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Cloudehill throughout the seasons

No matter what the season, there is always a bit of garden magic at Cloudehill. Cool shady summers, fiery autumn leaves, the quite mists of winter and the fresh new life of spring. Come again and again and discover something new each time.

Summer

Summer is the time to enjoy the double borders on The Terrace. Both the cool and the warm borders flower straight through the warmer months as we are careful in how they are planted out. Among the many hundreds of perennials are shrubs such as Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ and various coloured leaf forms of the European smoke bush, Cotinus coggygria, also silver leaf pears, Pyrus salicifolia Pendula, and smaller frontal shrubs such as Spirea ‘Gold Flame’ and Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Darts Gold’. All of these are heavily pruned every winter, so they produce plenty of fresh growth through the summer. 

Autumn

These cooler weeks are the culmination of the gardening year. March sees the last hurrah of the summer borders, though there’s always some colour from the big ornamental grasses and from the salvias through to the end of May

Dying leaves commence flaring to yellow and orange and scarlet in April. The Acer japonicum vitifoliumerupts to crimson-gold very early and by mid-April maples everywhere are in flames, and our two ancient Yokohama weeper maples become great mounds of copper-red generally around the 20th. Beeches everywhere soften to copper-gold.

The first weeks of May are the height of autumn. Our Enkianthus are astonishing around now and watch out for the immense and very rare Enkianthus perulatus in the corner of the dry border (above the Upper Meadow) as it turns an unearthly glowing scarlet. Our beech hedges sink to warm coppery-browns, the last of the maples flare red and scarlet, the tulip trees turn to towering masses of yellow-gold, and at the end of May beside the upper meadow the Nikko maple, Acer maximowiczianum turns the loveliest soft scarlet

Winter

The beauty of Cloudehill is that there’s always something happening, even in winter. By the time the last leaves are off the trees, snowdrops are already nosing their way up through the leaf litter. We have good colonies under the two big maples including clumps of rare varieties from Otto Fauser. One of the best is Galanthus ‘Samuel Arnott’. There’s also a very extensive colony of Galanthus elwesii under the old Fernleaf beech at the end of the Main Terrace. Snowdrops begin to open in June and are at their best in July, right in the middle of winter. 

Other plants to look for include the witch hazels. There’s the big creamy-yellow flowering Hamamelis x intermedia Pallidajust below the Diggers shop, and a row including Pallida, along with the golden flowering H. mollis ‘Brevipetala’ and also the rusty-red H. intermedia ‘Diane’ just above Leopoldine Mimovich’s The Seasons sculpture right in the middle of the gardens. These all flower in July and August. And by August the spring meadows are showing colour, a few of the early narcissus coming through great sheets of inky-blue grape hyacinths. 

Spring

A very busy time of the year Spring, our rough grass meadows are flowering throughout these months, maples coming into fresh leaf providing unearthly mounds of pale greens and tawny yellows and even crimson, rhododendrons all around the garden exploding, and probably the highlight of spring, in late September and early October, are the bluebells flowering and the beeches leafing out. 

Our Japanese maples leaf out in September. These are always handsome but particularly so now. Our rare Magnolia kobus is a great mounding hill of creamy-white hanging over our main terrace, the Rhododendron schlippinbachii with its palest pink flowers on bare stems is something to behold, and starry epimediums in yellows and pinks and reds are erupting from banks of heart-shaped leaves from the edge of paths everywhere.

October sees our massive old Rhododendron ‘White Pearl’ at its best, deciduous hedges are throwing off their old leaves and unfurling new ones

The first weeks of November are the time to enjoy the late season rhododendrons, things like the R. ‘Ightham Yellow’ next to Seasons Restaurant with lemon-cream bell flowers. Further along the path, there’s a row of R. ponticum except ours is the rare double form. The shrub borders are magnificent now and the summer borders are filling in rapidly after their annual mulch. We count them as flowering from the middle of this month.