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.


2018-10-04T21:09:58+00:00September 12th, 2018|Tags: |


  1. An Eye For Detail September 12, 2018 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    This entire place, and your wonderful images, really takes my breath away! How absolutely magnificent. I doubt I will ever get there, but thank you for showing us. Just so gorgeous…..

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      Next time you come over remember there are plenty of wonderful gardens in the West Country!
      Stay safe in Florence Libby, it sounds frightening.

  2. Christina September 12, 2018 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    I’ve visited on a couple of occasions and while I have enjoyed the garden on both occasions, I didn’t feel the same rapture as you – I’m not sure why. I saw it in spring with masses of tulips and last July on a very cold wet day! There is much to admire but I felt it over gardened.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      I can understand what you mean Christina. I think perhaps the farther you wander from the house the wilder and more natural it gets. Plus this late in the season the garden is starting to look a little more relaxed than perhaps it does in mid summer.

  3. smallsunnygarden September 12, 2018 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    So much to inspire – just from your post, and I’m sure much more so in person. So glad that the anemones managed to hitch a ride back as well as the Hacquetia! 😉

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      It remains to be seen whether the anemone will survive, I’ve had mixed success so far. It doesn’t stop me trying though!

  4. grammapenny September 12, 2018 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Yummy… I want those dahlias too…what a gorgeous place

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      I love the simpler, smaller dahlias. ‘Dark Desire’ hit just the right spot!

  5. Peter Herpst September 12, 2018 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Wow! So much beauty to take in. What a gorgeous garden and your pictures capture it well.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks Peter. It’s the setting that really makes it. All those lovely stone walls. I’ve always hankered after a walled garden.

  6. Linda from Each Little World September 12, 2018 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    Drop dead gorgeous image after image. Your photos really do it justice esp. the stipa and sanguisorga. One of the most perfect plant combos I’ve ever seen. I guess we all know deep down that great gardens take a lot of work and tweaking to look this fabulous. But we always hope that someone will admit that it’s easy care, low maintenance. Imagine the effort in just taking care of that skinny evergreen hedge!! I’m going back to look at everything again.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      Yes indeed. And of course they have a whole team of gardeners and here it’s mostly just me. But I have started spreading my prairie perennials around more randomly in an attempt to create those fabulous interwoven drifts. Always exciting to see what comes back next year and whether it has worked!

  7. Heyjude September 12, 2018 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    I gasped from one image to the next, thinking, this is my favourite bit, no this is my favourite bit. In the end I think the walled garden does it for me. I could live there. We nearly visited last year in spring time, but ran out of days. I am now thinking that a day out might be warranted before these colours disappear. Thanks for the virtual visit and splendid photos 😀

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      Oh gosh yes, do go. There is so much colour still and it will get even better once the leaves start to turn. The Acer Glade must be fabulous!

  8. wherefivevalleysmeet September 12, 2018 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    I have never even heard of this beautiful garden before Jessica, and it really is sublime. I wonder how they keep those hedges so sinuous and yet green – mine get wider and wider even though they are cut every year. What a joy those colourful dahlias are to see as we start to say goodbye to summer for this year.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      The hedges, tapered to the top edge were fabulous. I’m tempted to try, if only to keep the pigeons from landing on the top. But knowing the pigeons they would try to land anyway and just collapse it!

  9. Kris P September 12, 2018 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    An incredible garden even for a country hosting zillions of incredible gardens. And you’ve now added more dahlias to the already long list I don’t have space for.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      Sorry. Dahlias don’t do well for me as a rule. The slugs mainly. And here of course they need lifting every winter if they have any chance of surviving. But I’d really like to try some in containers on the basis that I can just lift the whole kit and caboodle into the greenhouse when it turns cold.

  10. Torrington Tina September 12, 2018 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Envy, envy, I must get there sometime soon. It looks wonderful. In the meantime your lovely picyures have whet my appetite even more. Brilliant.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      It really is a lovely garden. And we found a good place to eat en route.. on the list?

  11. janesmudgeegarden September 12, 2018 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    I just loved the walk through this garden with you and oohed and ahead at your stunning photos, especially the Dark Desire Dahlia- such a rich red and that gorgeously egg-yollky yellow behind. No wonder you grabbed that dahlia, I would have done too. And all those wending paths…hard not to run through the gate to find out what is on the other side.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      I love gardens where you have to explore. It gave me so many ideas for here, especially the paths through the trees and shrubbery. If only I had their team of gardeners, and budget!

  12. greentapestry September 12, 2018 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    Oh thanks for sharing you visit Jessica 🙂 We’ve stopped off at the Garden House couple of times en route back from France and thought that garden was quite magical. It’s been a few years since our last visit though so will have to do something to remedy that. Have you visited Wildside which as you will know is just down the road?

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      I didn’t know about Wildside and looked it up. Thank you Anna! Keith Wiley’s own garden would be a treat. I have noted the dates for 2019.

  13. hb September 12, 2018 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    If there was such a thing as Heaven, surely it would be that garden.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:04 pm - Reply


  14. Pauline September 13, 2018 at 5:47 am - Reply

    Wonderful ! I have visited a few times at different times of year, but never in September. Last time we went it was to see all the Acers in Oct/Nov and they were stunning. I don’t think it matters what time of year you visit, it is always a stunning garden, full of inspiration.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:08 pm - Reply

      It’s a hard trick to pull off, an all seasons garden. Certainly you need a lot of space which they obviously have. But the planting is so well layered that really anywhere you looked was pleasing to the eye and I can imagine it would be the same throughout the year.

  15. germac4G September 13, 2018 at 6:19 am - Reply

    Absolutely wonderful, my kind of garden in every way, (which is a small problem as I live in Australia). We will definitely put this one on our list to visit when next we are in Britain, I hope it remains the same…congratulations goes to the owners and gardeners. I will look out for the Dark Desire Dahlia, it is special. Thanks for the tour, I enjoyed every minute looking at your lovely photos.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks Gerrie. Australian gardens can be just as beautiful, just different. At least the ones I got to visit anyway!

  16. Virginia September 13, 2018 at 6:28 am - Reply

    Wonderful! A well deserved break for you Jessica, and a delight for us followers. We had a lovely big garden in our last house, and Japanese anemones had a bed all of their own, largely owing to how DETERMINEDLY they took over! Everyone was most impressed, as if we’d gone to great efforts!

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:17 pm - Reply

      I was bored the other night and trawling the archives of TV programmes to watch came across an old Monty Don ‘Around the World in 80 Gardens’ featuring Australia and NZ. Fabulous! One thing that he mentioned was how fast everything grows out there. Japanese anemones are slower for me. Maybe the lower temps, or the rain, or the heavy soil. I have read so many times they can be invasive. But not here. Remind me I said that if things change..

  17. derrickjknight September 13, 2018 at 9:22 am - Reply

    So beautifully photographed and eloquently described

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks Derrick 🙂

  18. Susan Garrett September 13, 2018 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    A lovely garden. I can’t get over how green and lush everything looks. Many gardens we have visited this year look dry and tired.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:21 pm - Reply

      A month ago it probably would have been the same but we’ve had a fair bit of rain recently. Even our lawn (far less well tended) is bright green again now, wind back a few weeks and it was brown.

  19. Chloris September 13, 2018 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Yes, it’s certainly one of my favourites. I have never seen it in September. Gorgeous photos. Thank you, I enjoyed the post.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks Chloris. I should go back more frequently, in all the seasons. From what I saw I don’t think I’d be disappointed any time.

  20. Mary September 13, 2018 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Glorious! Every time you looked at one photo, you couldn’t imagine anything better. But you would be wrong! Each photo leading on and on to yet one fabulous display after another. I can just imagine you gasping through the place and being unable to write down all the things you would like to buy/do for your own garden fast enough to keep up with the sheer beauty of it all. Thank you for the tour of this amazing property.

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      It certainly left us with plenty of ideas. Well, I planted the anemone already.. it’s a start!!

  21. Charles September 13, 2018 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Surely those hedges are boat shaped? It looks magnificent, somewhere to go and see before we move to Hampshire. I suppose if it was up to me I think perfection in a garden like this should include topiary…

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:31 pm - Reply

      They do look like boats, you’re right. And plenty of huge borders too, with plants en masse. Well worth a visit.
      You’re leaving Somerset? What did we do?

      • Charles October 3, 2018 at 9:48 pm - Reply

        Handicapped son lives in Basingstoke so 200 mile round trip plus taking him out for a drive means 250 miles per trip. So we will move closer in a couple of years time. We went to Rosemoor last week, I think it is the best RHS garden I have seen, which is all of them except the one in Yorkshire.

        • Jessica October 5, 2018 at 9:38 am - Reply

          The scale of Rosemoor is just perfect. Plus the fact that they share similar conditions to me. I can’t help feeling if they can do it.. but then I don’t have their budget. Or an army of volunteers! We visited Wisley frequently when we lived in that neck of the woods many years ago but I haven’t seen the other two.

  22. Cathy September 13, 2018 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Simply glorious, thanks so much for sharing!

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome! The sacrifices I have to make for the blog.. 😉

  23. Denise September 13, 2018 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    It’s all just marvellous, Mrs Duck. Gorgeous photos. Thank you!

    • Jessica September 13, 2018 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      No ducks on the lake. Perhaps the only disappointment of the whole day.

  24. Jill Chandler September 13, 2018 at 11:01 pm - Reply


    • Jessica September 14, 2018 at 9:27 am - Reply

      Yes indeed. Maybe I can replicate just a little bit of it!

  25. Julieanne September 14, 2018 at 10:08 am - Reply

    The Garden House looks wonderful, I’ve just added it to my list of places to visit in Devon. I also love that Dahlia, that’s a real stunner. Wonderful photos as always Jessica

    • Jessica September 15, 2018 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks Julieanne. I love those simple, single, deeply coloured dahlias. I really must try some again.

  26. offtheedgegardening September 14, 2018 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    Not me! It looks wonderful. I hang my head in shame to confess I have never visited. Perhaps a joint visit next spring?

    • Jessica September 15, 2018 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      That sounds like an excellent idea Gill. They have a tea shop and a lovely plant centre. What’s not to love?

  27. Deenie Bell September 14, 2018 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    What a treat! Absolutely magnificent! Thanks for sharing!! Deenie

    • Jessica September 15, 2018 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      Definitely a treat! Welcome to rusty duck Deenie.

  28. Freda September 16, 2018 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the tour as I’ve never been to this garden. I love those cornus controversa (my three are between 3 and 5 feet high and very very slow growing!)

    • Jessica September 17, 2018 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      They were quite impressive. I can see the link to the Cornus kousa I have, the way the trees organise themselves into layers is just lovely.

  29. Brian Skeys September 18, 2018 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    It is one of my favourite gardens Jessica, it features in my slide show, ‘Wild Gardeners’ due to the original work there by Keith Wiley. Have you visited his garden just down the road from the GH?

    • Jessica September 18, 2018 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      We haven’t yet Brian, but I’ve noted the dates it’s open for next year! A must do I think.

  30. pollymacleod September 19, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful place and your photos are gorgeous. Those dahlias are magnificent. I adore them but they don’t do well in my garden.

    • Jessica September 19, 2018 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      They don’t do that well for me either, mostly because they get attacked by slugs. Next year I’ll have another try, I’ve seen so many lovely varieties recently but I must find a reliable way around the mollusc problem without resorting to pellets.

      • Brian Skeys October 5, 2018 at 7:27 pm - Reply

        I start my Dahlias in pots, planting them out when they are 1-2ft tall at the beginning of June. They seem to grow away from any slug damage then.

        • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 7:29 pm - Reply

          We must have a very special breed of slug here, they eat anything and everything irrespective of size. I’ve even found them six feet up the bean poles. I’ve tried planting out even fully mature dahlias and still have to dose them daily with slug pellets to keep the wretched things off. I plan to try again and leave them in pots. It seems to work with hostas.

  31. Diana Studer September 25, 2018 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    That artless natural look – like watching Maggie Smith on the stage.

    • Jessica September 27, 2018 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      Like watching Maggie Smith in anything..

  32. aberdeen gardening September 26, 2018 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Absolutely stunning and your pictures are popping.

    • Jessica September 27, 2018 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      I hope it has survived the storms we’ve had down here. But it probably has. I’m sure they’re a lot more diligent about plant support than I am..

  33. Cathy September 29, 2018 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    What a glorious garden, Jessica – and one would know that just by standing at that open gate in the wall…what an invitation is offers… Thanks for sharing

    • Jessica September 30, 2018 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      I love gardens that give you a peek into new areas before you get to them. What better way to explore.

  34. CherryPie October 1, 2018 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    This looks like a wonderful place to visit.

    • Jessica October 5, 2018 at 9:30 am - Reply

      Well worth it Cherie, if you’re ever down this way.

  35. Sarah October 2, 2018 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    It is one of the most wonderful gardens in England and we have been visiting it for so many years! We didn’t manage to get there on our latest trip to Devon so it was great to have this opportunity to visit it with you, there is always so much to see each season. Sarah x

    • Jessica October 5, 2018 at 9:32 am - Reply

      Having done Spring and Autumn I must definitely go back in high summer!

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