The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Friday, 2 November 2012

A tour of.....Hestercombe

We called off at Hestercombe before we got on the M5 for our long drive back from our recent holiday in Dorset and it was certainly worth the detour round Taunton. Joe Swift recently visited the gardens on Gardener's World (its still available to view on iPlayer if you are quick!) and it looked amazing so I kept it in mind for our holiday. The fact that it was designed in part by the doyenne of garden design, Gertrude Jekyll, also made me want to visit. It is a garden of three styles if you like, there are the 18th century pleasure grounds, there is the Victorian terrace with its formal bedding and the Arts and Crafts garden created in a collaboration between Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. Edwin Lutyens (one of our most famous architects, he also designed the Cenotaph and part of New Delhi in India) was given the task of designing the gardens by E.W.B. Portman and it was carried out between 1904 and 1908. The architectural design and detail is a triumph and the design is enhanced by the planting of Gertrude Jekyll which softens the hard landscaping. It is said that this garden was one of their most successful collaborations.
Gertrude Jekyll appears to be a formidable woman she was an extremely talented artist and she loved crafts. She not only gardened but she designed gardens, wrote about gardens and created her own nursery where she selected and bred her own plants. What a life. She was also the first woman to be awarded the Victoria medal of Honour in 1897 by the Royal Horticultural Society. The fact that she is still talked about now shows what an influence she has been on the gardening world.
It was this part of the garden that attracted me to come to visit the gardens so this is where I headed for first. So we walked through the Victorian shrubbery and to the Mill pond with its lovely waterfall.
From here you get your first glimpse of the garden is through this door.

This is the Dutch garden, you walk round past the Mill room where you can watch a film which tells the history of the garden, past the Orangery lawn to the Orangery itself and here you can climb some steps into the Dutch garden.

This garden sparkled even on this fairly overcast day.
The garden planting has been restored to the original plans that Jekyll made and you can see the planting in here is quite muted colours and held together with a background of silvery grey foliage. The beds are edged with that lovely tactile plant, Stachys byzantina otherwise known as Lambs ears. The rest of the planting is a mixture of lavender, pink roses, snapdragons and catmint amongst others.
It is the steps here that you first see the lovely daisy Erigeron karvinskianus, which was the plant of my holiday, it was everywhere and it appears in all the nooks and crannies of this garden.

The orangery was also designed by Edwin Lutyens.

Looking down onto the rill with still lots in flower in the borders either side, mostly phlox and asters.
The rill from the other end
I love all the details in the hard landscaping.

 The classic Lutyens bench.
 The pergola is planted with roses, clematis, jasmine amongst others. The pergola, at 200 ft long, is said to be one of the longest in the UK.

From this end of the garden you get great views of the surrounding countryside.

The Great Plat is a large sunken garden which is divided by diagonal lawns crossing the garden with a sundial in the middle.

The planting within the Great Plat is a mixture of Canna's, salmon pink gladioli ('Ibadan'), phlox and delphiniums and all edged with Bergenia. Certainly a vibrant combination. When the gardens were first restored the original plans were not found but since been discovered and implemented. You can link to the original and current planting plans here.

Further information regarding the restoration of the gardens can be found here.
The Victorian Terrace contains the classic formal bedding planting, but this is quite an unusual colour scheme, quite tasteful and muted, very monochrome with the dark purple Coleus against the pale feverfew-like daisy and the grey green of the succulent, Echeveria.

Leaving the more formal gardens we had a walk round the Landscape garden with the classic view of the Temple Arbour.
You can do a circular walk past the pear pond and the Great Cascade.

 To the Chinese bridge and Box pond at the top of the garden.
And back past the Chinese seat and the Octagon summerhouse which is the most recent garden building.
Its certainly a contrast to the rest of the garden.
I was mesmerised by this garden of many styles but really drawn to the Edwardian garden of Lutyens and Jekyll, loving the formal lines but detailed and delightful colour schemes. No wonder I have been so inspired by Jekyll as her quote on my main page states "The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies".


  1. It looks fabulous, certainly worth the detour on your way home. I love the rill, but the plans I could make if I had that orangery, hmmmm.

  2. Always wanted to visit there and it's not actually that far. So maybe I'll pencil that in for next year. I love Lutyens and his design ideas.

  3. Very nice pictures and blog post. Drop in for a cuppa next time your in Taunton.

  4. What a most enjoyable read, and good photos.
    I've been there a couple of times and although I'm not keen on formal gardens or hard landscaping I found it interesting and well worth visiting.
    It's certainly a garden that inspires. Flighty xx

  5. What a lovely post. I love the walled gardens with the gate that entices you in to another 'room'. Definitely one to visit when the weather perks up a bit. xx