Once upon a glorious sunny day (actually last Tuesday), I braved a rather gruesome M25 to join Joy and Jane in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for one day of their garden tour visiting rarely accessible gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll.
We were shown round each garden by the gardener, starting with Jekyll’s own garden at Munstead Wood. She began creating the garden in 1883 and commissioned her friend Edwin Lutyens to design the house. There is something very casual and comfortable about the garden and it is easy to feel very at home there. The triangular Summer Garden, also called the Three Corner Garden, was densely populated with blooming foxgloves, iris, lupins and dhalias. Both Munstead Wood itself and adjoining The Quadrangle (Jekyll’s experimental garden) are adorned with elegant Munstead White foxgloves, with beautiful green mottling and slightly shiny leaves.
At the restored Quadrangle you can see an experiment that Jekyll never got round to herself. She suggested that a lovely border could be created backed with redcurrant and Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) – and now it has been. David Austin Roses introduced a rather lovely crimson rose in 2007 called Munstead Wood and I had the opportunity to admire some fine specimens.
Later, we visted another Jekyll and Lutyens collaboration – Millmead. It is a dignified terraced town garden with a charming summer house, that has been recreated in the Jekyll style garden at Godalming Museum.
Guests stay in either Heath House (Joy’s B&B) or Nurscombe (Jane’s B&B) which I can only imagine is a very great pleasure. I popped into Nurscombe for a quick look round and had lunch at Heath House. Joy is a fine cook and even made an ice bowl embedded with flower petals to serve dessert. I have every intention of having a go at making one myself.
I would strongly recommend booking yourself a place on the next tour (dates are 7th-10th September 2009) – see Surrey Garden Tours for more information.