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Tucked down in the southwest corner of England, Devon is a county tailor-made for the garden-visiting connoisseur: a dramatically contrasting landscape of moorland, wooded coombes, seascapes, and rich, red earth. Here, we have chosen a selection of contrasting gardens that in their own way are all pushing boundaries and breaking the mould. We have found some exceptional gardens, including Wildside, described as ‘the most innovative, daring and vibrant new garden in Britain’; Plaz Metaxu, an ambitious, contemporary, and challenging, intellectual garden; and Mothecombe where we visit a garden planted to attract bees as well as butterflies, slow worms, frogs, and dragonflies. To cap it all, we stay at the enchanting Hotel Endsleigh overlooking the fast-flowing River Tamar with stunning gardens thought to be one of the last commissions of renowned, early 19th-century landscape gardener Humphry Repton. Originally a hunting lodge belonging to the Dukes of Bedford, the house has been beautifully renovated and adapted by hotelier Olga Polizzi of the famous Forte family; all in all, the perfect base for a tour of the gardens of this beautiful region.
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This tour starts at Tiverton Parkway Railway Station at 11:00. From Tiverton, we drive the short distance to view a private garden encasing an old farmhouse. A garden of colour and perfume, lovingly cared for by garden designer and plantoholic Alasdair Cameron and his wife Tor. Lunch follows in a local inn before driving to Hotel Endsleigh with plenty of time to settle in before meeting up for a pre-dinner talk given by Tour Host, Keith Wiley. Keith will share with us his horticultural journey and explain his approach to gardening. Dine together at Hotel Endsleigh.
Step out the door for a special tour of the gardens at Hotel Endsleigh with the Head Gardener Ben Rushcombe-King through wooded walks, past the old dairy, round to the Shell House and along stunning terraced borders. Following a light lunch at the hotel we travel together to the village of Buckland Monachoram to visit Wildside, created by Keith Wiley and his late wife Ros. Using an excavator, Keith has sculpted a completely new landscape from a gently sloping field and, with great skill and daring, planted it with a thriving abundance of wonderful plants. Return to the hotel with time to change before dining together.
Drive southeast to the English Riviera to visit Coleton Fishacre, an Arts & Crafts house and gardens that sweep down to the sea, now famous for rich sub-tropical plantings that come into their own in the summer. Further along the coast, Mothecombe House nestles in a wooded fold behind the sandy mouth of the River Erme. Here we find a clutch of walled gardens, one of which has become a bee haven. Among the swathes of predominantly blue and purple bee attractive plants we find eighteen different lavender species. After lunch at Mothecombe we travel on for a very privileged visit to a private garden with elevated panoramic sea views designed by Dan Pearson 10 years ago comprising ornamental walled garden, productive garden, herb terrace, glasshouse, and domestic orchards. Return to Hotel Endsleigh to dine together this evening.
As we move eastwards away from the Tamar Valley we are invited to another special garden, Plaz Metaxu (‘the place that is in-between’) where owner Alasdair Forbes will introduce us to his challenging symbolic garden, one of the most ambitious in the country. After a delicious lunch together, we return to Tiverton Parkway for 15:00.