National Gardens Society Open Days : Vann & Parham

Arbworx goes visiting

Maternity leave may be many things – bewildering, rewarding, hard work, long nights – but it’s certainly given me the opportunity to get out and about with Poppy and visit some really beautiful gardens this Spring.

The beautiful bog garden
The beautiful bog garden

Over the last two weeks not only have we been treated to the blossoming, burgeoning bounty that is my mother’s garden in Surrey– four acres split between working kitchen gardens, floral borders and a hosta haven of a bog garden – but we have also taken advantage of the National Garden Society’s Gardens Open for Charity scheme and visited Vann, near Godalming, and Parham, closer to home near Storrington.

Vann House, Godalming, seen from the lakeside
Vann House, Godalming, seen from the lakeside

I must say that Poppy could well be the next Capability Brown or Rachel de Thame, given the thorough horticultural education she is getting at such a young age!

Vann House, Old Garden
Vann House, Old Garden

Exploring Vann with my mum, no slouch in the garden herself, was a revelation. We began with the pretty formal garden by the entrance where the Grade II listed Tudor house forms a perfect backdrop to the Old Garden, with its brick paths and topiaried yews.

The planting here features a variety of native and non-native species, including hyacinths, geraniums, cowslips and primroses, interspersed with the more exotic aquilegia and other eye-catching blooms.

Vann House, Bargate stone pergola, clematis
Vann House, Bargate stone pergola, clematis

Following the path around the corner of the house – admiring the glorious wisteria clinging to the brickwork as you go – you are treated to your first glimpse of the lake and the remarkable Bargate stone pergola.

A magnificent clematis armandii festoons the corner of the house, and I’m stepping up my (now four year long) campaign to persuade Jon to let me have one for our garden as well.

The pergola itself leads you down to the lake which is surrounded by cherry blossom, with iris and marsh marigold rampant along its banks.

Follow the stone path to the right and you enter what is, for me at least, the crowning glory of an already spectacular garden, the Water Garden – designed and laid out in 1911 by the famous Gertrude Jekyll.

Vann, water garden, fritillaries
Vann, water garden, fritillaries

Fritillaries abound on both banks of the stream running through this garden, interspersed with martagon lilies, a variety of narcissi, wild garlic, violets and bluebells. Closer to the water you can find ferns and kingcups.

However, I really fell in love with the trees here; glorious, soaring beeches with their silvery bark and palest green, lace-like foliage. The birds must love them too as the garden rang with the sound of birdsong making our wanderings a really magical experience.

If you would like to take a virtual walk through this part of the garden please visit our Flickr site by following this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sophials/5683403109/

View down the Yew Walk, Vann
View down the Yew Walk, Vann

I could happily have spent the rest of the afternoon in that one section of the garden, but we had to move on and so entered the Yew Walk – formally planted out and with two fabulous wisteria trees flanking the end of the walk.

A quick visit to the vegetable gardens revealed asparagus, artichokes and raspberry canes, as well as a surprising number of flowers, including peonies and poppies, alongside a profusion of herbs – lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage and hyssop to name but a few.

We completed our tour with a stop off in the children’s area so that Poppy could have a ride on the swing, then headed back to the car having managed to restrain ourselves from buying any of the multitude of plants for sale. Next year, I told myself, next year…

 

Although Parham was also constructed in Tudor times, it is quite a different proposition from Vann. Much larger and more commercial, it is a National Trust property and both the house and gardens are open to the public on various days from April to October. You can find out exactly which days by visiting their website at http://www.parhaminsussex.co.uk/.

Parham House, Elizabethan architecture and fountain
Parham House, Elizabethan architecture and fountain

Sunday 10th April was the annual Spring Fair at Parham and we took advantage of the Brighton Marathon drawing large crowds into town to head for Storrington and the peace and tranquillity of Parham’s beautiful gardens.

We parked Granny in the shade of a market stall in the entrance courtyard, from where she could admire the sparkling fountain and Elizabethan architecture of the house, and went through a small archway into the gardens.

Timber feature in the Walled Garden at Parham
Timber feature in the Walled Garden at Parham

Passing various stalls, including SAGA (no, not the over 50s holidays – the Storrington Allotment & Gardens Association) we entered the walled garden – mum remarking on just how much she’d love a walled garden…

Espaliered apple trees, Parham, Walled Garden
Espaliered apple trees, Parham, Walled Garden

For me the highlights were the espaliered apple trees in full bloom, and the herbaceous borders with their drifts of tulips in all colours, including an unusual green and some beautiful doubles. Peonies too are everywhere, their buds fat and glossy with the promise of blowsy blooms to come.

Happy as a pig in...
Parham's Tamworths bask in the spring sunshine

On the other side of the wall a pair of Tamworths basked contentedly in the sun – as would I with their view! All the way down a gentle grassy slope to the lake.

Saving that section of the gardens for later we meandered along the inside of the wall, admiring the crown imperials which, although impressive, seem somewhat incongruous amidst the less flamboyant glories of the rest of the herbaceous border.

Antique water pump feature, Parham
Antique water pump feature, Parham

Placed midway along some of the paths are antique water pumps – sadly no longer in use (we could certainly have done with a refreshing splash of cold water) but providing beautiful feature points nonetheless.

The little summerhouse along the wall furthest from the house contains an interesting wall relief of two skulls overlooking a coat of arms reminding us, perhaps that ‘in the midst of life, we are in death’…

Bursting with life at the corner of that path stands an exceptional weeping pear tree, which must be at least 10ft tall. I had never seen one before but it is now firmly at the top of my list of favourite trees.

Flowers in regimented lines, ready to be cut for use in displays
Flowers in regimented lines, ready to be cut for use in displays

Continuing through the cutting garden, we moved swiftly through the plant sales area – more self restraint! – headed out of the walled garden and walked along a woodland path under some magnificent aged beech trees, down towards the lake. Wild flowers bloomed in profusion here, all the species you would expect at this time of year; bluebells, daffodils and primroses.

Magnificent view down the lake, Parham
Magnificent view down the lake, Parham

Watched over benevolently by the pigs we dawdled by the lake, leaning lazily on the bridge and daydreaming that this marvellous view was ours to wake up to every day.

All too soon it was time to head back to Granny, bearing a placatory ice-cream, and we had just enough time to make a quick trip to the gift shop to stock up on birthday cards and add a new mug to my collection.

I can thoroughly recommend this shop as whoever is in charge of sourcing their stock has chosen some really nice pieces. The friendly lady on the till told me that the buying manager is new this year and has arrived armed with lots of inspiration and fresh ideas – keep up the good work is all I can say!

Poppy watching the rainbows in the fountain spray
Poppy watching the rainbows in the fountain spray, Parham

Poppy enjoyed a little splash in the fountain on the way out and was transfixed by the rainbows she could see in the spray – a well timed and refreshing episode to round off our visit to this gorgeous garden.

We will definitely be revisiting Parham again soon.

Leave a Reply