Events of interest at Hestercombe Gardens – autumn

Cuttings Workshop
Monday 9th September, 10am – 12.30pm
£25 per person + half price garden entry

Join head gardener Claire Greenslade for a morning’s workshop. She’ll share her expert tips and you’ll be able to take some cuttings from Hestercombe’s gardens home with you.


Gardens Drawing Workshop
Tuesday 17th September, 10am – 3pm
£75 per person, includes lunch

Learn to draw with charcoal.
See the gardens in a way you’ve never seen them before in this workshop with Gemma Lane from Green Fox Workshops. Suitable for beginners and intermediate. Lunch and refreshments included, see website for more details.


International Garden Photographer of the Year: Images of a Green Planet
18th September – 20th November
Normal garden admission applies, free to members

Hestercombe is pleased to welcome the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition 2019.

From September 18th – November 20th come and enjoy this outdoor exhibition of botanical imagery from the selected winners.

The competition which is open to amateurs and professionals worldwide followed the theme
Help us celebrate the beauty and importance of a green planet.

The stunning images range from plant portraits to fantastical botanical landscapes – they all inspire us to see the value, beauty and importance of a green planet.

Selected winners are exhibited at the world famous Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew each February and then tour to locations across the UK, Europe and worldwide, including Hestercombe Gardens!

Categories included:

The Beauty of Plants; Beautiful Gardens; The Bountiful Earth; Wildflower Landscapes; Greening the City; Wildlife in the Garden; Trees, Woods & Forests; Breathing Spaces; Abstract Views.


Deer in a Day: Christmas Willow Workshop
£95 per person including materials, lunch and refreshments

Expert willow weaver Sarah Webb will guide you through the process of creating a beautiful willow deer at this fun workshop.

Take your deer home to display in your garden or use it as a festive decoration.

Enjoy tea, coffee and mince pies while you work in the Bampfylde Hall and a delicious two-course lunch will be served at the halfway point of your exciting project.

The workshop is suitable for beginners with no prior knowledge of weaving.


Agapanthus Offers from Ro FitzGerald

Ro FitzGerald, still needing to lighten her plants load before a potential house move, has a number of Agapanthus which could be divided this autumn. Some have plenty of spare bulbs which will be inexpensive, ‘lost label’ plants even more of a bargain than named varieties. email for photographs, or for a time to come and see them. Could deliver to an autumn meeting.

PoTM August: Gladiolus

Some years ago the late, great Christopher Lloyd sprung a shock on us gardeners. He started to use that seriously maligned, deeply unfashionable plant, the Dahlia, in his traditional herbaceous borders. And very soon they became the latest, trendy ‘new kids on the block’. The gardening world was taken by storm. However there are still one or two plants that seem to be the epitome of bad taste, notably the Gladiolus.

I first acquired a plant/bulb of the glorious, and hardy, Gladiolus ‘Ruby’ from the much-mourned Hadspen Nursery run by Nori and Sandra Pope. It is clearly a cross between G. papilio, with its globular shape, and a.n.other strong ruby-red gladiolus. I planted it in a very sunny part of the garden, adding a layer of horticultural grit at the bottom of the planting hole. ‘Ruby’ powers up through clumps of pink-and-white Lychnis coronaria and catches every eye throughout August. She is utterly gorgeous.

I have also tried Gladiolus byzantinus with its dusty magenta spires in April and May. But all too often the badger gets to them before they flower.
And I do not fail to grow a pot of the heavily scented G. murielae (Acidanthera murielae) from Abyssinia to put by my seat in autumn. Last year I attempted, yet again, to over-winter the bulbs to repeat-flower. I took them out of the pot, sorted out the bigger bulbs, and left them in my sunny, frost-free glasshouse to ripen. But they did not even try to perform.

This year I have planted some of the more conventional, tender, ‘glads’ not only in the cut-flower garden, but also in my borders. It’s a steep learning curve. They certainly bring a pizazz to ornamental grasses. They seem happy. But. Quite often the lengthening shoots have to twist their way around the neighbours. Sometimes they get quite tangled up and flower from curled stalks on the ground. They clearly like their own space in the sun. The recommendation is to regard them as summer-flowering tulips, so I will lift them in autumn to prevent dozens of mini-bulbs growing where once there was one, and store them in a frost-free shed. I shall keep trying. I will not give up.

Sally Gregson
August 2019

PotM: Border Phlox – July 2019

One of the stalwarts of the English cottage garden in July is the Border Phlox. Those sturdy, upright stems with their spicy scented flowers have been a favourite since Victorian times. Phlox paniculata was introduced into the UK from the USA in the early 1800s as a garden plant. It originates in the eastern states of North America, growing at the edge of woodland, often on the banks of streams, which indicates their preferred environment: rich but draining soil, in sun or a little light shade.

Over the years the old cultivars have often succumbed to mildew in a close, damp summer, and more seriously, to Phlox Stem and Leaf Eelworm. This manifests itself on the plant as brown, twisted leaves, and sometimes split stems. The only recourse is to dig it up, bag it, and bin it. The eelworm does not affect the roots, so root cuttings can be taken in late winter, with moderate success.

But far better, and more successful, would be to clear a different area of the border in winter (it’s too easy to leave a little bit of stem or leaf in the soil), incorporate lots of organic matter and plant some of the gorgeous new varieties. These are often more mildew-resistant, and providing they are bought from a professional grower they should be clean of eelworm.

Of the new varieties there are one or two that are becoming very popular, and with good reason. Phlox paniculata ‘David’ is a highly-scented, strong-growing variety that is resistant to mildew and its porcelain white heads repeat until the autumn.

Phlox paniculata ‘Rosa Pastell’ carries large loose heads of pale, flesh pink flowers from darker buds until September. It has an especially strong perfume, is vigorous and easy to grow. And Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’ is especially sought after for its ‘blue’ flowers, the colour of a stormy sky at dusk. It marries well with the mauve spikes of Veronicastrum virginicum, and is exceptional with pink forms of Hydrangea macrophylla in a little light shade.

Once the early summer bloomers are over: the Iris sibirica, the early Thalictrums; and the first Geraniums and perennial poppies, have been cut back, then clumps of tall Border Phlox will carry the border through into the autumn, filling the garden with that unique scent, humming with bees, and dancing with butterflies.

Sally Gregson
July 2019

Somerset Wildlife Trust – Open Gardens

With an estimated 124,500 gardens in Somerset, covering 19 square kilometres of the county, the gardens of Somerset have huge potential for nature. So Somerset Wildlife Trust are developing an open gardens programme in order to inspire people to make their own gardens more friendly towards wildlife, as well as to raise funds for the Trust.

Sunday 4th August 2019, 11am – 4pm : Somerset’s Wildlife Garden: Badbury Flower Company

Helen Toon

Badbury Flower Company are opening their flower gardens in aid of Somerset Wildlife Trust. This is a truly inspiring place to visit and everyone will leave wanting to be a Flower Farmer. Ticket sales are kindly being donated to Somerset Wildlife Trust, and proceeds from other stalls are going towards the Isle Abbotts village hall. The garden is wheelchair accessible, however there are grassy paths and uneven ground. Tickets £4.
Badbury Dairy House, Isle Abbotts, TA3 6RS
More information:

Somerset’s Wildlife Garden: Hillcrest

Garden viewings by prior arrangement between March and September

Charles and Charlotte Sunquist

Hillcrest is a 5-acre garden with so many special places within it that everyone can find a perfect spot to sit and contemplate. The lawn is the most formal part of the garden but is perfect for cartwheels! It has incredible far reaching views overlooking the Somerset Levels. You can see Glastonbury Tor and Burrow Mump but Hillcrest has its own standing stone if you would like something even closer. There is a very large wild flower meadow leading down to an enormous wildlife pond full of dragonflies. There are bee hives to visit too with a bee expert on hand to answer any questions you may have about these essential visitors to our gardens.
Hillcrest, Curload, Stoke St Gregory, Taunton, Somerset, TA3 6LA

More information: 01823 490852 or email

Somerset’s Wildlife Garden: Broomclose

Garden viewings by prior arrangement between April and September

Nicky Ramsay

A large wildlife-friendly garden with a huge array of plants for pollinators and with views over the Vale of Porlock to the sea.

To arrange a visit, please contact Nicky or David Ramsay. Broomclose, Porlock, Minehead, Somerset TA24 8NU

More information: 01643 862078 or email

Nerine & Amaryllid Society Agapanthus Day 2019


Agapanthus in the garden with Lady Christine Skelmersdale and Bob Brown

A long involvement with Agapanthus, from observing agapanthus in the wild, knowing Lewis Palmer, originator of the hardy Headbourne Hybrid agapanthus to introducing a number of varieties through Broadleigh Bulbs & chairing the recent RHS Agapanthus Trial means that Lady Skelmersdale is particularly well placed to talk about agapanthus in the garden.

As co-owner of Cotswold Garden Flowers, responsible for introducing many hardy & half hardy plants to British gardeners, Bob Brown is a keen observer of trends & developments among many groups of plants, including agapanthus.

Followed by lunch

An afternoon visit to Craig Garth, National Collection of Agapanthus, Green St, Cam Green, Cam, Gloucestershire GL11 5HW

Demonstrations of Agapanthus propagation by Mike Grimshaw, National Collection Holder

Cost £15 (Nerine & Amaryllid Society Members) £22 (non-members) includes talks, lunch, garden entrance, drinks & cake.

Registration/ payment by PayPal / website

or cheques payable to the Nerine & Amaryllid Society sent to M.A.J. Allison, 79 Byron Rd, Cheltenham, Glos GL51 7EY

Numbers are limited, early booking is advised. Please state any dietary requirements when making your booking.

Enquiries: Malcolm Allison 01242256349 /

Sunday 7th July – HPS Somerset Summer Plant Fair

Lower Severalls Garden, Crewkerne, TA18 7NX

10am – 4pm

Admission: £3.50 for all HPS members (£4 for non-members)

The garden at Lower Severalls is set in front of a beautiful hamstone 17th century farmhouse, with a formal front garden and borders full of colourful herbaceous perennials and herbs.  It has been owned by the Pring family for 90 years and has featured in Gardens Illustrated.

The stalls at the Summer Plant Fair will be arranged outside the grounds this year, leaving the garden unencumbered for everyone to enjoy.   Mary, who now runs a B&B in the farmhouse, will be providing us with her homemade cakes, tea, coffee and elderflower cordial.

The garden is home to CB Plants, a traditional nursery run by Catherine Bond, specialising in unusual hardy perennials, wild flowers and cottage garden favourites.  All the plants are grown in peat-free compost and many are of benefit to wildlife, being nectar-rich and great for attracting pollinating insects.

This promises to be a great day out, so come and pick up a treasure or two.  

Nurseries attending will include:

  • Mill Cottage Plants
  • Hardy Way Plants
  • In Clover
  • MAJ Allison Plants
  • Blooming Hill Plants
  • Shady Plants
  • Pickett Lane Nursery
  • Fox Plants
  • Phoenix Plants
  • Elworthy Plants
  • Barracott Plants
  • CB Plants

In addition we have two non-plant tables:

  • Andrew Tolman (Arthur & Strange)
  • Somerset Wild life Trust.

Plant of the Month: Rosa Madame Alfred Carrière – 1879

That roses are all about opulence, indulgence, hedonism, I never found out until my thirties. My early experiences of the stiff, inelegant, synthetic modern roses found them wanting. It was not until I saw Peter Beales’ stand at Chelsea one year that I discovered their romance: the colours, the perfume, their sheer joie-de-vivre.

During the late Victorian era thousands of roses were bred, introduced, and vanished again. Occasionally the odd survivor lives on unrecognised in an old garden, its name long forgotten. That some are still available in rose nurseries often owes much to their tenacity and their willingness to put up with less than ideal conditions. Or perhaps to their exotic French name, and their exceptional scent.

When Vita Sackville West planted roses at Sissinghurst, she was inspired by the legend of the Sleeping Beauty and the old tudor Tower. She loved the story of the gallant prince who cut swathes of roses to climb the tower and waken the princess with a kiss. But the stiff hybrid teas and floribundas of the early ‘30s did not seem to fit the bill.

So she searched in small old nurseries for those unfashionable roses that had all but disappeared by the turn of the 20th century and discovered one or two languishing in a corner, unnamed and unloved. She identified them and commissioned more from the nurserymen.

Word of her quest spread and quite soon she was filling her new Rose Garden with more of the glorious ‘old’ roses. She loved their names, their perfume, and, controversially, their single-flowering. She would say that no-one expected, or wanted, their daffodils to flower out of season. So it should be with roses.

One of her favourites, among many, was Rosa ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’. She climbs, vigorously, at least to the eaves, even on a north-facing wall. Her flowers are loose and palest flesh pink, with an exquisite true-rose perfume. The foliage is apple-green, and scented of apples too, and the flowering starts in June and continues until the autumn. La Madame seems to combine all the very best attributes of any rose of any age. She really is a grand ‘old’ trooper.

Sally Gregson