Day 20 of my #AdventCalendar for gardeners- a visit to Calke Abbey. 

Mossy roofed potting shed in the walled garden at  the national Trust’s Calke Abbey. There’s a tiny bed in there for the garden boy whose job it was to keep the greenhouse boilers stoked. Alison and I have started a tradition to walk the gardens in the week before Christmas, and reflect on what life was like for the gardeners. Then there’s a food fair in the old riding school where we sample local honey, Leicestershire cheese, home made fudge and chocolates- and we stock up for the festive season. It’s rather a wonderful tradition to have started. 



The walled kitchen garden is looking beautifully tidy. The beds are mulched and weeded.  All set for the spring sowing season. Quite a cheerful sight to behold.


It’s nice to find something new in a favourite- much visited garden. This area was being excavated last time we stopped by.  What treasures  were under the mounds of earth, we wondered.  It looks like a boiler for the hypocaust heated wall. Isn’t it amazing it’s still here. And the beautiful  brick floor is still intact.


We mooched in the peach house. I think this blue paint  is my all-time favourite colour. I’d love to paint my potting shed the same hue. It reminds me of the Mediterranean.




We peered through the misty  peach house  windows. In the summer these open right up. There are deckchairs to sit and gaze at the wild flowers and waist high grass.


View of the peach house /orangery  from the church. We spotted these glorious giant white-painted cloches. And coveted them! 


A few ancient espalier  fruit trees  remain in the walled garden. We love their mossy-covered boughs. 


We hadn’t noticed this door in the walled garden before. In summer there’s so much to see. But in winter,  we notice the bare bones of the garden and home in on  wonderful details like this.

We’ve never seen the sheep grazing right to the house before. We like this seasonal change. The sheep set a scene that could easily grace any Christmas card. We just need some snow to complete the picture. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tour of Calke Abbey and the kitchen gardens. Do you have a garden that you love to visit as often as you can? Do you find new treasures each time you visit? Thanks for stopping by, and please feel free to comment- so I know I’m not just talking to myself. 

A Visit to Easton Walled Gardens

After  a visit to Easton Walled Gardens, I return to my own little patch, and feel like anything is possible- I can take on any challenge. 

Easton’s  Ursula Cholmeley has approached her major restoration project with so much courage and determination, spending a few hours in her company is all that’s needed to boost my enthusiasm.

Easton was lost under tree saplings and brambles until Ursula started work on the garden 16 years ago. The decline started when Easton Hall, the mansion house that used to stand on the site, was requisitioned at the start of the Second World War. The soldiers stationed there caused so much damage that restoration was not a viable option. There was talk of gunfire being heard in the house and grenades thrown into the greenhouses. 

As a result, the house was literally bulldozed down in 1951, and some of the stonework and debris has been left along one bank to show what conditions were like when Ursula took on the garden. Poignantly, only the gatehouse remains- and that only survived because the bulldozer broke down. It’s a tantalising glimpse of what glories have been lost. Photographs of the old house show magnificent tall glass windows and an orangery overlooking the terraces.

If you visit Easton, you can walk up the flight of stone steps and stand on the spot where there is just the ruins of a bay window left. Standing there, you can survey the scene, and imagine what it would have been like to live there.

Now, thanks to Ursula’s vision and hard work,  you can see a reconstruction of the gardens. Looking out from the terrace, you see the walled gardens in the distance with fruit trees and roses planted through a meadow. Mown paths represent the original paving. 

The terraced banks are full of wild flowers. They are yellow with cowslips today, and we think we spotted orchids.  We stood and watched the swallows, seemingly flying just a few inches above the terraces. Such a sight- and sound. That twittering noise has followed me home!  


A patch of blue Centaurea Montana shines out amongst the yellow cowslips. 

  Camassia bulbs are planted in the Cedar Meadow- taking over from the tulip and narcissi display. 

I particularly like this pale blue camassia in the Cedar Meadow. It looks like Camassia Cusickii 


Maybe I won’t pull up all those dandelions and cow parsley in my garden, after all. A lovely setting for the Meadow Retreat summerhouse. 


Phacelia tanacetifolia. Loved by bees. I’ve grown this as a green manure crop, and forgotten to turn it over in time. Such a happy accident. 
Records show  there has been a house here since 1592. What changes the gardeners must have seen over the past 400 years. 

Easton Walled Gardens  is just off the A1 near Grantham in Lincolnshire. Open from 2nd March to 30 October, and also for snowdrops. See the website for opening times and special events http://www.visiteaston.co.uk. Follow on Twitter @EWGardens and on Facebook. 

Are there any gardens that you visit for inspiration?