it was a good garden worth seeing, but I was still unprepared for what I found.
The morning had been cold and a little drizzly, the afternoon decided to be cold and more rainy. Undeterred, Sue Murch, who owns the gardens with her husband Will, took us on a tour. I always think you can tell a lot about a garden from its winter bones. This is a garden with very good bones.
The gardens are large, set in five acres, and have been started from scratch since the Murch family moved in eight years ago. The natural swimming pool is a major feature of the garden and, quite frankly, a thing of wonder.
Even on this dull grey day the pool reflected the garden around it. In the warmer months there are dragonflies and kingfishers swooping as you swim in it. It is naturally filtered and has growing areas around the margins.
The pond is surrounded by grasses and willows and lots of winter colour. It is a work of art.
To the front of the house there is more winter colour, with bergenias and snowdrops.
The red arachnid stems of this rubus are sublime. I think it is Rubus phoenicolasius, the Japanese wineberry, but I am happy to be corrected. I stood in front of them for a while in admiration. I would say silent admiration but this is not true. All the time I walked around the garden I kept saying 'wow' and other highly inarticulate noises.
The gardens were looking immaculate, so neat and tidy and yet a haven for wildlife. Whilst we were there there was constant movement from the birds enjoying the garden.
There is also work in progress. This will be partly perennial meadow when it is finished. Notice the red stems in the rear of the picture. The garden is full of structure like this, it looks beautiful and also provides vital living space for overwintering insects and creatures. Wildlife is very important to Sue and Will and the space is designed to welcome as much diversity as possible.
The gardens are also part small-holding. They have horses, pigs (isn't she a beauty?), goats and a llama.
This is Sue and Orlando the llama, he is a new addition to the family. I left with llama-envy.
There is much more to see at the gardens and I whole-heartedly encourage you to visit if you can. I have rarely left a garden as excited and inspired as I did from there. The word inspirational is easy to bandy about, but I do not use the word lightly. This is a garden to revisit and see through the seasons. I want to return, I have to return, this is a special place.
Ellicar Gardens is open for NGS on Sunday 25th February 2018. Go.