True Inspiration: Lewis Cottage Garden


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A garden visit with a difference this weekend..

I haven’t made nearly enough of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) this year. And that must change. Stately piles and the larger set piece gardens are spectacular and will always be a must see. But what if we also want to see just how much can be achieved with the resources and budget that us mere mortals have to play with? Then it’s the collection of (mostly) private gardens contained within the ‘Yellow Book’ to which we should turn. Lewis Cottage, near Crediton, Devon, must surely be one of the best places to start.


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The Rose Parterre


But it wasn’t just the more personal nature of this garden which was different.

The visit was organised through the Facebook and Twitter group All Horts, a bunch of people brought together through a shared love of horticulture. Putting faces to the people we chat with through a computer screen every night, how much fun is that? Enormous fun as it turned out. What a great group of folks. And already the Twitter stream is buzzing with ideas for our next escapade.


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Lewis Cottage will be a tough act to follow.


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Our hosts Michael, Penny and Richard were more than generous with their hospitality, welcoming us into their home* with proper coffee and delicious sandwiches, quiche and cake. The cottage itself has been refurbished with exquisite taste and was another huge source of inspiration. Mike chose to turn a deaf ear. (I was making notes though Dearest, never fear.)

Suitably refreshed we returned to the garden and the start of the tour.


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 The Hot Border looking resplendent in its late summer colours


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Oenothera biennis


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The Tea Shed


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There are some strong similarities between Lewis Cottage and chez rusty duck.. or at least there might be in ten years’ time!

It is sited on a slope descending, very steeply in places, into a woodland valley with a stream running through the bottom. The conditions are perfect for moisture loving plants with a great deal of ooh-ing and aarr-ing from the assembled throng.


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The planting in the woodland is well chosen, keeping the overall look wild and naturalistic. Hellebores, rhododendrons, solomon’s seal, pulmonarias and exotics find their place amongst the ferns, ivy, moss and native trees. It must be even more of a picture in Spring.


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Those of you who have been following me for a while will know of my love for ducks and geese. So imagine the pleasure of emerging from the woodland to this fabulous sight…


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Lewis Cottage is a garden made to relax in. Everywhere we wandered, benches and seating encourage a moment to stop, pause and enjoy the view. A bench placed at the water’s edge made The Dew Pond no exception.


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I could have sat there for hours


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Did I mention seating?

Note the conveniently placed bottle stand. We checked. It was empty.


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Persicaria alpina


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The Hornbeam Rondel


With many thanks to All Horts and particularly Michael, Penny and Richard for a splendid day.

See you all again in Spring!


*this was a privately organised visit, but Lewis Cottage (garden only) will be open again for the NGS over several weekends next year. There is also a plant sales area, to which I may have succumbed, and an online plant shop (here)


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2017-10-24T19:32:43+00:00September 7th, 2015|Tags: |


  1. elaine September 7, 2015 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    What a lovely garden – I have only visited a few NGS gardens this year but always come away with plenty of ideas

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      It’s beautiful Elaine. It gives me hope that one day I can achieve something similar here. In the woodland, in particular, the emphasis seems to have been on adding rather than taking away, the result is very natural.

  2. cherylwest2015 September 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful and restfull garden. Thank you for taking us along. As I cannot walk any distance, I would very much appreciate all the seating opportunities.

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      It’s so nice to see a garden that is so very obviously lived in, I could easily imagine the owners strolling around it in the evening and stopping at one of the benches to take in the view.

  3. Christina September 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    A beautiful classic English garden plus gardening friends – paradise! Wish I could have joined you.

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      My first experience of doing a garden tour with like minded sorts, most of them working in horticulture, a real eye opener.

  4. Ann Edwards Photography September 7, 2015 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    just the sort of place I would choose to visit – stunning. I have also neglected to make use of the NGS scheme this year too, but will consult my little yellow book straightaway.

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 9:56 pm - Reply

      We’ve only visited one other this year and I felt so sorry for them, it was blowing a proper North Devon gale. After all the hard work it must be soul destroying.

  5. kristinrusso September 7, 2015 at 4:00 pm - Reply

    I want that tea shed so very much! *Runs outside to start building.* Thanks for posting these fabulous pictures. I’ve named my own woodland garden The Garden of Envy because I’m filling it with things that I see and covet. 🙂

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:00 pm - Reply

      It’s lovely isn’t it. I have it on the list too… after the pond. And the steps down to the woodland. And and and..

  6. Jacqueline September 7, 2015 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful garden Jessica with so many nooks and crannies and secret places and some lovely ideas to be copied !! The Yellow Book is brilliant. There is a village 5 minutes away from us and nearly everyone opens their gardens, from multi million pound houses to lovely terraced cottages to modern bungalows …… such diverse gardens and so much to see …. they all have nice cakes as well !!! XXXX

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:04 pm - Reply

      Nooks and crannies is absolutely right and I’ve only shown the bits that were easy to photograph. I find it fascinating to be following a path and come out in an area that’s totally unexpected, like the pond.

  7. Julie September 7, 2015 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Lovely garden Jessica, we missed an opening here a couple of years ago when we were visiting Devon so its lovely to see your review, some super photos too, I’d like to stumble through to a duck pond as lovely as that one too.

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:07 pm - Reply

      If you get a chance to go back you should, you won’t regret it. It’s so restful watching geese idling on a pond, as long as they’re in a good mood. These were.

  8. Mise September 7, 2015 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    A beautiful place, and an adorable, adorable bottle holder. Now I so want to see their house too. Perhaps more bottle holders?!

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      I was particularly impressed with the bottle holder and now I want one. There will need to be an internet search. Did you notice the spaces for the glasses too?

  9. Angie September 7, 2015 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    There are many things in this garden that could easily be transferred to The Rusty Duck Jessica. What a super garden to visit and like you I think I could have sat for hours by that pond too. Glad to read you and your group had a good time.

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      It made me think that I should be careful about how much I open up, with the removal of trees etc. The sense of mystery as we walk around a garden is just as important as wide sweeping views.

  10. Janet/Plantaliscious September 7, 2015 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    Fabulous. And all the better for being visited with other horticultural nutters. Sorry, I mean enthusiasts 😉

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:15 pm - Reply

      I think we’re all a bit on the nutty side.. need to be!

  11. Jennifer September 7, 2015 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    I really enjoy seeing all of these huge gardens over there. I’m impressed with how beautifully maintained they are. This one seems particularly well-loved. I’m glad you’re able to make time to visit these places, they must be a constant source of inspiration for your beautiful and skilled gardening. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:21 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jennifer. It was extremely well maintained and that takes real dedication in a garden of this size. We must visit more of these next year, time permitting, they really are a great source of ideas and inspiration.

  12. Amy September 7, 2015 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Lovely! I’m wondering what the orange flowers in photo #5 are? They’re not – oh dear – crocosmia, are they 😉 I love the looks of the fruit garden; I’ve had various ideas for an edibles garden but don’t know how I can protect a crop well enough to make it worthwhile; this one looks charming.

    • Amy September 7, 2015 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      Ha! Something has happened! I didn’t have to fill in my info this time 🙂

      • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:29 pm - Reply

        Excellent! I don’t know why though, it’s nothing I’ve done. I hope I don’t mess it up again because I need to do a WP upgrade, delayed because our hopeless broadband just won’t cope with it at the moment 🙁

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      Yes, they are crocosmia. Most likely the more modern hybrids that don’t invade.. !! It’s OK, the nightmares have gone away for this season. In black bin liners down to the dump.

  13. Freda September 7, 2015 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    Along with 6 others I open my garden every second year. I am checking around just now to see if all are willing to take part again! Love it! (It is a great motivator as you might imagine..) Do you think you might do it someday Jessica?

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      I would love to Freda. Although it will be several years before the garden will pass muster I fear.

  14. Peter/Outlaw September 7, 2015 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    A wonderful garden with both formal elements and naturalistic areas. The overall feeling is very calm and relaxed. I love it! Sorry that the bottle in the convenient stand was empty as imbibing always makes a garden tour even more enjoyable 🙂 What fun to tour a garden with other enthusiasts! There are many similarities to your own garden!

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:51 pm - Reply

      Peter I’ve always enjoyed reading your accounts of garden visits and having done one now I can only say that there will be many more next year.

  15. Christina September 7, 2015 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    Dear Jessica, what a delightful garden! And how lucky you and Mike have been to be able to tour it with a small group, including the cottage itself. I always think these type of things only happen in England. Folks are just crazy about gardening and they love to share their gardens with other likeminded people.
    The Lewis Cottage Garden is a true gem! I can’t even say which part I love the most. The Hot Border is fantastically planted, the more formal rose parterre is very beautiful as well and the more naturalistic woodland parts are very intriguing. The duck pond is such a great feature, maybe something like it is in your and Mikes future, too?
    Thanks for sharing this beautiful garden with us here on your blog!
    Warm regards,

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      I’ve been thinking about a pond ever since… There was one here but ironically we’ve just spent the whole summer filling it in! Or rather, Mike has. It was in a very stupid place though so it didn’t work as it was. It will be well down the priority list but it’s nice to dream.

  16. bumbleandme September 7, 2015 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    Great read as usual Jessica! I also visited an open garden this weekend. They are a great source of inspiration and aspiration to those of us with a more challenging gardening environment. I love how the owners of the gardens are so welcoming and happy to talk about how they got to where they are now and find it so reassuring that they too have struggled with similar issues. I love the woodland area in Lewis Cottage as I’m struggling trying to incorporate the woodland I to the garden here, the plant list is very helpful! Thanks. X

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 11:46 pm - Reply

      Visiting gardens which are similar to your own is a real help. The great thing about the woodland at Lewis Cottage is that it looks so natural, even though it contains many plants which have been introduced. I’d love to see it again in Spring, when the hellebores, rhodos and bluebells are in their prime.

  17. Joanne September 7, 2015 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    It looks like an absolutely delightful place to visit & the hosts sound lovely too xx

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 11:48 pm - Reply

      A thoroughly splendid day. I think everyone felt the same.

  18. jannaschreier September 7, 2015 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    And another one for my increasingly out of control to-visit-list! What a gorgeous garden. Nooks and crannies and seats and naturalistic planting and smothering climbers and herbaceous borders and little rustic handrails and, of course, ducks and geese. Divine. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos.

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 11:54 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome Janna. And the sun was out too! I thought of you when I saw the ducks and geese. I didn’t know they were there until I heard quacking through the trees.

  19. mattb325 September 7, 2015 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    What an absolutely charming garden. That hot border is very skilfully planted. You don’t often see that in home gardens. It’s hard to pick the nicest parts from the photos!!!! It looks like a lovely day out

    • Jessica September 7, 2015 at 11:59 pm - Reply

      I don’t know anything about the background of the owners, but there is real design flair in evidence, inside the house as well as out. If I can get this place to the same standard I’ll be very happy.

  20. Charlie@Seattle Trekker September 7, 2015 at 11:14 pm - Reply

    The garden is truly awesome, I particularly love the thought that went into enjoying this space.

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 12:03 am - Reply

      It must be a difficult decision, on a warm summer evening, of where to sit. There are so many beautiful alternatives. I hope the bottle holder is easy to move from place to place.

  21. Kris P September 8, 2015 at 12:54 am - Reply

    I’d have had a difficult time leaving the pond area too but those seats in the last photo are very welcoming.

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      I’ve got my eye on two chairs like that as a Stage 1 finishing present. When we have a low hedge like yours around the lawn and we can look over it to the river down below.

  22. Beth @ PlantPostings September 8, 2015 at 1:25 am - Reply

    Oh, that’s really pretty! I like the tea shed and the woodland walkway. The seating areas are creatively arranged, too.

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      I love the tea shed too. I bet there are spiders in the Virginia creeper though..

  23. Em September 8, 2015 at 8:08 am - Reply

    What a dream garden and looking amazing when most of us are struggling to keep things from flopping over! All that seating looks very appealing at the moment! X

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      They have more of the garden in full sun than us Em. Plants can grow straight up towards the light. I feel more tree work coming on. Take care x

  24. Rosemary September 8, 2015 at 8:15 am - Reply

    What a lovely garden – I predict some live ducks rather than the rusty variety moving in with you one day! Love the photo from the doorway to the garden – so inviting.

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      I’d love some ducks. But what if they set sail on the river, finished up three villages away and never come back?

  25. frayed at the edge September 8, 2015 at 8:38 am - Reply

    What a wonderful garden! I’ve loved having a large garden in the past (although not as big as that), but these days too many other things have a claim on my time!

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      They do take a lot of work. I’m struggling to keep up here. Sometimes it’s better to have a smaller garden that you can easily manage. Far less stressful.

  26. Freda September 8, 2015 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    The ducks could eat the slugs….

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 8:12 pm - Reply

      Win win! 🙂

  27. Denise September 8, 2015 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Oh, that tea shed. Not jealous. Not jealous at all…

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      I’m sure we could fashion one out of some old pallets or something. What do you reckon? Paint it a nice colour and cover it with a creeper. No-one would ever know the difference. Rustic writing den?

  28. Anna September 8, 2015 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    Oh that looks a fabulous place to visit Jessica. We’ve visited few gardens this year – National Trust or NGS. We must rectify the situation in 2016. Do I take that may “have succumbed to the plant sales area” = succumbed to the plant sale? What new gems did you come home with?

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      I restricted myself to two which I thought was commendable in the circumstances. Petasites ‘Golden Palms’ and Astilbe ‘Red Baron’. Starting to move into the bog garden..

  29. woolythymes September 8, 2015 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    what a lovely opportunity to view a private garden! our garden club of america has a visiting gardens group…..that we really need to take advantage of during our travels. such treasures shouldn’t be missed!!!

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 8:51 pm - Reply

      Absolutely. You’ll find some lovely gardens in Scotland too. All that rain!

  30. Amy at love made my home September 8, 2015 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful garden it is!!!!! They must spend an awful lot of time to make it so wonderful. How great that you got to put faces to the names of your online friends, it is always fun to do that isn’t it! I loved the tea house best of all!!! xx

    • Jessica September 8, 2015 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      It was really good to meet twitter buddies and make new friends. That’s when social networking and blogging really come into their own.

  31. Sarah September 8, 2015 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    That looks an amazing garden with so many lovely features and inspiration. You will be keeping Mike busy!. Your garden group sounds such fun, sharing your love of gardening and visiting each other’s gardens. Sarah x

    • Jessica September 10, 2015 at 9:32 am - Reply

      Yes, I’d definitely go on another of these outings. Perhaps I should have a rhododendron moving party here!

  32. Brian Skeys September 9, 2015 at 6:43 am - Reply

    This garden looks a real gem, Jessica. There are some wonderful gardens developed by enthusiastic amateurs that open for the NGS.

    • Jessica September 10, 2015 at 9:34 am - Reply

      Absolutely, your own included. Although I’m not sure I’d call you an amateur. But you have given me an appreciation of just how much work is involved!

  33. Suzanne September 10, 2015 at 12:41 am - Reply

    Very lovely. Things here in New York State and Connecticut are beyond dry. My garden lays flat. So enjoyed seeing your photos.

    • Jessica September 10, 2015 at 9:38 am - Reply

      I may complain about all the rain here, but it does leave our gardens looking lush. I’ve two dry days before it starts again, so I’ll be out there trying to get as much work done as I can. It’s not just the plants, the weeds are in overdrive and swamping the good stuff! I wish there was a happy medium for all of us. Thanks Suzanne.

  34. Jo September 10, 2015 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    I love looking around people’s private gardens, they seem more real than big stately homes somehow. There’s some wonderful areas here, the Tea Shed and those lovely duck houses on the pond, love those.

    • Jessica September 10, 2015 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      Certainly more real from our point of view Jo. I got so many ideas there. And the duck houses… perfect!

  35. Sigrun September 12, 2015 at 4:07 am - Reply

    Wow – what a garden! It is beautiful – and so special!


    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      It is a very lovely garden Sigrun. Good timing seeing it too as I’m about to start work on a couple of new areas here.

  36. bittster September 14, 2015 at 12:36 am - Reply

    How inspiring! So many great ideas and the reminder that it’s a private garden makes it even more special. I need to up my game, it puts most of my attempts to shame!

    • Jessica September 14, 2015 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      I would be quite happy with your lovely drifts of perennials. Lewis Cottage Garden has been developed over a number of years.. so I keep telling myself I’ve got a few more years to go before I should judge myself against it!

  37. Patsi September 17, 2015 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    Amazing photos ! Thanks for sharing these lovely gardens.

    • Jessica September 18, 2015 at 9:42 am - Reply

      Hi Patsi and welcome.
      Thanks. It was a beautiful garden to visit.

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