Hidcote Gardeners share knowledge with Japan as part of Rose and Garden Show in Tokyo

Hidcote’s garden team is preparing for more interest from Japanese visitors, following a successful trip to Japan where they have been sharing their knowledge of English gardens with Japanese gardeners.

As well as lecturing, Glyn Jones, the Head Gardener at Hidcote, took part in a garden show where he jointly designed an entry using English design ideas.

 The garden was part of the Rose and Garden Show held in a baseball stadium in Tokyo.

 Glyn explained: ‘A well known Japanese gardener Kay Yamada was the principle designer and I worked closely with her to create a show garden based on the Arts and Crafts movement – taking a lot of ideas from Hidcote, it had mixed borders, with perennials and spring bulbs.

 ‘It was interesting to see the different styles of the other gardens there and the high level of care and precision shown by Japanese gardeners.’

Although Kay and Glyn’s garden was not judged, it generated a lot of interest again strengthened links between the Cotswolds and gardeners in Japan.

 ‘We have been going out to Japan for the past six years or so, promoting Hidcote and the north Cotswolds and sharing our knowledge,’ added Glyn, who also undertook a short lecture tour during the trip.

‘We have links all over the world now including Sweden and the USA as well as in Japan. One of our team, Gordon Shanks, has been teaching at the Barakura school, showing how we prune rose bushes.’

 The links provide benefits for the gardeners in Hidcote as well as establishing useful links to bring interesting plants to the garden.

‘Although Japan shares a similar climate and in many regards similar gardens, they have quite a different cultural approach to some of their gardens. They can often be very symbolic and spiritual but it has helped us to recognise some of the historic features here at Hidcote. There are many small details – glimpses of a sailing ship on a Delft tile in the gazebo which is perfectly framed – which were planned carefully by Lawrence Johnson for Hidcote.

‘These glimpses are very similar to some aspects of Japanese gardening and working there helps us to understand better the genius that Lawrence had in the way he detailed the gardens.’

‘Japan has a cool climate so their gardens are often similar to English gardens – although the Japanese culture and their love of some characters always come through.

 More information is available on www.nationaltrust.org.uk/Hidcote

Spectacular snowdrops

Is there anything more delightful than a snowdrop? Pushing their gently drooping heads out from the still frosty ground, how anything so delicate and beautiful can choose to appear in gardens at this time of year is anyone’s guess.  Yet year on year the steadfast snowdrop reappears and a visit to a National Trust garden is all the better for them.

Spring is a time not to be missed at National Trust gardens and countryside across the South West.

Snowdrops are expected to be at their best from early February and many National Trust properties, including Fyne Court, Kingston Lacey, Dunster Castle, Arlington Court, Trelissick, Killerton and Lanhydrock will be open allowing walks among the displays.

The garden team at Dunster Castle and gardens planted thousands of snowdrops and bluebells in readiness for spring, ably assisted by green fingered younger volunteers from Dunster First School.

Robin Andrews, Head Gardener at Dunster, said: “We’re expecting a spectacular display this year.

“There are quite a few types of snowdrop that many visitors can see here, including some that they may not be aware of: the common snowdrop, giant snowdrop and Crimean snowdrop.  We’ve planted a 1000 of each variety in the castle gardens as well as 6000 common snowdrops in the river gardens too.

The snowdrops at Fyne Court were believed to have been planted in the 1800s as part of the original Arcadian landscape designed. They were planted to represent light and contrasted in places with the dark, which in this case were laurel bushes with their shiny dark green leaves.

To check on snowdrop events across the South West, please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Let’s hear it for Val!

There is no greater accolade for a working gardener than to be invited by the Royal Horticultural Society to become an Associate of Honour. Val Anderson, Head Gardener at Antony in Cornwall, recently received this award in recognition both of her 35 years of outstanding work at Antony and of her passion and dedication to the training of the gardeners of the future. Many current National Trust gardeners owe their start in horticulture to Val’s inspirational guidance, encouragement and commitment during their three-year traineeships at Antony.

There are never more than 100 RHS Associates of Honour at any one time, so this truly is a rare and distinguished achievement. Val collected her gold medal at Hampton Court last summer in exalted horticultural company, including Sir Roy Strong, Alan Titchmarsh and Roy Lancaster (who took the photograph, left). ‘It was’, Val said, ‘really special, great fun and one of the best days of my life’. Her proudest moment came when John Sales, formerly the Trust’s chief gardens adviser, said that her award was ‘richly deserved’, to which we would all say: hear hear!

Val Anderson

Val at the awards ceremony, flanked by former National Trust colleagues Peter Hall (left), who also received the Assoiciate of Honour, and Michael Hickson (right), formerly Head Gardener at Knightshayes Court, who received the Victoria Medal of Honour.

At the start of her career, Val worked in commercial nurseries and her main interest was in propagating; she never expected to become involved in amenity horticulture and says of Antony ‘when I came here, I wasn’t stopping’. But it got to her, as it does to so many visitors who return again and again to enjoy the beautiful formal garden around the 18th-century house, and the huge and glorious woodland garden that is owned by the Carew-Pole family who gave Antony to the Trust in 1961 and still live here today. Val says: ‘It’s the whole thing: the setting, the staff and volunteers who work here, the plant collection, the way that the garden has developed so much… it just draws me back all the time.’

The woodland garden reopens on 1 March; the house and garden on 29 March. The year-long Alice Experience, inspired by the filming of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland here, is no more but Alice fans will be still be able to discover the rabbit hole in the garden.