plum tree storm damage Post-storm inspiration
Storm damage to our plum tree caused by exceptionally strong winds.

Thinking of one’s garden may be far from the minds of many readers who have been affected by gales and flooding. Personally, I turn for post-storm inspiration to gardens of the National Trust, knowing I will find beauty that will lift the spirit wherever I visit – on the page, or for real.

Post-Storm Inspiration – Out and About

Cotehele Tamar National Trust Cornwall
Cotehele on the banks of the River Tamar in south-east Cornwall (copyright NT-Images Andrew Besley)

Spring arrives with fresh bursts of colour and new life. From the early displays of dainty snowdrops in the gardens of Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire to the sheets of brilliant tulips at Sizergh Castle in the Lakes, a stroll in a National Trust garden is sure to dazzle and amaze. It’s also a great time to experience nature springing back to life. Don’t miss the orchards at Cotehele in Cornwall, which will be thick with beautiful apple blossom and foraging bees in a few week’s time, or the aroma of azaleas and magnolias at Stourhead in Wiltshire. (Cotehele’s daffodil weekend, 22 – 23 March 2014, 11am – 4pm; tel 01579 351346 for more information.)

Daffodils and cherry blossom at Nymans, West Sussex ©National Trust Images David Levenson

The twentieth-century garden of Nymans in West Sussex has an amazing collection of rare and important plants, bursting with colour in spring. Spot displays of camellias and magnolias and drifts of daffodils. Walk around the garden at your own pace or join a daily introductory talk or guided tour. Take in the best bits of spring with swathes of daffodils and exciting signs of new growth. Find out what flowers are at their best and what to look forward to in the following months. For more information call 01444 405250.

Wild daffodils at Sizergh near Kendal, Cumbria ©National Trust Images Val-Corbett

Tucked away outside of Kendal in Cumbria, Sizergh Castle has beautiful gardens and 1600 acres of estate to explore. During spring there will be brightly coloured tulips on the top terrace, or you can walk beneath cherry blossom in the Dutch garden and enjoy the spring colours in the rock garden. Children will love the frogs, newts and numerous species of wild birds, as well as bees and hens in the apple orchard. And on 13th April, 11am – 4pm, Sedbergh Bee Association is presenting ‘A taste of honey’: demonstrations, display equipment and information for all visitors interested in bee-keeping. For more information call 015395 60951

Croft Castle sketching
Croft Castle, Leominster, Herefordshire – good sketching spot

Croft Castle in Herefordshire is a favourite of mine, along with its parkland and walled garden. Latest news is that within the walled garden you’ll find the 1913 J.Weeks and Co glasshouse which is currently being lovingly restored by Croft’s garden team. For more information call 01568 782120. And there are some truly amazing ancient trees in the park – 350-year-old Spanish Chestnuts and the 1,000-year-old Quarry Oak. Trees are at their most spectacular in winter so make sure you take your camera and sketchbook. Indeed, a notebook is essential for jotting down ideas and planting schemes wherever you visit. Discover more about these properties and seasonal garden interest elsewhere by visiting the National Trust website. And to guard against travelling when routes are still flooded, check for flood disruption at the Environment Agency.

Post-Storm Inspiration – Back Home:

Primroses on our orchard bank
Primroses on our orchard bank

Back home, after this virtual National Trust ‘tour’, I take my usual end-of-month stroll around our north Cotswold acre, noting with pleasure the many early-flowering plants that are already providing a source of nectar and pollen for emerging insects (vital as pollinators). Already in flower is an unruly bush of Mahonia, and the insignificant but sweetly-scented winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima). There are swathes of snowdrops and crocus, which this year have multiplied and are popping up everywhere. Hellebores in many forms and colours self-seed, as do primroses nestling in the wild bank alongside the vegetable plot – still too wet to work. We look forward to March with eager anticipation, longing for better weather.

Post-Storm Inspiration – More Sources:

Author’s Tip: Plan ahead. Now is the perfect time (if the ground is fit) to order and plant bare-root or potted winter-flowering shrubs. In any case, don’t forget to  visit the Dobies’ website for all your gardening needs and requirements. You may particularly like: vegetable seedsvegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don’t forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don’t miss anything special. 

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