On September 27th, en route for Taunton I visited the famous cottage gardens created 75 years ago at East Lambrook by the late plantswoman, Margery Fish.  A career in newspapers on Fleet Street led to marriage with the editor of the Daily Mail, Walter Fish, in 1933.  They moved to Somerset in 1937 to begin the project of restoring East Lambrook Manor, a medieval hall house.

Margery Fish came to gardening in her mid-forties but soon developed a passion for the cottage garden style creating an informal garden at East Lambrook of both old-fashioned and contemporary plants.  The garden is small but divided into different areas to best show off the plants.  Stone paths (complete with fossils – see photo’) weave through densely-planted borders – at this time of year the seedheads of the cardoons give dramatic impact in the low afternoon sun.  Huge clumps of tall grasses act as punctuation marks between the terraces and the ‘white garden’.  Borders of the later-flowering perennials such as rudbeckia, kniphofia, asters, dahlias and helianthus give early autumn interest whilst giant cosmos spill over the paths.  The garden is renowned for a collection of unusual snowdrops in February in the ‘ditch’ area (new varieties are discovered here such as Galanthus ‘Sir Henry B-C’ in 2006),  together with hellebores.  Some of the hardy geraniums, for which the garden is also famous, were still flowering.

The plant nursery is impressive with healthy specimens at very reasonable prices – notably a good selection of hardy geraniums.  The house and garden are privately-owned and the house is not open to the public.  However, there is a very good cafe/tea room in the Malthouse building.  East Lambrook Manor offer Diplomas in Horticulture and Garden History on a part-time basis, one day a week over 30 weeks.  www.eastlambrook.com

A “must visit” if you are in the area – it is only a few miles from the main A303.

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