Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Final Fix of Great British Gardens

In case you've been missing my regular scribblings of horticultural trivia and wonder why I've not posted for some days, I can explain. I've not been lazy - well actually I have - I've just spent six very lazy days on the Queen Mary 2 and what an experience! Not much horticulture, although there was a vegetable carving demonstration, artificial palms in the Winter Garden and a real orchid on the piano in the Commodore Bar! The internet was awful but it was mid Atlantic - anyway that's my excuse for not blogging! I will post later about the QM2 but for now I'll catch up on our time in Bournemouth.

The Italian Garden
Before we left dry land we just had to visit Compton Acres Gardens - actually and amazingly, it was Philip, the non-gardener, who suggested it. Had he heard of the rather fine tea rooms with cream cakes and chilled wine? Compton Acres is a very easy garden to enjoy - colourful and in easily digested bite sized chunks. Because of this I tend to feel it is a tourist garden rather than one for the serious horticulturalist, although I am sure that a careful study over the seasons would reveal an extensive plant collection and we certainly enjoyed it. Amazingly there seems to be very little documented about the garden. (Somebody enlighten me?) It seems to be a late example of the high Victorian style, but made in the 1920's. There are seven distinct gardens, including a Roman garden, an Italian garden, the palm court, a Japanese garden, the semi-tropical glen, an extensive rock garden, woodland walk and heather garden. And did I mention two tea rooms?

Cosmos Purity & Verbena bonariense

Hydrangea villosa

Waterlilies - not sure which one

Phyllostachys Aurea - is this right?

Colour in the sub-tropical link

Some great topiary in the Italian Garden

Rhododendron sino-grande - great foliage even without flowers.

During the early 20C, Gertrude Jekyll was at her most influential, designing gardens which moved away from Victorian formality towards looser co-ordinated planting. She often utilised themes borders or specific gardens.  Hidcote Manor Gardens were developed from around 1910 and Sissinghurst was made in the 1930's but both laid out as a series of garden 'rooms'. Both were innovative in their time and looked forward to new landscape styles but Compton Acres, although similar with its different themed compartments, seems to look back to the 19C.

A corner of the Japanese garden - rather too luxuriant for Japanese formality

The rock garden - great scale but needing over-hauling

The heather garden - needs some good summer cultivars

Over the years the gardens have exchanged ownership and passed through various phases of neglect and refurbishment. Currently the gardens are well maintained but there is little sign of ongoing development and major restoration. Some gardens such as the Japanese garden, rock garden and heather garden would benefit from major overhauls.The bedding in the Italian garden is very formal and traditional but rightly so and exhibits some good colour schemes and well grown plants. It would appear that more has been spent in recent years on the fine cafes and gift shops than the garden itself. The plant centre had a tantalizing array of plant, particularly frustrating as being en route to the USA, I could buy nothing. And I just have to have a colour co-ordinated designer wheelbarrow.

I just love the colour - do you think they'd ship to the USA?

Curiously the gardens were offered for sale in 2011 with an asking price of £5M. (Must remember to buy my lottery tickets!) Sadly the periphery of the garden is very built-up with tall blocks of flats and there is reference on-line to planning permission granted in 2009 for a hotel on some of Compton's land. Does one detect a financial problem? And yes the tea rooms were worth the visit - Philip started on the chilled Pinot Grigio whilst I took more photos, then I joined him for a glass of bubbly and a slice of raspberry roulade! By the way, this garden is open free for RHS members so remember your ticket if you visit - I hadn't!


  1. Tea rooms are the saving grace of most thriving gardens/nurseries these days. Why not I suppose, they do complement each other and attracts customers. I think it's a fantastic looking garden, and yes some bits could do with overhauling but overall it still looks lovely. The bamboo is not P. aurea, more likely P. vivax aureocaulis or P. aureosulcata spectabilis, difficult to say for certain without closer photos.

    A pink wheelbarrow....hmmmm :)

    1. When I went recently there was a label saying Phyllostachys vivax aureocaulis. Some big caulms that I could only just get thumb and index finger round :)