First published in my original blog October 2012
Arley Hall is one of my favourite places in Cheshire. Its gardens are a delight throughout the year, but the historic double herbaceous borders must be the climax of any visit, rewarding you with a dazzling display of profuse colour at the height of summer.
I first visited in June 1995 and the borders, tumbling with bloom, completely took me by surprise – literally taking my breath away. I have to marvel at the skill of the gardeners who conjure up magnificent specimens of herbaceous perennials that remain relatively stunted and sparsely flowering in my own garden, despite my best efforts.
Of course, there’s much more to see at Arley and over the weekend I took advantage of a break in the October weather, to visit the gardens one last time, before they close for the season.
I wasn’t disappointed – the herbaceous borders were surprisingly colourful, retaining attractively faded flowers that provided a mellow echo of their summer vividness. The Flag Garden was still pretty, with its views over to the Clock Tower and the Tudor Barn – and the orange nasturtiums in the herb Garden glowed vivid orange in the low, bright autumn sun.
The Sundial Circle, again, was very attractive, with its symmetrical view up the steps and along the Ilex Avenue (Quercus ilex, or evergreen holm oak). Each tree is eight metres high and three metres in diameter, they were planted in the 1850s and were originally conical, however the tops have since been removed leaving them in their current, distinctive cylindrical shape.
At the base of the steps the large hydrangeas bore large, richly hued blooms. I used these as foreground interest while trying to find unusual angles from which I could capture images of the avenue.
Finally I went through the large walled garden. This was once a kitchen garden, but was redesigned in the 1960s. At the heart of this garden is a pond, complete with waterlilies, which were acquiring the coppery tones of autumn. The centre of the pond features a flower sculpture designed by Tom Leaper.
Arley is a great destination – take a look at their website for details of opening times, (I’m pleased to say they feature quite a few of my images on there; nice to see!!)