Marwood Hill, North Devon

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Marwood Hill Gardens


Earlier this month we had the pleasure of another superb outing with the Twitter and Facebook gardening group AllHorts. Marwood Hill is a privately owned 20 acre garden* just four miles from Barnstaple in North Devon, created in the late 1950’s. And what a truly stunning place it is.


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Cornus kousa


In Spring it is awash with colour from shrubs and trees including 80 specimens of magnolia and a staggering 800 cultivars of camellia. Some of these are grown in a large greenhouse alongside the plant centre with many others dotted around the garden itself. But Marwood is by no means a one season garden, in summer it is no less spectacular.


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There are three National Collections held at Marwood: Japanese Iris, Tulbaghia and, here, Astilbes. Not being the greatest fan of pink froth I must admit to banishing my own inheritances to remote corners of the garden but amassed together in a natural setting alongside water they do look impressive.


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At the top of the hill a walled garden provides a choice collection of plants, familiar..


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Allium christophii

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And the less well known..

Morina longifolia

“Himalayan Whorl Flower”


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The scree garden


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Marwood is tended with wildlife front of mind. Tucked away around the gardens are piles of branches and mounds of leaves for the benefit of bugs and beasts. Kingfishers are regular visitors to the lake and areas of rough grass provide both food and hibernating sites for the young of many butterflies and moths. (Info from Marwood’s website here.) Mike did indeed witness the speeding blue flash of a kingfisher but it was too quick for his camera.


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There are numerous places to sit and just breathe deeply. If they think you might come bearing food it won’t be long before the wildlife join in..


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Canada goose with young


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There are three lakes in total, connected by a stream. It is such a peaceful place to wander. Up hill and down dale, through wooded areas and out into sunlit clearings.


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Hydrangea serrata var thunbergii


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But the real highlight of Marwood at this time of year is without doubt the Bog Garden.


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A riot of colour and texture from candelabra primroses, irises, Rodgersia and much much more. All ‘watched over’ by the creator of the garden, Dr Jimmy Smart VMH. A medical doctor in General Practice, could there have been a better place for him to unwind after the stresses of the day?


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A spot where he would undoubtedly have stood many, many times. Dr Smart died in May 2002 aged 88 leaving the garden to his nephew John Snowdon.


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Candelabra primulas

Who ever said pink and orange don’t go?


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Rushing water from the stream


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Bloomin’ marvellous


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Tree ferns and gunnera


It was at this point that I somehow became separated from Mike. He stayed streamside, where he almost saw the kingfisher, and I climbed the hill. I would have shown you photographs from more of the woodland, rare shrubs and several champion trees but, sadly, Mike had the camera. I’m thinking it’s high time I got one of my own.


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He didn’t stay AWOL for long of course. Especially as stomachs were by that time starting to rumble. After a very pleasant lunch in the sunshine chatting to fellow AllHorts there was really only one thing for it. I did make mention of a plant centre, didn’t I? It’s a good one. Such treats are not something one comes by each and every day in this part of the world and I may have come away with a considerable haul. We’d intended to go back to see the parts of the garden we’d missed but dragging the laden trolley back to the car park pretty much did me in.


There might just have to be a part 2.. from the day I return, cheque book in hand.


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Vibrant Alstroemeria


*Marwood Hill Gardens are open daily from 1st March to 30th September 10am – 5pm

Marwood Hill

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