I haven't visited many gardens recently. Hopefully, next year will be more fruitful in this respect. However, there is one garden that both Thomas and I visit with huge regularity (monotonous regularity, on occasion), so I thought I'd write a short review of it.
This garden is situated in woodland, though cannot really be described as your traditional woodland garden - there is little in the way of woodland understorey such as wood anemones or even bluebells. The trees are mature, with spreading canopies. Luckily, however, the gardeners seem to manage to get a lovely green lawn to grow right up to the tree trunks - something most gardeners with mature oaks would really struggle with.
Apart from describing it as a woodland garden, it is otherwise slightly hard to categorise. It has some elements of formal bedding - the edges of the mature trees are planted up with what appear to be traditional bedding plants (begonias?). One area is dominated by large ox-eye daisies - a modern twist on the wildflower meadow.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect is that within this woodland context, the garden makers have tried to include a nod to the picturesque with the addition of a hermit's cave. Whilst the cave does lead on from what appears to be a naturally occurring ditch, the stoneworks themselves do not show a great deal of unity with the surrounding area. Rather, the cave seems 'plonked' amongst the short, well kept grass of the mature woodland. However, look carefully, and you will see a real hermit living there still. He appears to be a little obsessed with stones.
Whilst the gardens appear very well tended (a small number of what I presume to be gardeners can be seen living within the gardens themselves), it would appear that the odd bush does suffer from pest infestation. One bush in particular seems to be suffering from some sort of grub attack - possibly vine weevil. Nothing a bit of biological control or a dose of chemicals couldn't sort out, I'm sure. Other wildlife seems fairly scarce, perhaps due to the wide expanses of short turf, but there are a few birds around.
A central gazebo acts as the garden's focal point, and the garden staff meet there regularly for a dance - it is worth catching this if you are in the garden on the right day. To help the garden visitor get around, there are a couple of methods of transport, but to be honest, the drivers seem a little unconcerned about passenger safety.
Is it worth a visit? Perhaps the garden is best visited in the company of little ones.
A link to a tour of the garden.