The Endsleigh Gardener Summer 2024

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The mile long rhododendron lined tunnel of a drive, acts as a portal to another world

Summer 2024

By Ben Ruscombe-King, The Endsleigh Gardener

Chelsea flower show, that traditional punctuation mark of the gardener’s year, is now over and we move from spring’s charm and hope to the untrammelled and riotous growth of summer. At Endsleigh the contrast is marked, the dell moves from its dainty spring garb to its more strident summer attire, the swathes of spring wild flowers: primroses, wild garlic and columbine are pushed aside by the bully boys of summer, ferns such as Matteuchia and Dryopteris smother the higher banks whilst the streamside pathways become verdant tunnels beneath the towering umbrella like leaves of Gunnera and the majestic fronds of the royal fern, Osmunda regalis. Pontaderia, arum and darmera adorn the pond margins and shimmering blue damoiselles flutter along the stream sides and dragonflies hover over pools. The genteel spring garden is replaced by a seething primordial jungle, it becomes a place of adventure. The best way to experience the dell in summer is to completely lose oneself in it, both in reality and metaphorically. To wander deep into the woods, until one has lost all sense of direction, to discover exotic trees, panoramic views of the surrounding valley, disturb unsuspecting deer and rekindle the make believe of childhood. Just as one begins to suspect one has ventured too far, a view of the house presents itself far away across the valley, a beacon of civilization for lost explorers.

The garden in the summer is all about the contrasts: the formality of the geometric beds in the parterre against the meandering paths of the dell, the neatly striped lawns around the hotel against the billowing meadows rolling down to the river Tamar and the south facing, sun-baked (we live in hope) terrace, against cool shade and gushing streams of the valley. Whilst the dell, with its waterfalls and secret tunnels offers the backdrop for heroic adventure, the rose arch in full bloom, above the long border, offers sophistication, the crunch of the gravel underfoot and scent drifting through the air, the crisply cut yew hedges, it is the scene for a romantic tryst or rendezvous.

The long border is full of flower during the summer months and busy with bees and butterflies feasting on the nectar. Lupins and delphiniums offer a second flush whilst agapanthus echo their blue tones and yellow kniphofia offer contrast. Eupatorium, helenium and persicaria offer late summer colour whilst verbena, sidalcea, knautia and cirsium are dotted through the scene. Annual cosmos, nigella, cornflower and cleome are added to fill late summer gaps and gaudier zinnia added to temper good taste.

This year the parterre will be planted with statice, inspired by a visit to the Alhambra many years ago, it adds a juxtaposition to the geometric beds, being freer than traditional bedding, if not exactly wild. The jumble of colour sits well amongst the relaxing sounds of the fountain and burbling rills and when the sun shines it offers a calming sanctuary reminiscent of islamic gardens.

Perhaps the greatest contrast at Endsleigh is that between it and the outside world. The mile long rhododendron lined tunnel of a drive, acts as a portal to another world. A world where time stands still, where anything is possible and nothing is quite what it seems.

Garden map

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Leave the bees and butterflies to the mercy of French air traffic control. Book a room at Endsleigh this summer and immerse yourself in Repton’s garden paradise.

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