I received a warm welcome at Bradness Gallery and Garden from Mike Cruickshank and Emma Burnett – two artists whose love of colour and strong images has led them to create a beautiful and tranquil garden, filled with blooms and birdsong!  The garden falls gently away behind their studio and the timber-framed farmhouse which dates from 1370.  Twenty-five years in the making, Mike explained that the garden was originally a field with a boggy area down at the bottom bordered by a stream.  A digger was borrowed and two gracefully curving ponds were scooped out of the clay – now a haven for wildlife including kingfishers, dragonflies and wild ducks (we spotted a female sitting on her nest, well camouflaged under the trees on the island in the middle of the large pool).   Two silver birches were planted by Mike near to the ponds when they were first created and the stuctural foliage planting around the edge, including gunnera and darmera, is highlighted at this time of the year by vibrant hemerocallis, achillea, drifts of native lythrum – and a later-flowering ceanothus, one of the lighter blue varieties, really catches the eye.  I love the idea of  creating an underground hibernaculum by lifting turf and digging out a safe haven  for reptiles and amphibians such as toads (which have the delightful Latin name of ‘Bufo bufo’, I learned from ‘The Garden’ magazine today!)  – must look into doing this in our own garden.  It really was a day of scattered showers and sunshine, as they say, and as we sipped our tea and chatted, a few drops of rain started falling so we simply decamped to the shelter of a convenient tree – there are trees aplenty including old established willows,  liquidambar and acers to name but a few.  Old English shrub roses provide wonderful scent and huge clumps of agyranthemums billow from the island beds.  There are vegetable parterres, a cutting garden and a newly-planted camomile bank is a great idea in front of the vegetable area.  Bradness was open for its first NGS Open Garden season this year with glorious weather throughout April.  The June highlight was a garden open evening complete with a jazz concert where, undeterred by the stormy weather, the musicians played on an improvised ‘stage’ just inside the massive ancient barn doors!  A visit to the garden provides an opportunity to browse Mike and Emma’s beautiful paintings in the gallery and enjoy a traditional Sussex cream tea!

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