In the summer of 2002, I took a memorable trip to visit some of England’s great gardens. My tour group visited such iconic destinations as Sissinghurst and Hidcote, Great Dixter, Kiftsgate and Wisley. As breathtaking as those gardens were, however, equally memorable and special were the private gardens we visited. Most – listed in the famed “Yellow Book” – were open through the National Gardens Scheme, from which our own Garden Conservancy organization draws its inspiration. Here is one of my favorites.
Alkerton, near Banbury (Oxfordshire, U.K.)
Brook Cottage is a testament to the hard work and vision of a gifted plantswoman, Katherine Hodges, and her late husband (an architect) over a period of more than 35 years. Located on a hillside in the west-facing slope of a valley in Oxfordshire, the site originally consisted of rough pasture divided by old hedges. The Hodges originally purchased the site’s 17th century house as a weekend cottage in 1964 and eventually retired there.
Near the house, the landscape has been designed to link level areas of lawn and terrace with the natural slopes and to create enclosures with a series of yew and copper beech hedges.
Mature trees and shrubs have grown to connect the garden with the surrounding countryside. There are herbaceous borders, a bog garden, more than fifty varieties of clematis and an extensively planted ‘hanging garden’ of roses, including species, old cultivars, and modern varieties.
Brook Cottage’s garden is open to the public, through Britain’s National Gardens Scheme, most weekdays from Easter to the end of October. At the time of our visit, Mrs. Hodges tended the plantings herself, with the help of one full-time assistant; I saw her trundling a wheelbarrow near one of the herbaceous borders, deadheading blooms, as we visitors wandered around, mouths open. This is a remarkable, memorable garden, not to be missed. Do visit it if you can.Explore posts in the same categories: landscape, photography, Travel comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.