“Here at Barnsdale………”

Can you read that title without hearing the familiar tones of Geoff Hamilton on Gardener’s World?  Presenter on the programme from 1979 until his death in 1996, he was responsible for moving the show’s venue to his own garden at Barnsdale  and creating the many individual gardens to demonstrate styles of gardening and size of pocket.  Dubbed ‘the People’s Gardener’ because of his accessible approach and recognition that most people do not have pots of money to spend on their gardens, he is still for me the very best ‘TV gardener’.

Nick, Geoff’s son, now runs Barnsdale and we were very lucky to have him give Plant Heritage Friends and supporters a guided tour of the gardens.  I am not going to try and describe the gardens, you need to visit them to really appreciate them, but I will try to distill some of the essence of our visit.  Like his father, Nick is a natural, effortless communicator and he explained the ethos behind the gardens.  First of all ‘enjoyment’ both on the screen and in the flesh.  Second, they are a source of ideas – and Nick says he often sees couples at the end of a visit with the wife bubbling over with plans and the husband in some trepidation about the list of jobs in front of him.  Lastly and perhaps most important of all, the gardens are representative of what most of us have at home.  Each garden could be recreated in a ‘normal’ garden and some of the gardens are designed with different budgets in mind such as the pair of Cottage Gardens, Artisan and Gentleman’s.  The former is stocked with plants from  cuttings, seeds or divisions and everything is homemade.  The latter has £3000 worth of hardwood trellis and handmade bricks for the paths.

‘£2.50’ obelisk with ballcock finial

In 1995, ahead of his time, Geoff created a garden using reclaimed or recycled materials – floorboards for fencing, reclaimed bricks for edging and paving and an immersion heater reformed into a water feature.

Nick and his team are continually redeveloping the gardens and the Children’s Garden, opened last summer, is one recent change.  Designed by Jasmin, winner of a local schools competition, Nick told us that it was one of the most enjoyable things he has ever done.  Almost all of the garden designs included environmental aspects – bird feeders, flowers for bees, a bird hide and most of them featured water which plays an important part in many of the gardens at Barnsdale, from formal rills and fountains to bog gardens.  Nick believes that water should be accessible, so there are no fences or barriers, even in this garden.

A complete contrast is the Japanese garden; the solid bamboo fence which had blown down was being replace with an open trellis – made from the recycled canes of the old fence.

Each garden area has a seasonal descriptive plaque and everything is beautifully labelled so you can make notes of what to buy in the nursery on the way out.  Completely independently Joanna and I both bought plants of Gillenia ‘Trifoliata’ as a souvenir of our fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable day.

We very much appreciated our special guided tour from Nick and Hozelock‘s sponsorship of the day.

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