The Garden House, Devon


The Garden House, Buckland Monachorum, Devon


This place is a gem. We first visited several years ago, in Spring as I recall because it was the first time I’d ever encountered a trillium. As a newcomer to Devon and even more the inexperienced gardener it quite blew me over. The Garden House is, without doubt, a plantsman’s garden with the more unusual rubbing shoulders with the commonplace. Earlier this week, no less enthralled, I spotted the variegated foliage of Hacquetia epipactis ‘Thor’ romping through a border, not far from the site of the original trillium as it happens. I bought a tiny specimen of the hacquetia from a plant fair this Spring. If mine does half as well I shall be happy.



The Walled Garden

The two acre walled garden, built around medieval ruins with a thatched barn and a stone tower, is just sublime. It is the original part of the garden developed by Lionel and Katharine Fortescue from the 1940s.



Dahlia ‘Karma Fuchsiana’

In September dahlias reign supreme here, a fitting climax to the summer season.



Dahlia ‘Dark Desire’

This one went straight on my list..



Hydrangea, actaea, salvia, penstemon, verbena, crocosmia and many other late summer perennials will keep the colour pumping out well into autumn.

And those sinuous, immaculately clipped hedges.. how cool are they?



The rough stone walls provide the perfect backdrop from just about any camera angle.

There were plenty of these Japanese anemones for sale in the plant centre. We could speculate on whether any of them accompanied this garden visitor home. But it would probably be a pointless exercise. Most readers will have already guessed.



Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’


But glorious as it is there is much, much more to The Garden House than just the Walled Garden. Because when Lionel needed more space to expand his growing ambitions he moved out into the surrounding fields.



The Long Walk with its magnificent multi-stemmed Betula utilis var jacquemontii ‘Grayswood Ghost’

The steps lead up to..



The Magic Circle of standing stones, an echo of the garden’s location on the lower slopes of Dartmoor.



Everywhere you wander at The Garden House there are paths leading off through the lush planting with only faint glimpses, or no glimpses, of what lies beyond. The compulsion to explore is impossible to resist. A path might lead through a sun dappled glade of exotic trees and shrubs or maybe to a perfectly positioned bench to rest awhile and admire the view. Often the path opens unexpectedly on a different part of the garden entirely.



The Cottage Garden

The Garden House is really a series of gardens, each with a different theme and providing a unique experience.



The Quarry Garden

Lovely combination of textures in the plants hugging the ground alongside a bubbling stream: persicaria, bergenia, stipa and the seed heads of phlomis.



The Acer Glade

..with the first hints of the autumn firework display yet to come.



This is a garden that doesn’t stand still. Old favourites mingle with trendy new arrivals in the plant world and new areas of the garden are still being developed. The Fortescues bequeathed it to the Fortescue Garden Trust, a small independent registered charity, to preserve it for future generations. A new arboretum was planted in 2011 to celebrate the Trust’s Golden Jubilee.



At the heart of the arboretum, the lake with its floating mats of water hawthorn.



But I saved my favourite bit till last.

The Summer Garden.

Swathes of colour and movement planted in a modern naturalistic style. If this place doesn’t have the National Collection of persicaria then it bloomin’ well should have. I was in my element. Along with miscanthus, calamagrostis, eupatorium, rudbeckia and all the prairie favourites. All set against the back drop of those two magnificant wedding cake trees: Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’.



The Summer Garden was originally planted in a South African style but the cruel Dartmoor winters put paid to that. And just look at it now. Described as a ‘deconstructed herbaceous border’ it’s the look I aspire to for The Precipitous Bank. I was sad to learn that it isn’t low maintenance. While the plants may appear to be naturally weaving in amongst each other as they grow it is in fact rigorously managed. Not much space for weeds though is there?




Sanguisorba and Stipa gigantea



The Garden House (here)



Viewed as one of the finest gardens in Britain.

And who could disagree.