A visit to a stately home combined with a garden show? Count me in.
I was very excited to attend the second Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair at Audley End in Essex at the beginning of the month. Gardeners’ World Live in association with English Heritage, which is the custodian of this opulent Jacobean mansion, have created a smaller show which works very well. Tickets allow access to the events, talks and stalls at the Fair, but also enables visitors to explore the elegant Capability Brown-designed parkland, gardens, grand hall, stables, chapel and the wonderful walled Kitchen Garden (more of that in a moment) of Audley End.
After a hectic drive – a combination of back to school traffic and yet another rail strike, it was a joy to step out of the car into an immersive day of plants and gardens. The Fair includes a programme of talks, hands-on classes, and best of all, a series of compact 9m square show gardens, or Beautiful Borders. As the owner of a 12mx9m garden, this could not be more welcome, and the friend I was visiting with was also looking for ideas for the modestly sized garden of her new London home.
We both liked this one, with the tiniest pond. It wasn’t trying to be clever, each of the elements just worked so well together, making something imaginative yet achievable.
Another favourite was Our Brewable Border by Anna Johnston and Charlotte Seers. Every plant in this garden could be made into a tisane, whether it was from the roots, flowers or foliage. It combined wild, informal and potted plants in a stylish mix. I really did want to pull up a chair and put that beautiful orange kettle on.
Cara Thompson’s Make It Flourish showed how an inexpensive gravel path, planted informally at the edges, can transform a small area.
Lucy Chamberlain, head gardener at East Donyland Hall, created this beautiful plot with Audley End kitchen gardeners Gemma Sturges and Kelly Fuller. The Edible Garden Through Time celebrated the sheer joyful nostalgia of greenhouses, veg plots, cutting patches and tea and cake outside. It was wildlife-friendly, too. I’m here for it all.
The miniature greenhouse was a delight – I’ve already had quite a few people asking if I knew who manufactures it after I posted this picture on my Instagram account. I do not know, but I intend to find out!
After seeing this show garden, listening to a fascinating talk by Gardeners’ World presenter Frances Tophill while sitting in the sun, and exploring all the plant stalls in great detail, my friend and I were ready to see the Walled Kitchen Garden, a short walk away from the show ground site.
I think the pictures speak for themselves here. I wished I had my sketch book with me, stepping inside was a really amazing sensory experience….
A riot of dahlias, nasturtiums, echinacea, heleniums, with ripening apples and pears and grapes on the vine….
I could go on!
The rich colours of September – golds, peach, dark red, russet.
A pleached fig tree and dark foliage dahlias. There were also pumpkins swelling on the ground, and glasshouses full of scarlet chillis and plump tomatoes.
A covetable pelargonium collection in one glass house and a succulent gathering in another.
The organic Kitchen Garden is a wonderful place to gain ideas for late summer interest. The gaura looked particularly lovely. I have had success with these in a pot this year. I’ll definitely be growing more next year.
And just a few more shots from the vegetable patch…
Rhubarb forcer of dreams….I’ll keep looking out for one at the car boot sale, but somehow I think I’ll be waiting a long time.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable show with practical advice, manageable show gardens, an accessible site and not so large as to be overwhelming. The option to wander off and chill in the grounds was very welcome, too.
I’d recommend a visit here next year.
We will be back!