Gresgarth Hall in spring is the backdrop to one of Lancashire's finest gardens

PUBLISHED: 15:07 23 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:39 20 February 2013

Gresgarth Hall

Gresgarth Hall

This is that wonderful time of year when gardens come to life and there's nowhere better to see it than at Gresgarth. Linda Viney reports

See Gresgarth

~Hamamelis and Snowdrop Open Day is on Sunday, February 10. Mary and Ken Green from The Walled Garden at Hornby will give an informal talk about their plants on display at 2.30pm and also have a wide selection of interesting plants for sale.

Hellebore and Spring Bulbs Open Day is on Sunday, March 10. David and Gail Sheals from Summerdale House will talk about their plants on display at 2.30pm and also have a wide selection for sale. The garden is open from 11am to 3.30pm on those days with admission 8 which includes a mug of hot chocolate. To get there, leave the M6 at Junction 34 and take the A683 to Caton before turning right to Quernmore. The postcode is LA2 9NB.

Telephone 01524 771838 or check the website

Theres an old saying that a cobbler is the worst shod. Well, nothing could be further from the truth for world-renowned garden designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd.

Her own garden at Gresgarth Hall, near Caton in north Lancashire, is an inspiration. We may not have her knowledge or expertise but there are occasions when we can share the results of her passion, particularly welcome at this time of year when few gardens open to the public.

Gresgarth is a garden of seasons as the skeletal shapes of the deciduous trees open up vistas not seen when they are fully clothed.

Although I have visited these 12 acres many times over the years, this was the first time I had seen it in its winter coat. Snowdrops were piercing their delicate looking flowers through the soil and the scent from the spidery flowers of hamamelis or witch hazel - in hues of rust through to pale yellow - caught the breeze. Supported by a frame, the carefully twisted stems of dormant rambling roses entwined to show visitors what can be achieved.

Last year I made an effort to see the hellebores and on a cold, crisp and sunny day. I was overcome by the beautiful displays with colours ranging from deep burgundy through to the better known cream, more commonly called the Christmas Rose, despite belonging to the buttercup family.

Individually, each downturned flower bonnet is a wonder shielding their faces so you have to bend down and cup the flowers to admire their inner beauty.

Arabella has grouped several plants of varying hues, each complimenting the other. As with many plants the hellebore is steeped in legend and was used by the Ancient Greeks to pollute the Kirrha water supply during the siege of the city in 585 BC causing the defenders to be so weakened by sickness that they were unable to defend the city.It was also believed to have caused of the death of Alexander the Great.

Hellebores arent the only joy to behold in this 12 acre garden. On parking at the entrance you walk to the terrace surrounding the Gothic house, where Mediterranean-style plants echo her Arabellas Italian roots.

As well as structural topiary, urns and seats give an air of formality allowing you to enjoy the wonderful views across the lake. Arabella and her husband Sir Mark Lennox-Boyd moved here over 30 years ago and the lake was one of the first areas she worked on. In season, water lilies open and on the perimeter by the marginal plants the tall gunnera stand proud with their huge umbrella leaves.

Shielded on three sides by hills, the present style of the main estate stems from the 19th century thanks to the then owner Thomas Edmondson and his descendants. Artle Beck, a tributary of the Lune, runs through the grounds adding another almost romantic dimension until winter arrives it becomes a raging torrent.

Bridges allow you to cross so you get contrasting walks and, for those less adventurous, there are viewing jetties from the main planting area.

Taking the meandering path alongside, a small group of white bark birch trees surround a stone monolith of tufa with water trickling down. An arboretum houses a large variety of trees some of which Arabella has collected herself, and by climbing up to the top of the hill you get a wonderful panoramic view.

Moving back to the more formal area, clipped yew enclose and divide the colour themed gardens which are full of herbaceous planting which in winter are cut down to reveal labels so you may be tempted by what there is to follow. Labeling is very important to Arabella as is weeding.

When she is home, Arabella spends all the time she can in her gardening togs, for she is very much hands on and keeps a watchful eye on the garden which is her personal passion. The paths have been carefully designed with mosaic pebbles so as well as looking up and across make sure you also look down.

Through a gate the walled kitchen garden is used mostly for growing summer vegetables along with flowers in a traditional potager style.
The greenhouses along one wall is where Arabella will grow from seeds, propagate and catalogue any new introductions. Leaving here you can wander back along by the lake where pulmonarias are blooming and the first signs of the small narcissus together with buds appearing on the trees.

It is a testament to her skill that this garden is so stunning - she has won Gold Medals at Chelsea and designed gardens all over the world from tiny plots to grand estates. Take my advice, dont miss it. You will certainly be enticed back through the seasons and, as it is only open once a month, make sure you put the dates in your diary.

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