East Lambrook Manor. 15.02.13

Our springtime gallop around the south-west continues in the Somerset sunshine. East Lambrook Manor was home to the lovely Mrs Marjorie Fish and her books made it famous. Since those times the gardens has waxed and waned but in recent years its fortunes have once again risen. The garden has seen a lot of changes but the original spirit seems to be returning.

The old barn is now a cafe and visitor centre. It provides all the essential facilities for modern garden visitors.

The borders between the barn and the house have survived the decades of change almost intact. This is the sunniest corner of the garden and Mrs Fish's famous silver garden can still be found here. Over the years it has consolidated into an attractive feature (which was not its early destiny).

This has always been a marvellous garden for the spring with significant collections of Hellebores and Snowdops. Recently there has been a strong effort to plant for the later season with collections of Geraniums and Asters. This Miscanthus has a warm colour and a comfortable shape. In the bright sunlight I found that I had cast a very similar shadow.

Many of the Hellebores in this end of the garden come straight from the 1970's. Hellebore breeding has come a very long way since then and improvements are well represented at the other end of the garden but here the past is preserved in its dignified antiquity. It is like finding a bottle of horse tonic at the back of a shed, useless but cheering. This Helleborus Kochii Group was probably one of the best yellows of its era but things have moved on and nowadays one wouldn't try to cure a horse with a shot of brown stuff from an unmarked bottle.

The snowdrop collection is once again prospering at East Lambrook Manor. It would be nice to think that this Galanthus 'Straffan' was the original stock that Mrs Fish grew. Sadly it may be that all the original names were lost and this is a later replacement.

The Ditch Garden was a clever innovation. It allowed Mrs Fish to grow her small plants in the ground and then inspect them at eye level. Unfortunately we have had a very wet year and the ditch is currently fulfilling its original purpose.

The lovely Crocus tomasinianus prospers in the garden and seeds through all the old borders. Here they provide a moment of spring perfection grouped under a tree in front of the house. I was green with envy and unlike the Crocus I didn't go pink in the sun.

The spring garden is a wonderful recent addition, capturing the spirit of the original garden and creating space for the best new plants. The success of this approach is demonstrated by the coaches of visitors that regularly fill the car park.

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