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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2017-10-26T10:47:35+00:00July 26th, 2016|Tags: |


  1. M. L. Kappa July 26, 2016 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    What a lovely place! And I so love statues in gardens.

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      This statue has a restful quality about it. It looks so much at peace with the world and perfect for this garden.

  2. Mark and Gaz July 26, 2016 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Looking great with its setting and naturalistic planting. And a good plant centre to cap it off, looking forward to your post about that already!

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      A good plant centre is worth its weight in gold. Whilst this one is not exactly round the corner it is near enough for the odd pilgrimage!

  3. Kris P July 26, 2016 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    Honestly, nothing beats an English garden, especially in summer!

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      Especially if it is a nice day. We had lovely warm weather which was especially nice as the couple of weeks preceding it had been dire.

  4. Brian Skeys July 26, 2016 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    Some wonderful pictures, I do like the one of the bridge with its reflection in the lake creating what the Japanese call an almond eye bridge.

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:11 pm - Reply

      I didn’t notice the reflection actually until I looked at the photo on the computer. I’d just been trying to get a shot of the bridge glimpsed through the trees. I like the idea of almond eye.

  5. Pauline July 26, 2016 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    It is a wonderful garden, we have been quite a few times, the last time being when we made the bog garden here and came home with a car full of Astilbes!

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      It’s certainly given me great inspiration for our own boggy patch, when we get around to developing it. And at least I now know where to go for the plants.

  6. wherefivevalleysmeet July 26, 2016 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    I always love and admire the wonderful colours of Candelabra primulas but sadly they will not grow for me as we are far too dry on our hilltop. I would be happy to give the Canadian geese a miss though, they make such a frightful mess on the grass.

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      They do make a mess but the youngsters were so cute, they still had some of their baby fluff.

  7. justjilluk July 26, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    Thanks for taking us there. Beautiful.

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      My pleasure Jill!

  8. Christina July 26, 2016 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Hi Jessica, wow, what a jaw dropping garden! I was totally unaware of its existence when we visited Devon three years ago, otherwise I certainly had stopped by. It is truly a “must see.” So I am so glad that you are sharing some photos of it on your blog.
    The bog garden is absolutely stunning and I really like the bird sculptures (geese?) taking of from the water.
    I also love the Dierama, so pretty.
    I am on the same page with your regarding pink and red Astilbes, I just don’t like them. The white one on the other hand I think are quite beautiful. Go figure…
    Wishing you some lovely summer days!
    Warm regards,

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      It looks to me as if one is a goose and one a swan but I didn’t see them in the ‘flesh’ as it were. That was the point Mike was on his own. It was an unusual outing because usually we compose the photos together. I had to keep asking him where he’d taken them to get the sequence right in my mind.

  9. jannaschreier July 26, 2016 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Definitely looking forward to my visit. Not only plants but geese!

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      And ducks. Don’t forget the Australian plants!

  10. jenhumm116 July 26, 2016 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful garden – thanks for letting us come along!

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      It’s a very tranquil place, one of the things I like most about it.

  11. Jacqueline July 26, 2016 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    A beautiful garden …… lovely planting, love the clashing colours { very now in fashion too !! } and very special visitors ….. I absolutely LOVE kingfishers …. just wondering how you can almost see a kingfisher !!!!!!! ? XXXX

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      I believe they saw just a blue flash on a bird as it swooped by above the stream. One of the group did try to capture it on camera but it was just too quick!

  12. Sue Garrett July 26, 2016 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    A beautiful garden. I love the borders and water areas.

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      The bog garden was absolutely beautiful, especially viewed from next to the statue, looking down the stream.

  13. germac4 July 27, 2016 at 12:44 am - Reply

    I think Dr Smart’s statue is a perfect resting place. A lovely garden altogether, and I love the layers of small stone walls in the scree garden. My absolute favourite flower is the Alstroemeria………The Canada goose looks enormous!

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      I’m sure the goose is well fed but not that huge. Must be the camera angle! They were very friendly geese too.

  14. Beth @ PlantPostings July 27, 2016 at 2:55 am - Reply

    Oh gosh, that is an amazing place! The scree, with the stone wall/backdrop speaks to me. Sigh…

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      It’s lovely isn’t it. I’ve often wondered whether I should turn our terraces into a scree. But the height here is greater. The smaller plants might look a bit lost. At Marwood the proportions were perfect.

  15. Cathy July 27, 2016 at 9:26 am - Reply

    A garden I’ve always wanted to visit, Jessica. Thanks for sharing. And, oh, for some English rain! Nice to think of Dr Smart enjoying the ‘froth’ after a hectic day.

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      It must be nice to get your garden to the stage where you can just relax in it.. aspirational! But then he had a team of gardeners.

  16. Chloris July 27, 2016 at 9:32 am - Reply

    What a fabulous garden, I specially love the bog garden and those ducks just taking off. I wonder what you bought?

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 10:00 pm - Reply

      Too much! Achillea ‘Inca Gold’ and Campanula ‘Pritchard’s Variety’, a beautiful combo. Achillea ‘Salmon Beauty’. A couple of veronicastrums whose tags are currently outside in the dark. Geranium ‘Rosemoor’. Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’. A rodgersia, tag also outside.

  17. Marian St.Clair July 27, 2016 at 10:55 am - Reply

    Stunning garden…Dr Jimmy certainly had a remarkable understanding of nature and an eye for beauty.

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      Definitely. He turned a wet garden into a wonderful opportunity.

  18. frayedattheedge July 27, 2016 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    I’ve just shown the post to Malcolm – so that’s another place on our to-visit list! I love astilbes – I’ve had them in all of my gardens!

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      I do like the white astilbes I must admit. And the red.

  19. Rick July 27, 2016 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Love to see all the pictures rd, many plants I have and do grow even including Morina longifolia which I grew from seed. Candelabra primulas (as a Primula fanatic) are my big favourites and I love Dieramas but for some reason i.e. too wet and cold mine always die, they do grow very well in Eire where it is damp but milder. My criticism is that such great days out can be really interesting to true horticultural fans but when fed on TV to the general public as something they can take ideas from I find it a matter of misinformation unless space, for example, to have drifts of plants is available.

    • Jessica July 27, 2016 at 10:34 pm - Reply

      I seem to remember reading that Dieramas like moist soil in full sun, a tricky combination. So far so good with a sunny spot and the maximum bore irrigation pipe. Mine do seem to lean over somewhat though, so I’m not sure whether that’s over or under watering. Or perhaps the nature of the beast!

  20. smallsunnygarden July 28, 2016 at 1:02 am - Reply

    Lovely! I share your views on pink froth as a rule, but I’ve always liked Astilbe — where else can one find that texture?! Now about the scree garden… my sister was looking over my shoulder as I read (it happens often on your posts 😉 ) and suggested we make a desert scree area here… not a bad idea perhaps, as some of the good desert plants dislike our local clay soil. You never know where you may find a great gardening idea…!

    • Jessica July 28, 2016 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      Oooh, I look forward to seeing that! The terraces here are probably the best drained areas of the garden and so much easier to work. Plus the different levels give you a whole new perspective. It works for me.

  21. Cathy July 28, 2016 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Oh those borders, and the bog garden….lovely, lovely. Interesting to read about the collection of Japanese irises – when mine flowered properly this year after a very long absence I realised how much I liked them, and far more so than any other irises (it’s the ‘horizontal’ shape of the flowers, I think) but they don’t seem to be as readily available to buy, not that I have searched extensively as I am not buying this year!!

    • Jessica July 28, 2016 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      I don’t know how you’ve kept up your no buy policy. Kudos. I would have given in long before now.

  22. Brenda July 28, 2016 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Imagine having that garden in which to unwind at the end of the day. Bliss. Now I will explain my messy grass patches and brush piles as a planned part of our wildlife-friendly garden!

    • Jessica July 28, 2016 at 9:56 pm - Reply

      Most of the garden here is still undeveloped. Calling it a wild garden for nature feels so much better!

  23. Jo July 28, 2016 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    It looks fabulous. I’m with you on the astilbes, I can’t say I’m a lover of them but they look fabulous growing en masse as do the candelabra primulas. They have a great display at Harlow Carr and the clashing colours just add to their effect.

    • Jessica July 28, 2016 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      The clashing colours really do work don’t they. I’ve started to experiment using other plants in similar tones. They’re certainly unmissable!

  24. Josephine July 28, 2016 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Simply a magical garden.
    Thank you for sharing it’s beauty.

    • Jessica July 31, 2016 at 5:52 pm - Reply

      It’s my pleasure Jo!

  25. S J West July 29, 2016 at 10:17 am - Reply

    You do visit some wonderful gardens with your group. It’s lovely for the garden creator not to be forgotten by that lovely statue. Sarah x

    • Jessica July 31, 2016 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      Yes, his presence in the garden is very clearly felt.

  26. Rosie July 30, 2016 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    What an amazing garden. Everything looks wonderful but I was struck by your photos of both the walled garden and the bog garden. Looks like you had a great visit:)

    • Jessica July 31, 2016 at 5:57 pm - Reply

      I’d love to have a walled garden. It’s obviously a well protected space because there are some wonderful plants growing there including salvias which are generally far too tender for me to grow.

  27. Wendy July 30, 2016 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    It all looks lovely to wander around – and it’s interesting to see what’s flowering there now. It’s obviously worth a visit in spring, too.

    • Jessica July 31, 2016 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      Definitely worth a spring visit… on the list!

  28. CherryPie July 31, 2016 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Oh, this looks like a wonderful garden to visit. I have not heard of it before.

    • Jessica August 1, 2016 at 7:14 am - Reply

      It’s pretty much tucked away, but worth seeking out.

  29. Caroline August 1, 2016 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Oh I do wish I had a green finger. Such lovely photographs of a beautiful garden.

    • Jessica August 2, 2016 at 6:41 am - Reply

      I came back with great ideas, whether I can make them work is another matter! Thanks Caroline.

  30. Pam August 2, 2016 at 10:17 am - Reply

    That looks pretty special! But the morina? Oh how many times have I tried to grow that! I first saw it at Howard Hall in Yorkshire twenty years ago. But no. Not seed, not plant nor cutting. It will not grow here. Reduced to drooling over it in other gardens xx

    • Jessica August 2, 2016 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      I’d never seen the morina before Marwood. If it grows there then theoretically I should be able to grow it too because the conditions are similar. Of course that means nothing in practice.. tempted to give it a try though.

      • Pam August 3, 2016 at 8:08 pm - Reply

        We can both give it a go! Off to look for seeds and best sowing time…..again!!

        • Jessica August 5, 2016 at 6:55 pm - Reply

          With the spiky foliage hopefully some of my usual pests will give it a wide berth!

  31. Indie August 2, 2016 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels that way about Astilbe! My inheritances are also banished to the edges of the yard. 🙂 What a beautiful garden, though! I love that Morina longifolia and the Dierama!

    • Jessica August 2, 2016 at 9:40 pm - Reply

      I’ve planted the astilbes with grasses where they don’t actually look too bad. What I love about them most is the emerging foliage, a fact that has saved many a specimen up to now..

  32. casa mariposa August 4, 2016 at 3:04 am - Reply

    What a beautiful garden! I wish I’d been there to see it. I love dierama but it’s not hardy here.

    • Jessica August 5, 2016 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      We were extremely lucky with the weather which really made the day. Colours show up better when it’s cloudy but you really can’t beat wandering around an English garden in the sunshine.

  33. cherylwest2015 August 6, 2016 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    What a glorious place. My husband is English and often says how he wishes we had a walled garden. He also finds great peace coming home to our garden at the end of a busy day.
    Thank you for another wonderful outing.

    • Jessica August 6, 2016 at 9:56 pm - Reply

      A garden is such a restful thing to have. It’s been a cool summer here and I’ve really missed being able to sit out comfortably in the evening, just listening to the bees buzzing and watching the change in the light.

  34. stephanie young August 6, 2016 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    i adore traveling with you….you go to the BEST gardens!!! 🙂

    • Jessica August 6, 2016 at 10:00 pm - Reply

      In the nation of gardeners I’m rather spoilt for choice. Thanks Steph.

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