I first saw this garden on the NGS open gardens day a few weeks ago in the beautiful Hertfordshire village of Benington. Unfortunately, on that day the rain clouds followed us around all the open gardens which made seeing the planting difficult. I have to say that all the gardens we visited were beautiful and charming in their own way, but for me there was one that truly stood out.

Benington garden 9 Jul 14 035

One of many perspectives into the garden

I went home knowing that I just had to have another look and if at all possible on a dry day. I dropped a card through the letterbox stating how much I loved visiting the garden and asked if it would it be ok for me to make a return visit to have an in depth look. I was delighted to receive an email letting me know that it would be ok!

Entrance to garden

Side entrance to garden

I entered the garden from the side of the house and was enveloped by the foliage as I walked the small curving gravel pathway, richly planted in layers of some of my favourite plants. A corkscrew willow, lots of rambling Alchemilla mollis and Acers all invite and lead into the main part of the garden.

Highest part of the garden

A glimpse of the house

Luckily the sun shone on my second visit and I had the pleasure of meeting the garden’s co-creators Julie and Richard who are both very experienced gardeners. Working together for more than 20 years to create this beautiful cottage garden that is raised up from their house on an east-facing slope.

Geranium oxonianum thurstonianum

Geranium oxonianum thurstonianum

Julie very kindly showed me around and shared her love of her plants, especially her passion for Geraniums, which was evident as we stopped and touched large swathes of many different and exquisite varieties, such as Geranium oxonianum thurstonianum with its beautifully veined and serrated petals in a vivid magenta, a variety I had never seen before but now a ‘must have’ on my ever growing wish list!

Benington garden 9 Jul 14 007

Eryngium planum (Sea Holly)

The garden’s colour palette featured purples, blues and pinks, with lingering soft tones all around the garden.Throughout there is an abundance and diversity of greens, yellows, claret and variegation in all manner of leaf forms, which combine beautifully to create a gem of a cottage garden.

A garden retreat

A garden retreat

These gardeners’ in residence clearly have a great understanding and knowledge of plants and of creating unique areas in the garden that are rich in habitat, swathed in lyricism and planted in beautiful combinations. Richard’s inspiration for creating individual places ‘rooms’ came from visiting the renowned Sissinghurst in Kent.

Beautiful combinations

Beautiful combinations

There are several secluded areas in the garden and all are enticing retreats, a place in the garden to be still, sit and watch, something I love very much in my own home garden and of course what I aim to create when designing ‘Dingly Dells‘. The use of carefully placed arbours and seating really add mystery and gravitas to any garden.

Enticing retreat

Enticing retreat

The garden has a deep backdrop, full of evergreens, climbers and interconnected structures, such as tree boughs and archways that incorporate some very interesting shrubs, perennials and climbers.

Cotinus coggygria

Cotinus coggygria

As I began to bring my visit to a close my eye was drawn to a large ‘Cotinus coggygria’ flooded with sun light, the colour of illuminated claret, nothing quite like it for adding high contrast drama especially when planted with a west-facing back light, simply stunning.

My garden hosts very generously invited me back for next year which I have already penciled in my 2015 diary. Big thanks to Julie and Richard for letting me have a nose about and for sharing their beautiful garden!