Astilbe Ice Cream

Marwood Hill Garden was featured on Gardener’s world this month!  It was filmed on a sunny June day in 2019 and featured Malcolm Pharoah sharing his expertise on Astilbes. It was great to see Malcolm get much deserved recognition for his dedication to the national Astilbe collection and to Marwood Hill garden. Adam Frost (Presenter) also mentioned his experience in meeting with Jimmy Smart, garden creator, which he described as having left a lasting impression on him. More information about Jimmy Smart and the inspiration behind Marwood can be read here. 

Any regular visitors to our garden may also have noted some of the fantastic developments and changes to the garden since the filming took place. Alongside garden staff, we certainly are lucky to have a great team of garden volunteers garden who are helping it look at its best. Please do feel free to email me if you are interest in volunteering, details can be found here

It is now July, a time when finally, all the hard work over the past year, pays off. Marwood is looking magnificent. All the careful planning, propagation, cultivation, pruning and weeding of the Autumn, Winter and Spring, have culminated, In superb floral displays across the garden.



             Astilbe Ice Cream


The past few months in the garden have been incredibly busy – In May, the garden highlights included the perfumed Wisteria Arbor, and the Iris and peony displays. June delivered stunning displays of flowering dogwoods and Candelabra primula.  Now in July, the primulas continue to look good, but with the addition of the national collection of Astilbes, Japanese water Iris in full flower. 

            Iris ensata Moonlight Waves                                                             Iris ensata Rose Queen                                                                   Iris ensata Pink Frost

Iris ensatat Moonlight WavesIris ensata Pink Frost

Iris enasata Rose Queen

Papaver somniferum Laurens Grape

So summer is a time to pause and enjoy the garden, learn and plan for the following year, but it’s not a time to sit and rest- far from it. As the ornamental plants grow and bloom, so sadly, do the weeds and grasses.

The team have been working flat out to regain control of some of the most problematic weeds along our borders. These include watercress and mimulus, choking the stream and lake edges, bramble, ground elder, himalayan balsam and nettle. We barely have time to admire the tidied beds before bindweed quickly takes advantage of the new light and space created, but we are steadily working our way through it. 

Areas of interest

In the herbaceous border burgundy ornamental poppies ‘Lauren’s grape’, pristine white willow herb Chaemarion angustifolium ‘Album’ as well as pink and white flowering perennial geraniums are drawing attention for garden visitors. Red hot pokers and Crocosmia are in bud in preparation to flower. Whilst the scree bed is a sea of purple with flowering alpine campanulas.


       Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape'


National Plant Collections

                 Astilbe Spotlight

Astilbe Spotlight

Two of our National Plant Collections are taking centre stage right now, our Astilbe collection and our Iris ensata collection. Popular early flowering Astilbe varieties include white flowering ‘Queen of Holland’ and ‘Deutschland’. Pale-pink ‘Europa’ and bubble-gum-pink ‘Mainz’ and the dark red ‘Bremen’ and ‘Etna’. 



The second National Collection looking good, are the Japanese water iris which are in full flower. This only flowers for a short period of 2 or 3 weeks in July but requires a great deal of love to reach full potential. It has huge blooms in dark blue, white, and pink. We are currently in the process of re-organising, identifying and nurturing our collections until they are flowering.





Our Plant Nursery

An exciting result of the garden closure during lockdown is that we have had more time to focus on propagating and growing more plants directly from the garden. This enables our visitors to buy the plants they see and like in our gardens. Including Paradisea lucitanica, candelabra primulas and Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’ (Night Moth) which have been particularly sought after. People can literally take a little bit of Marwood home with them, and if you are unable to make the journey down to Marwood, we have an online shop full of fantastic stock which aims to be delivered within just 3 working days.


 salvia nachtvlinderChamaerion angustifoliumChamaerion angustifolium 2

                      Salvia Nachtvlinder                                                                                     Chamaerion angustifolium (white willow herb)

We are now officially open. a quick initial opening of the plant sales area over the Easter weekend before an official opening of the site on 14th of April. The garden is starting to feel like its old self again. Our loyal season ticket holders have not forgotten us, with many choosing to renew their membership and visit the garden. Many holiday makers are already arriving coming from across the UK.

This month in the garden it has been all about the bluebells displays, enchanting flowering cherries and the more subtle flowering dogwoods. Everywhere you look plants are emerging and unfurling in the first green flush of growth. Blue sky, dry and sunny weather, has framed the garden beautifully.


Now is a great time to take a walk across Marwood Hill Garden, the floral scent is phenomenal. The weather has been amazing this past week. Blue skies, sun, and warmth. Let us hope it continues into the Easter weekend. Flowers are sprouting up across the garden in a colour explosion. With no frost to worry about, the magnolias have put on a great display with an eruption of pinks, purples, and whites across the garden, contrasting well with the whites, reds, and pinks of the late flowering Camellias.

As I write this month’s blog, the sun is streaming in through the window. The garden is very spring like, a small colony of white and purple crocus have colonized the tearoom lawn. Snowdrops and hellebores which are still flowering but will soon give way to the masses of daffodils that are spread across the garden. Camellias are in full bloom in shades of red, pink, and white and the magnolias are covered in fat flower buds promising a good display in the next few months. There is an air of optimism in the garden with many local residents and garden volunteers having already received their first vaccinations, so there is a feeling of real positivity and that normality is just round the corner.

November to mid-February, is an ideal time to look at tree work in the garden. With leaves removed the branch structure of a tree can be better accessed and with most bulbs and herbaceous perennials lying dormant and protected under the ground, falling branches can do little damage. Conifers put on a new flush of growth in April and deciduous trees tend to lie dormant in the winter months, with sap only again beginning to rise from mid-February onwards. which makes it an ideal time to prune trees.

With the leaves having fallen from the trees, the bones of the garden have now been revealed. The bright white bark of the birch and eucalyptus are very striking and many of the smooth-barked magnolias are covered with a wide diversity of lichen in an array of interesting colours, white, grey, orange, blue, green and yellow. Some flowers persist including early flowering Camellias and Rhododendrons which are starting to show, flashes of pink, white and red. The white bell flowers of Leucojum (Spring Snowflake) and early daffodils can also be seen emerging from the woodland floor.

November has been a quiet month. The November national lockdown meant that holiday makers and visitors to our gardens all but disappeared, despite this we felt it was important to keep the garden open to provide a place for people to get a bit of fresh air and recreation.

It’s October and despite the rather wet weather the trees are still putting on a good show. An explosion of colour has erupted from Marwood’s woodland canopy. Flame-like reds and oranges, cooler lemon-yellows vie for attention against the richer, buttery tones. Trees that have been quite indistinguishable during spring and summer suddenly draw attention.

Wow what a busy month!!! This September has been an unusually busy month. Traditionally September would be a quieter time in the garden, when we see fewer visitors, as summer holidays end and the new school year begins. This year has been quite different. Children may have gone back to school, but much to our delight, garden visitors have continued to come to explore Marwood. Which has allowed us to show off the late summer highlights in the garden.

It has been several months since I have sat down and written the Head Gardener’s Blog. That is not to say when lockdown happened Marwood completely stopped, far from it.

Regrettably like other businesses many of our staff were furloughed. At the time of lockdown all the hard work had been done and our plant centre was full of a fantastic range of plants ready for sale and the garden was looking immaculate. After a week of trading the door was duly shut again (mid March). Despite this’ always keen to focus on the positive’ the Marwood Team viewed lockdown as an opportunity. It was the ideal time for us to set up the Online Shop. Boxes were sourced, couriers were chosen, and the Online Shop was developed. Much needed income started to flow into the business.

Take a tour of Marwood Hill Gardens in April 2020

If you go down in the woods today.......

Spring has finally reached the garden. Marwood is now dotted with pink, reds and whites. The early flowering Magnolia, Camellia and Rhododendron are blooming across the garden. The richly perfumed pale pink Magnolia sprengeri. The dark pink cabbage sized flowers of Magnolia campbellii subsp. Mollicomata are looking amazing, contrasting well with the nearby magnolia purple-pink flowered Magnolia ‘Charles Raffill'. Salix gracilistyla 'Mount Aso' is looking resplendent, with its bright red winter shoots above its pink and silver fluffy male catkins (available for sale). Look out for early spring flowering herbaceous perennials such as strikingly blue daisy like Anemone blanda and dark blue flowering Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’.

After four successive storms Atiyah, Brendan, Ciara and Dennis, three large trees have failed in the garden. One large Eucalyptus has fallen into the upper lake, with two other trees coming down in the bog garden and folly area. Many branches and detritus litter the garden. The tree surgeons made clever use of a small boat and a winch to remove the eucalyptus from the top lake and the garden team have been busy clearing fallen branches and logs away. With so many fallen trees, much space has been created for new planting opportunities.

February is here, bringing with it the prospect of lighter evenings, much to the relief of the garden team. We are however not out of the woods yet; the continuing battle with the wet weather which has fully saturated the garden and the threat of frost is still a very real possibility.

Early flowering Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ was the first bulb to emerge throughout the garden followed quickly by snowdrops, Hellebores and most recently Leucojum vernum (Spring snowflake). Early flowering Camellias, Rhododendron nobleanum and R. ‘Christmas Cheer’ have provided splashes of purple, pink, white and red.

My Name is Matthew Brewer, I have recently taken on the role of head gardener at Marwood Hill Gardens.

In all honesty, before last June, I had never heard of this garden but for a chance visit to Marwood whilst holidaying with my family. Upon entering the garden we naturally headed for the tearoom. Halfway through a ginger scone, an impromptu interview with the Garden Manager and my fate was sealed. Before joining Marwood I was working as a woodland Horticulturalist at RHS garden Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, together with a hardy band of volunteers clearing and developing its woodland.