What’s growing on? Five of our owners on how their gardens are shaping up in Spring

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Nicola Crosse

Sawday's Expert

5 min read

With Spring sending an explosion of colour through gardens across Europe, we had our green-fingered team member Nic pluck a few of her favourites out of the collection, to make a bouquet of places perfect for seeing in the season. Here, the owners discuss their gardens in their own words, with a little from Nic about why she picked them.

Allt-y-bela, Monmouthsire

An amazing garden owned by Chelsea Gold Award winner Arne Maynard and his partner William. 

We’ve tried to create interest for every season at Allt-y-bela and often it’s the changing of the seasons that brings the most pleasure, whatever time of year. As we emerge from deep winter, the witch hazel, snowdrops and crocus give way to swathes of daffodils, hellebores, primroses and wood anemones. The magnolias along the stream are in full flower and the spring bulbs in the cut flower garden are beginning to put on a show with tulips, hyacinth and grape hyacinth all vying for attention. Last year we potted up a wonderful collection of Pulsatilla in terracotta pots that we’re now proudly showing off in front of the cottage to allow visitors to get up close to their beautiful array of colours and flower shapes. 

There really is something to delight all through the year. We have roses throughout the garden, some trained within the more formal areas, and others that clamber and drip from the trees around the waterways that meander through. The topiary provides anchor points in every season – the backdrop for everything really – and the mature trees that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by make our secluded valley quite magical.  

Allt y bela

Allt-y-bela photography by Britt Willoughby.

Having the opportunity to rest, listen and experience the garden is really important to us. We can busy ourselves with the tasks associated with creating and maintaining a garden, but it takes strength sometimes to simply enjoy it. We have a bench overlooking the kitchen garden which provides a lovely immersive view of that higher part of the garden but there are resting points throughout and we would encourage guests to bring a book and enjoy the garden from within, with a cup of something warm, or a glass of something cold!  

We are in the process of restoring two other properties on the farm that surrounds the house and we’re looking forward to being able to share them very soon. In the meantime, guests can walk up to the ridge of the hills to look back on the garden and house of Allt y bela, really getting a feel for how it nestles in the crook of the valley. It really is a very special place. 

Allt y bela

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Maison d’hôtes les Tillets B&B, Saône-et-Loire

We have many lovely French gardens but for me this one of the best. Guests who love gardening can chat to the owners about how they created the garden and maybe even take a cutting!

In April, the garden takes on its first soft colours. The yellow blossom mahonia at the bottom of the garden is the first to show, quickly followed by daffodils and narcissi. Next come the soft greens of all the boxwoods, which can take on a wide variety of hues depending on the day and light conditions. Then it’s the turn of the tree peonies, set up in 2 locations, which come into bloom with their generous white and pink flowers. All spring long, it’s a succession of colours and shapes.  

June is our favourite time to admire and relax in the garden. The days aren’t too hot, the garden is bright, the boxwoods are trimmed and the lawns, well tended, rival each other for the softness of their greens. It’s time for the roses to bloom too. I like to take a moment of peace and quiet to admire all the colour combinations. 

Maison Tillets

We planted pink Crête tulips in a secret garden sheltered from the wind and they’ll be blooming until the end of the month. The garden is full of little nooks and crannies like this, secluded in the shade or more exposed at the bottom of the garden, towards the ponds. It’s fun to try them all out, to discover the nooks and crannies, the different perspectives, but also all the different birds that come to take refuge in each spot. 

In summer, during the hottest days, the garden is an ideal place to relax in the cool shade of the century-old trees, and by the pool of the walled garden. 

Maison Tillets

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La Caparbia, Asti

A lovely little hideaway with a private pool and a garden that’s not only lovely to look at, but which you’re welcome to raid for fruit and veg.

In Winter, the yellow and blue mahonia bushes cheered us up, as well as pieris japonica and white and purple hellebores. Christmas had cotoneaster berries, butcher’s broom, holly and sasanqua camellia flowers. After the winter pruning, we’ve been waiting with great anticipation to see the garden bloom again.  

The forsythia and cydonia japonica (red and white) are already beautifully flowered, as are the heather bushes. Now we can’t wait to see our two arbours full of budding wisteria and the cascades of spireas along the paths. Immediately afterwards we will see the steps of the garden shaded by tamarisks, with irises of all colours and daffodils growing in the cooler space. 

La Caparbia

The first warm weather we get the peonies blooming too, then the rose gardens which will stay vibrant until autumn. Summer will bring us the flowering of the groves of abelias, buddleias, hydrangeas, hibiscus, oleanders, viburnums, weigelas and lagerstroemia. 

You can walk through our park where under the oaks, firs, cedars of Lebanon, lime trees, ginkgo biloba, liquidambar, maples and beeches, through the part we’ve left as a forest of chestnuts, lime and oak trees. They are great spaces for quiet contemplation and we’ve put pergolas here and there, where it’s lovely to linger with a book in hand, listening to the birds singing. 

Our garden is the result of our care for many years and is ready to welcome guests who, like us, love to immerse themselves in nature. 

La Caparbia

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Starlight Cabin at Apothecary Garden, Somerset

This is where all the botanicals are grown for Bramley and Fortnum and Mason – you can join a course and get involved, or just stroll around sniffing the familiar smells. 

Starlight Cabin sits within an organic working Apothecary Garden, where core values of sustainability flourish, driven by a deep-rooted connection to Mother Earth. Guided by biodynamic and organic principles, we’ve cultivated a harmonious ecosystem where every plant, creature, and visitor is nurtured with care and respect.  

There are rings of lavender, rows of roses, and plots of aromatic herbs, including rosemary, marjoram, and mint, to name but a few. The ancient Somerset orchard, with its gnarled apple trees full of mistletoe, gives you a taste of the region’s rich agricultural heritage. 

Our garden is lovingly maintained by experts in medicinal and apothecary plants, soil science, and horticulture. Each plant needs careful nurturing to yield the materials used in skincare and other products. But far beyond being mere ingredients, these botanical treasures are a potent expression of the care and respect that goes into their cultivation and preparation. 

Starlight Cabin at Apothecary Garden

We offer a wealth of courses throughout the year, to help people learn the art of nurturing and cultivating roses, mistletoe, and a variety of other botanical plants and herbs. You can craft hydrolats, hydrosols and macerates and immerse yourself in the therapeutic joys of working with plants. 

At the heart of our ethos lies organic composting, harmonising scientific understanding with respect for the land. Our nutrient-rich compost, enriched with the abundance of organic matter found in donkey manure, serves as the lifeblood of our garden today. Be sure to thank Eoghan & Culloden for their hard work during your stay! 

Starlight Cabin at Apothecary Garden

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Hambleton Hall Hotel & Restaurant, Rutland

This is the best of both worlds, great garden and fabulous food that makes for the perfect dinner and post-prandial walk combo.

Hambleton Hall garden is largely the creation of owner (since 1980) Tim Hart and a talented garden team headed by Rob Skinner. Tim is especially keen on trees and proud of rare trees such as, Manna Ash, Red Oak, and Black Walnut which he inherited as well as his own plantings of Cork Oak, Arbutus , Turners Oak, and many more. 

The garden enjoys remarkable views over Rutland Water and the Sitooterie (a small open sided garden building) provides the perfect spot to sit and enjoy the surroundings. The annual border provides year-round action, especially from spring bulbs and summer annuals without looking in any way “municipal”. The Mediterranean border and Parterre take advantage of the sheltered southerly aspect to showcase a collection of plants and shrubs which are quite striking and original. The garden has a strong architectural quality which pleases in the winter months. 

Hambleton Hall Hotel & Restaurant, Rutland

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Nicola Crosse

Sawday's Expert

Nic modestly describes herself as a pig keeper with typing skills. Having been at the company since it was run from an old farmhouse, she is actually the ultimate arbiter of whether or not a place is right for us. She divides her time between caring for our owners, inspecting new places and keeping her experienced eye on the quality of the collection. She is presently pigless, but plans are a-trotter for a bit of land and a new litter.
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