I have a beautiful book by Dan Pearson called Spirit. I love the way he writes; each piece draws you into the page until you feel that you are sharing the space with him (if only…!). Since owning the book, I have always wanted to visit Rousham, an Oxfordshire garden that has changed little in design since it was completed around 1740 by William Kent, and so I was delighted when Mr Murphy suggested a mini weekend garden visit, to a garden of my choosing.

I could barely contain my excitement as we approached the very simple entrance. The handwritten signage gives a clue to the  experience that awaits. And it is an experience, too; all your senses are stretched by the delights that begin even before you reach the garden proper. From the honesty-box ticket machine in the old stable yard, and the painted sign (no children under 15, no pushchairs, no dogs), to the free-range posh hens scuffing around in the dust, this is a place that holds many surprises.

And we’re not even in there yet.

Passing a small conservatory housing potted geraniums with self-seeding lavender in the gravel path leading to it, you round the house and your breath is taken away by the expanse of perfectly mowed formal lawn, gravel paths running round the perimeter and an absolutely massive and knock-you-over yew hedge along the right hand side. I immediately felt like Alice in Wonderland in an out of scale world as I noticed a tiny gap in the hedge showing a flash of colour beyond.

I needed an ‘Eat me’ cake.

The hedge is deep and hollow enough for a good den, and I couldn’t help but think of the children who have grown up with this fabulous garden, making camps and playing hide and seek among the branches. Before you venture into the bright garden beyond the hedge, you are tempted by a narrow path one person wide, running the length of the hedge and toward to a wooded area. This would have to wait. The draw of the long boarders the other side of the gate was too strong to ignore.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The most beautiful espalier (is this the right way to spell it?) apple trees lined a path. They were all different varieties, and some plants looked as though they’d been there forever. So much for a bad year for fruit – these trees were drooping with deliciousness.

Even in late September this rose was covered in blooms and looked stunning.

Rousham surprises you at every turn. One moment you are concealed within a shady, overhanging tree, turn a corner and you’re faced with a  doorway through to another world. The walled garden was bursting with rows of dahlias, cosmos and zingy zinnias that would bring a smile to anyone lucky enough to have a jug of these jewel-like beauties on their kitchen table.

After the eye-popping colours of the cutting garden, we found ourselves in a part of the garden so peaceful it made us stop and catch our breaths. A lawn of the deepest, lushest green was cast with tall shadows from various surrounding trees and a perfectly placed table and chairs added to the scene. I wondered if very soon a tea party would be set up and Alice herself would appear…

Walk along the dahlia border, (and I have never seen dahlias quite like it!) and you will reach the rose garden complete with peacocks strutting their stuff. Nothing too unusual about that, apart form the most beautiful dove cote smack bang in the middle of it, with then most fabulous fruit trees trained to curl around its walls.

Sneak past the walled garden and back to the lawn, and two gaps in the trees beckon you forward leading down to steep banks towards a more informal and wild part of the garden. This part of Rousham has a very different atmosphere and is a wonderfully tranquil place to wander, and as you do you feel your shoulders relax, your chest open and your walk slow to an almost meditative pace. A magical place.

A narrow rill snakes through the trees from a small secluded octagonal Icepool, and out onto the much larger pool in a setting that provides a bright breathing space and views far into the distance. On further and you reach a covered walkway with the softest light and views that have you wondering if you are back in the 1800s.

Mr Murphy had to drag me away from this fabulous garden, but the promise of a return trip had me reaching for my diary. On the way back to the car, by the ticket machine, I noticed a scrap of paper with a faded scribbled note left by the Rousham’s owners, the Cottrell-Dormers. This really was the stuff of Wonderland as far as Mr Murphy was concerned – a recommendation to a local pub. Now, who were we to turn down such a tipoff? We had a delightful lunch at The Oxford Arms and not a Mad Hatter in sight.

Please go and visit Rousham. It’s gorgeous.

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I am very excited about my new knitting project, and even more excited to realise that the colours match the lovely September sunset!

That’s it.

Made me smile.

Harvest time is finally here. The rain has stopped for who knows how long, and the sun has come out. As the tractors busy themselves in the fields surrounding our house, I took a quiet moment (hard to find during the summer holidays, but today I was lucky!) to just stand and listen to the silence and soft sound of the corn ears splitting in the warmth of the sun. Every day the children ask if it’s ‘combine day’ for the field behind our garden. It has become a summer ritual to invite friends to tea and run up and down the garden in races with the tractor, the biggest smiles and whoops when Ed the farmer gives them a wave. Even as they get older, it still holds the same amount of fun and I hope it continues for many years to come.

This evening the sky is particularly pretty and I had to share my lovely view. Hope you like it!

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I’d love to say that I set this up, but it would be a lie. The bottles are on the kitchen table, the flowers are in them just like that (the first sweet peas – can anything beat them?), but what I really really love is the light that blasts straight through the glass and makes the best shadows. The graphic design side of me is rather pleased with the spacing and the simple graphic shapes, too. (Hmmm, is that going a bit too far?!)

Anyway, I just wanted to share my little sun-shiny moment. Hope you like it too.

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This gorgeous dahlia has come into bloom in April’s Little Garden this week. It shouldn’t surprise me, but to be totally honest, I am knocked out by it. I lifted the sorry, bedraggled plant from a derelict patch of ground behind the cottage said friend is renovating, at completely the wrong time of year, potted it immediately into any old compost, crossed my fingers and willed it to live. Oh boy, has it loved the rough treatment! Every tiny scrap of tuber has produced thick stems of vibrant green stalks and enough fat buds to keep April’s vases full of colour for weeks. As long as the pesky black fly take the Fairy Liquid hint…

Across the garden is the new border that I designed in the spring. It was planted as April’s surprise birthday present from ‘the girls’ when she was away on a family weekend. All the recent rain has worked wonders and everything has begun to knit together very nicely. This week I am particularly pleased with the combination of stachys byzantium and geranium Kashmir White, and I’m sure that as the weeks pass there will be new favourite plant companions. The delicate lines on the geranium’s petals reflect the fine hairs on the stachys, and the silvery colour brightens even the dreariest day. Next year the nigella will joint the shimmering party when the seeds thrown in at the last minute show their bobbly heads.

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I hope to be able to show more of this border as each plant reveals its delights for the first time. Watch this space…

This is the very first bloom from my new rose, rosa mundi, which is in the border right outside my kitchen door. I love the way the petals look like an explosion in a raspberry ripple factory, or one of those delicious meringues from halsey’s deli. In fact, I have spent more time looking at that than I really should. However, it was an afternoon for desk time, hard as that was, given the call of the garden, Wimbledon and all…

I had received an email from a fabulous PR friend who does work for plantify.co.uk, an on-line garden website which specialises in british grown plants from specialist nurseries. It’s worth checking out, they are also supporting the Badger Beer Garden at Hampton Court next week. The designers won a silver at Chelsea this year with the garden for World Vision (it was the one with the gorgeous pulsing water at the centre) and judging from the plan this looks to be an interesting wild-Dorset-countryside-meets-contemporary-landscaping mix. I can’t wait to see it. (There is also a very tenuous link in that the design team (FlemondsMorlandDesign) studied at Capel Manor College which is where I’m off to in September. That makes us nearly friends doesn’t it?!!).

I visited the Cottesbrooke Gardeners’ Fair the other day. It was great to see that the typical English weather we have been experiencing lately hadn’t put off us hardy gardeners. Keen to spot a new something or other, we always claim to have ‘just the right spot’ for our new acquisitions, and even as I arrived at 10.30, there were people leaving with cars full to the brim of pots and gadgets, and the latest perennial (or 5!) bursting out of wound down windows. I was determined to resist, telling myself I was purely there for inspiration and research purposes.

The Lodge Farm Plants stand immediately had me mentally redesigning my entire garden and turning it all to meadow. Tucked away from their main tables was a trough bursting with riotous colour almost too vivid to be true. Just gorgeous and perfect for bees.

Not only were there numerous stands of tempting plants and bits and bobs that we really really DO need, Cottesbrooke has a lovely garden to wander around. A new little gravel garden with a black oval pool in it’s centre caught my eye. The water was level with the path and was causing many people to make an abrupt stop before getting even wetter than they already were. I also wandered a little further and into the Wild Garden. Now then. This was right up my street. A beautifully positioned acer, underplanted with a mass of shuttlecock ferns took my breath away as I came into the calm little valley, and away from the hustle and bustle of the show.

I managed to squeeze every minute out of my day and already look forward to my next research trip – wherever that may be.

And did I resist the plant purchase temptation? Silly question… All in the name of research, you understand.

These lovely poppies (eschzolzia californica) have self-seeded themselves along the front of my greenhouse. I love the variety of shades of orange, albeit subtle, and the way they bob about in the breeze. I must remember to gather the seed this year and throw it about to brighten some other corners of the garden.

Shot with retroCamera’s Little Orange Box for really zingy colours.

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