Stillingfleet Lodge is a special place.
The result of 40 years of sheer hard work and determination, owner and horticulturist Vanessa Cook has crammed her garden with rare and unusual plants. Featuring such planty delights as a woodland walk, wildflower meadow, an avenue of trees and an orchard, (which along with the shelter belt was on of the first parts of the garden planted) this has to be one of the finest gardens in Yorkshire.
Before getting to grips with the plethora of less usual plants, to set the scene here are a few shots of the garden, taken in May 2019.
Having been highly restrained and resisting diving straight into the plants to take some of the garden as a whole, now is the time to get stuck into the some serious plant spotting, notebook in hand…
Dicentra ‘Ivory Hearts’ looks stunning. This form, which was bred, like so many plants at the moment, in Japan has fernlike blue grey foliage and the most delightful white flowers.
Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ greets visitors with its gorgeous yellow flowers.
Lutea is that rare thing, a thornless, scrambling, rambling rose.
Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ was introduced into cultivation around 1807, when it was introduced from China.
Sir Joseph Banks, botanist, President of the Royal Horticultural Society and director at Kew Gardens, named the rose after his wife, Dorothea Lady Banks (1758‐1828), who is said to have detested rose thorns…
A close relative, Rosa banksiae var. normalis has scrambled over the garage, almost camouflaging it and turning it into a garden feature, while filling the air with its delicious scent, and delighting with its subtle, single white flowers.
A few steps further along the path reveals a huge stand of Matteuccia struthiopteris, the edible fiddlehead or shuttlecock fern, which is reported to have been an important vegetable and food source to early settlers in in Nova Scotia.
Instead of setting up a field kitchen, the camera was used to capture their awesome beauty, which has to be better than their flavour surely!
Azalea mollis was holding onto its last few flowers in the warm spring sunshine in the woodland garden which is crammed with some superb less usual shrubs and small trees.
A few paces further along the path reveals, Halesia carolina Vestita Group, the Carolina silver bell.
I have resisted Halesia for many a long year, but having spotted the silver bells, or snowdrops bathed in the May sunshine, means this is back on the ever lengthening must have list.
The residents of the garden, the Guinea Fowl were keeping a close eye on visitors; perhaps as a cunning device to prevent visitors from sneaking cuttings.
(I mean no one would ever do that would they?)
However the absolute star of the woodland garden was the Enkianthus campanulatus a plant which is often associated with acidic soils, but which can survive on a soil with a pH of 6.5 or lower. Just the sight of one raises the hairs on the back of my neck, and even the renowned plant hunter Ernest “Chinese” Wilson, described it as being one of the most beautiful shrubs in the mountains of western China.
A wander past the wildlife pond takes the visitor to the wildflower meadow, filled with orchids, cowslips and Camassia leichtliniisubsp. suksdorfii Caerulea Group; a planet that seems to be rising in popularlity, with a new Camassia meadow planted at RHS Garden Wisley, and superb stands at the wonderful Floors Castle Gardens in Kelso.
The final plant at Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens is a real show stopper, Weigela middendorffiana which was in full flower, some of which had caught the frost, but others were perfect with their spring yellow contrasting gently with orange throats that darken as the flower ages.
Stillingfleet Lodge is open regularly thought the year, and has a rare and unusual plant nursery, and a charming cafe selling fairtrade, homemade and locally made goods.
It cannot be recommended too highly.