Tag Archives: gardens

Englishmen painting with plants, part II

Here’s Ann Larås second post about English gardens.

The gardens of Sissinghurst

Sissinghurst, Cranbrook, Kent
Creator: Victoria (Vita) Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson from 1930-

Vita and Harold opened their beloved Sissinghurst to visitors already in the 1940s. The visitors could find Vita in the garden working, often dressed in a long lace shirt with a corduroy blazer and high boots, wearing long earrings; gladly answerering questions and usually with one of her dogs by the side. Vita and Harold were actually long ahead of their time to open their own private garden to visitors. Today ”garden tourism” is very popular and spread throughout the U.K. And Sissinghurst is still open for the public five days a week.

Rose portal

I’m here for a  garden tour on Midsummer evening. The visit includes a dinner and a tour in the evening light to the garden rooms at Sissinghurst. Though it’s the first time I’m here, it feels like I’ve already been here, through all books and articles. I’m excited and rush through a portal in the brick wall  into the the White Garden. It is one of the world’s most famous garden rooms and a unique opportunity to be here right now in the twilight at the beginning of summer.

The gardens of Sissinghurst consists of a series of private rooms, and they are a mirror of the creators of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson’s character and temperament. Here you can find garden rooms like: White garden, Lower garden, Rose garden, Lime alley, Cottage garden, Yew lane, Herb garden, Moat path and the Orchards. The property is created on the ruins of a large Elizabethan house and is located in the Weald historic landscape with its rolling hills and shady forests.

From 1930 the land was owned by the couple. When they came here, most of the buildings dilapidated. Harold was a classicist who designed the layout. Vita was a romantic who created the atmosphere, filled with roses and planting perennials and was enchanted place.

The garden is constructed with brick walls and dense hedges of yew and hornbeam as a formal framework. There are long walks and lines, openings in walls and surprises around every corner. Planting within the hedges and walls are generous and lush. And since the late 1950s, there were already 10 000 visitors each year.

Overview, Sissinghurst gardens

The inspiration for the famous white garden room appeared in one of Vitas dreams in the 1930’s. Twenty years later around 1950 the white garden room was created. I stand here now, in a rectangle of green, silver and white, surrounded by yew hedges with razor sharp edges. Low boxwood frame the white and silver plants. In the middle floats a delicate ceiling, a dome over a simple but beautifully glazed urn. The Gothic dome is covered with a giant rose Rosa mulliganii which reaches its finest flower in the middle of summer and then covering the iron structure with its white roses with yellow eye and a lovely fragrance.

The tower rises in the background. Here, Vita had her study, where she planned for the garden and for the poems she also wrote. She could look out over the garden and make plans.

Roses were the flowers that Vita was most fond of and which filled her imagination. She was an incurable romantic. Even today, the gardeners at Sissinghurst retain the style and color combination in the Rose Garden: Easy and unstructured with soft colors that were Vitas style.

/Ann Larås (my blog, my book)


Filed under Attractions & Culture, England, Nature & Heritage

Englishmen painting with plants

We’re proud to present our newest guest blogger, Ann Larås. She’s a Swedish journalist and author of the newly published book Engelska Trädgårdar (English Gardens). Here’s her first blog post on this very subject.

Great Dixter - Northiam, East Sussex

I´m driving on the left side, on narrow streets covered by ivy and branches of the treetops interlaces as a ceiling over me. It’s a dream to experience the landscapes of Kent and East Sussex. Here you can find many beautiful open gardens, many kept but National Trust or by private foundations. I will visit  Sissinghurst and Great Dixter. Two beautiful gardens and country estates south of London.

Great Dixter – Humour and Trimmed Birds
Location: Northiam, East Sussex
Designer: Edwin Lutyens, Christopher Lloyd
Style: Inspired by Arts & crafts – movement.

Time: From 1910 –

I am really taken by the first sight of Great Dixter. The vista of the paved aisle in a blooming meadow leading to the mediaval tudor house  is unreal, like something out a fairy tale.  The house was built already in the 15th century. On the grounds is also an oast house where hop was dried in the past for beermaking.  In the beginning of the 20th century Lloyd family moved in. And through the yongest son Christopher Lloyd, the garden at Great Dixter became famous. And still is.

Great Dixter garden

Christopher was a well-known gardener, he was a garden writer and tv-personality, until his death in 2006. He loved flowers and they are in abundance here; old-fashioned perennials like knight spurs, lupines, poppies and bluebells in an imaginative mix with vegetables as artichokes and fennel. Roses and clematis cover trellies and fences. The topiary are the focus of Christopher Lloyd’s garden. They come in the form of clipped yew in figures, like peacocks. Some of them resembles people. The garden has a well thought-out design but the architectural form is not visible on my first walk at the end of June because the flowers are so high. But the funny shaped yew hedges and are recognizable as an invisible frame and frame all shifts during the year.

It is easy to imagine how a child is experiencing Great Dixter, going around in the maze of garden rooms with high beautiful flowers and scents from all directions. Here and there is an opening in a hedge that leads to a new room on a different theme. Among the greenery, a hat or a head, belonging to one of the six garden workers or volunteers at Great Dixter pop up. If you want to help get an idea of the garden as a whole and, should you come here in early spring when the plants are not as high.

During the summer, in June-July, it’s a total experience of beauty, but hard to keep track. The garden is designed as a circle around the house, the hedges divide the surface of many large garden room. The Long Border, the long perennial beds is absolutely delicious with its height against the house behind. The perennials bloom from April to October and create a dense carpet of color.

The garden is very personal and changes constantly and develops, thanks to the head gardener Fergus Garrett who now manages the gardens at Great Dixter.

Stayed tuned for my next post wherein I’ll visit the gardens of Sissinghurst.

/Ann Larås (my blog, my book)


Filed under Attractions & Culture, England, Nature & Heritage

Find the Hidden Gardens of London

Do you like gardens? Maybe you like finding hidden treasures in a town you thought you’ve seen everything in? Or maybe you’re just very curious on what people’s private gardens look like? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, Open Garden Squares Weekend might be of interest to you.

On the weekend of 12-13 June, you get to visit gardens usually not open to the public during the Open Garden Square Weekend. Out of the approximately 140 gardens that will be open to visitors, you’ll find roof gardens of Kensington, the October Gallery in Bloomsbury and Zander Court Club House community centre in Bethnal Green. But there will be gardens for all tastes – small and quirky, contemporary and eco-friendly, historically memorable, roof gardens, cemeteries and working allotments. So if you like gardens and tend to go to London in June, I would suggest you give this a shot.

Tickets for the event costs £7.50 if you buy in advance, or £9 on the weekend. One ticket allows entry to all venues over the two days. Tickets are available online or at the Britain and London Visitor Centre at 1 Lower Regent Street.

During the weekend, Transport for London will be hosting guided walks and on Sunday 13th of June, there will also be a guided bike ride between the gardens starting at Covent Garden. If you’d rather go for a bike ride on your own, you can download two podcasts and self-guided bike rides from www.londongardenstrust.org/guides.

More British Gardens
If you’re not in London in June, and still want to get a taste of all the beautiful gardens of Britain – Then listen up! Starting next week, Ann Larås – the Swedish author of the newly published book Engelska Trädgårdar, will guest blog here on Mind the Gap. So, stay tuned for more interesting facts and beautiful images from the gardens of Britain.

– Towe

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Spring is here – So are the Flower Shows!

Spring is here! Well, at least in Britain, which means the air is getting warmer, the trees are getting greener and flowers are popping up everywhere. But not only that, spring also means that the popular British garden shows are back and first up is Cardiff Flower Show in Wales.

Cardiff Flower Show
Between 16th and 18th of April, beautiful Bute Park, beneath Cardiff Castle in Wales turns into an inferno of flowers, trees, gardeners and garden enthusiasts. Cardiff Flower Show is open every day from 10-16.30 and entry tickets cost £10 per day. Kids go for free with paying adult.

Chelsea Flower Show
Chelsea Flower Show, also called the gardeners Mecca, is the biggest flower show in England, attracting thousands of people each year. Walk around among flowers, trees and gardening attires for all tastes at one of Europe’s best flower shows.

The show is held in the garden of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, London between 27th and 29th of May and opens every day at 8am. Please notice, you cannot buy tickets for this exhibit at the entrance, only in advance. Prices vary depending on which day, and time of day, you choose. Please check their website for further details.

Hampton Court Flower Show
In the beautiful park of Hampton Court Palace, the worlds biggest flower show is hosted each year. The park covers 304 hectares and under normal circumstances you’ll find sparkling fountains, an exotic Orangery, a maze and over 200,000 different flowers in the formal gardens of over 26 hectares. During the show, there’ll be even more different types of flowers, plants and garden designs.

The show opens every day at 10am between the 8th and 11tf of July, and closes every day at 7.30pm, except for Sunday, when they close at 5.30pm. Prices vary depending on when you visit the show, please check their website for further details.

Further information
These Flower Shows are only a tiny portion of all the Flower Shows held in the UK during the year, and especially in the Spring and Summer months. Which ever show you pick, you will definitely get an overdose of inspiration for your garden, balcony or window box. If you feel the three featured shows isn’t enough, please click here to find more shows to visit.

Maybe you’re heading to towards Britain at the wrong time but is still interested in some gardening and flowers, or maybe you just want to visit the British gardens in general, then please visit our page about gardens on VisitBritain.se for more information about different gardens, parks and outdoor activites.

Either way, enjoy the spring and the flowers in Britain!

– Towe –


Filed under England, London, Nature & Heritage, Wales

Open Squares Garden in London

The 13th and 14th of June London has it’s Open Squares Garden. More than 190 gardens in London are open to public. Normally these gardens are closed and only accessable for privat owners. Some of the most famous ones are the gardens inside Wandsworth- and Holloway prison. You have to book appointment if you would like to see these gardens.  The beautiful gardens at Notting Hill are also open for visitors. You can buy a weekend ticket for just £8. Check the webpage for more information.


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DSC_0077We all know Britain has some of the worlds most beautiful gardens and this time of year, the garden shows are attended by thousands of visitors. The Chelsea Flower Show in London has just ended and the swedish garden designer Ulf Nordfjell won both a gold medal and “best-in-show”. A huge success!  Royal Horticulture Society arrange about 20 different flower and garden shows and coming up is Hampton Court Flower Show (7-12 July) and RHS Show Tatton Park (20-26 july). For a full program see RHS’s webpage.


If you just would like to visit a beautiful garden there are several to choose between. Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent is famous for it’s fantastic garden arcitecture and lovely ideas for your own garden can be found at Great Dixter in Rye, East Sussex and Lady Farm Gardens in Chelwood, Somerset.

DSC_0072The famous international garden designer Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd have won several gold medals and “best-in-show”, including a gold medal at Chelsea Flower Show in 2008. She has designed gardens for the King & Queen of Belgium, the singer Sting and his wife Trudy Styler and many of the English aristocracy. One of her award-winning designs, The Conran restaurant Coq d’Argent at No 1 Poultry, London, looks out on to her spectacular rooftop garden. She lives at Gresgarth Hall in Lancashire and has designed a true garden gem around her gothic-styled mansion.  Her garden can be visited only a few days every summer so make sure you check the website for opening hours. She reccomends the following gardens: Bramdean Garden in Hampshire, Arley Hall in Northwich, Cheshire, Rousham in Steeple,Oxfordshire, Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire and Ascott in Buckinghamshire to mention some.


So there is so much to see, so many gardens to visit, get inspiration and ideas from,  or just to enjoy!!

Happy garden visit to all- I’ll sure visit some next time I’m in Britain!


(PS. pictures are taken in beautiful Waxholm, Sweden,- truth to be told, there are beautiful gardens at home too!)

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Cholderton Charlie’s Farm

close encounter with the kidsAll across the UK you’ll find several farms to visit. This one, close to Salisbury is a bit special. Of course you have the common goatkids and lambs to cuddle, rabbits to hold and horses, cows, pigs and a duckpond. The thing a bit different is that these pigs and horses are rare breeds, different from the usual breeds. But then again,- a pig is a pig isn’t it? My family’s favourite will still be the piglet-race! Every afternoon the tiny piglets get geared up with tiny hats and small teddy bears as jockeys while they race down the field similar to a horse race. It may sound like piglet-abuse but it’s great fun and the piglets looks like they are having fun,- and they race down to get food so there’s something in it for them as well! 

The Cholderton Charlie’s Farm has a a small café and a nice garden for picnic. And if you would like to go back in time, why not take a  tractor and trailer ride sitting on hay balls and just pretend you’re a country lad?


Check out the website for more info on opening times and directions.


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Filed under England, For families