Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Naked Gardeners

On the southern edge of the Cotswolds, five acres of enchanting and intimate gardens have captured my heart. In the shade of a 12th-century benedictine abbey in Malmesbury, Abbey House Gardens have been dramatically reworked by Ian and Barbara Pollard since they took up residence in 1994. Designed with a playful formality, their devotion to the gardens is evident in every footstep.

 

In the front of the house a beautifully executed Celtic knot garden of Lavender, Buxus, Ilex and Berberis leads the eye to a hypnotic water cauldron that requests you to gaze meditatively into its sky blue waters.


  
  

A myriad of paths merge from one beautiful scene to another. It would be easy to imagine gossamer-clad, sylph-like figures playing hide and seek in such a place flittering to and fro in its maze of green corridors.




The gardens were once part of the Benedictine Monastery, tended by monks growing medicinal herbs. Now the impressive herbarium is bursting at the seams with beneficial aromatics. Encircled by an oak latticed arcade echoing the arches of the neighbouring abbey, upon which a botanical cocktail of diligently trained Medlar, Pear, Peach and Apple abundantly coexist with roses and clematis.


A dazzling colour wheel of roses in vibrant kaleidoscopic hues vie for your attention throughout the upper gardens urging to become bewitched by their velvet beauty.


Keep an eye out for Brutus the Leopard Spot Egyptian Tortoise...


The garden is full of twists and turns teasing you to explore further to see what you might discover.


 

There is an underlining magical energy at work here. I'm sure I felt those monks moving amongst us.

 

Contrary to the upper gardens, behind the main house a network of zig-zagging pathways leading you down to the tranquil lower water gardens. The descent to the river softened with Rhododendron, Azalea, Camelia, Acer, Hydrangea and of one of my favourite plants, Podophyllum virtually unseen in other gardens I have visited!


Known as “The Naked Gardeners” Ian and Barbara are famous for doing it all in the buff and once a month during the summer give visitors to the garden the opportunity if they so wish to also discard their attire.

Even though we chose to remain clothed, there is a sense of freedom that is evident behind the walls of Abbey House, a magical eden where you can leave your inhibitions behind, throwing caution to the wind and your pants in the air, to chase some pretty butterflies in a gorgeous garden!

55 comments:

  1. This looks like my kinda place ... not sure about the 'in the buff' gardening though - too many prickles and bugs! will be adding it to my list of places to visit ... M

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  2. Hello Paul:
    Just for a moment we wondered if the 'sylph like figures' you referred to could have been one of the naked gardeners tending the borders at Abbey House. We must admit that we were somewhat taken aback when we visited on a hot and sunny afternoon to find the master and mistress of Abbey House at work amongst the shrubbery equipped with only a pair of secateurs and a hoe!

    The gardens are indeed a delight and clearly reflect the owners' sense of fun as well as horticultural knowledge. It does have a most entrancing ambience to it and one has the feeling that on every occasion one visits one sees more and learns more.

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  3. Dear Paul - you have captured the magic of the Abbey Gardens beautifully.
    Did you come across Barbara and Ian? I once organised a trip for a society I belong to, and sometimes it can be difficult to know quite where to look when talking to them. He tends to wear a leather belt with all of his gardening tools hanging to the fore!!!

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  4. Wow! So enchanting and very mesmerizing garden and property. I love and truly enjoy how the English create their gardens. So creative and dramatic. Also very inspiring to just sit there to write a poem. Great photos too Paul. You captured the beauty of it all!

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  5. What a beautiful garden and such extraordinary sculpture!

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  6. What fun !
    I have heard of the naked gardeners, but had no idea that they tended such a magnificent plot.
    I have definite 'topiary envy'.
    Thanks for sharing, and hope you have a lovely week,
    Lizx

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  7. This garden is really cool. What an amazing collection of plants and designs. The art is quite unique as well. I would love to visit this place down the road. Great pics to capture some of the snapshots from around the place:)

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  8. Dear Paul,
    thank you for depicting this lovely garden with its very lavish grounds. In spite of the weather you seem to have quite a few Naked Chefs in Britain - but the kitchen might be warmer :-)
    The herb garden would interest me especially.
    You show a new photograph of yourself in your profile?

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  9. Hello Paul.

    This is a beautiful garden. I love the topiaries and the sculpture of the monk. I am smiling at Rosemary's description of Ian's tool kit.

    Have a great week

    Helen xx

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  10. Oh wow, all those topiaries! Beautiful!

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  11. Oh my....now this is memorable. I like this garden: lively, a bit different and full of character. Glorious photos, once again, Paul!
    Cheers,
    Loi

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  12. That is definitely a magical place! Lovely...

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  13. I LOVE this! What incredible shapes - it's like something out of Alice in Wonderland or Narnia. I can just imagine how spectacular it will be covered in frost and snow! I had to smile though, at the welcoming generosity of Ian and Barbara in offering visitors the chance to disrobe during the Summer. I may well take my garden loving Mother-in-law for a visit just to see her expression!
    Paula xx

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  14. Wow! My jaw is on the floor! What a magical, beautiful labor of love! I have spent sometime in the Cotswolds but I have not had the pleasure of visiting this stunning space.

    I say this in every comment to you, your photos are stunning and I always feel like I am walking along with you and taking in these spaces.

    Have a great week!

    P.S: The balsamic onion roast is FABULOUS and those potatos...you could eat the entire pan!

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  15. Such beautiful landscaping! Love the naked whimsy ! I loved walking through the gardens with you.
    Nancy
    Powellbrowerhome.com

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  16. Wow! Such incredible photos of an incredible place. Really wow! And...btw..I couldn't stop looking at the lizards..and that turtle? Chomping celery? Fun stuff Paul!

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  17. What an interesting garden this is Paul. I have been close by, but did not know of it's existence. I like the formal layout and the beautiful roses, but I am not sure of the sculptures on display. They are not really my thing :-)

    Enjoy your evening!

    Madelief x

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  18. Fantastic series of photos!
    Thank you for participating in Floral Friday Fotos!

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  19. Love it Paul....you always find something unusual to tell us about....this is a beauty (and a hoot!)...the Naked Gardeners do a magnificent job...they must have pretty good suntans too! Will have to get cracking on my Parisian garden posts soon.

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  20. What a gorgeous place! I would LOVE to live there BUT I guess "I'd need live in HELP with those gardens"!!!
    I am trying to put your button on my sidebar and I am not able to copy it. Do you have a picture of your LOGO that you can email me, MAYBE then I can place it on the sidebar with a LINK BACK to your blog???
    Have a great weekend Paul and thank you for the tour of that grand estate...
    Donna

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  21. Oh no, another eccentric Brit couple..................people must wonder how we Brits end up doing such crazy things in our gardens! I admit to donning shorts and a skimpy tank top, but you will never catch me in the buff - hard enough keeping the biting mosquitoes off the exposed bits as it is!!!

    Lovely gardens and statuary - a beautiful place. Thanks for showing us around.

    Mary

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  22. What a wonderful beautiful garden!

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  23. Oh wow, I must visit here. So wish it was my garden. I think a pom pom border would fit in very nicely here.

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  24. What an interesting place!! Amazing photos and thanks for the tour :D

    Wollreflections

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  25. Quel jardin extraordinaire... Tous ces détails qui en font son charme son tellement amusants, interessant et drôle, pour certains... On en oublie les reflet qu'on est venu chercher.

    ;)

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  26. quite an amazing place! visiting from weekend reflections today. :)

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  27. What a beautiful garden! I'd probably have a hard time finding reflections because I'd be so distracted by everything else.

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  28. a garden of many delights.....thanx for the wonderful tour!

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  29. OMG what a fabulous place,how I would love to wander there!Thanks for sharing!

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  30. I'm adding this to places I want to visit before I leave this earth. These gardens are spectacular! Thank you for sharing this!

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  31. Que maravilhosas!!! beijos,chica

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  32. Paul, What a garden, home, statues and story to boot! It reminds me of why I love the Cotswolds. I'd love to get lost here, but probably clothed!

    xo
    Kim

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  33. What a cool garden to visit. I love the sculptures and the topiary. Neat having a tortoise there too. Great shots, thanks for sharing.

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  34. I just say WOOW :) what a garden :)
    and do not miss...

    S
    A
    T
    U
    R
    D
    A
    Y

    S
    H
    O
    W

    O
    F
    F

    it is FUN :)
    WELCOME
    Håkan ( The Roseman)

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  35. That is a great collection of pictures. Thank you very much for sharing. Precious.

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  36. Hi Paul- what an amazingly beautiful place-- I'd love to visit there!! Your photos surely captured the spirit of this indescribable place--- I'd have stayed hours and hours--- loving every minute of being here. Such a truly beautiful post-/
    Vicki

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  37. Wonderful garden ! It is a work of art !
    Olympia

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  38. gorgeous gardens and very interesting garden architecture, I'm visiting from Green Day

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  39. these gardens are amazing, beautifully planned plants and much more.

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  40. just amazing you always come up trumps

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  41. Wow what a wonderful place
    it looks amazing.

    Some of those photos are very unusual!!!

    Happy Sunday

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  42. You sure have an eye for photography, and really know how to frame a photo to perfection. =) What a magical and enduring place, thanks for sharing! ~Liz

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  43. Beautiful shots. What a fascinating place!

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  44. Dear Paul,

    From my lazy lake-side summer lull in Sweden, I have just "emerged" briefly to reconnect with the outside world, and found this wonderful post from you of one of my favourite "hangouts" of all times. And like so many have expressed above, you have captured the beauty, the fun and the magic of Abbey House Gardens perfectly and again, with language that makes me dribble and drool..."throwing caution to the wind and your pants in the air" being my favourite this time!!! :D

    I think I must have visited this magnificent garden four or five times by now, but never tire of walking from "room" to "room", exploring the different paths down towards the river, discovering something new every time. And just like you, I feel there is magic in the air, and I would not bat an eyelid, should I find a sylph or two giggling behind a tree. Well, perhaps there would be a little bit of eyelid-batting, but only a little!

    LOVED experiencing Abbey House Gardens through your lens and pen!

    Helena

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  45. Beautiful, beautiful gardens - and as you list all those plants, I'm just sighing at what I can no longer grow!!

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  46. We just don't have many gardens of this calibre here. Incredible! I love the artworks as well. Your photographs are super, as always.

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  47. I came back one again to watch those pictures : it is such a dreamy garden... The sculptures are very creative indeed.

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  48. Stunning! Beautiful pictures of a beautiful garden!

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  49. What beautiful gardens. WIth some very interesting statuary! :)

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  50. Paul, Thank you for visiting my blog and your kind words. I am your newest follower and look forward to this evening when I will have time to look at some past posts. I saw and commented on Somewhere That's Green.

    I love this beautiful garden....the cauldron is magical! I have never been to England, but want desperately to visit. I appreciate the chance to see beautiful images like these through your lens! Thank you for sharing. I am fortunate enough to live within walking distance of an old estate with an walled English garden behind it. My son grew up playing among the boxwood, sculptures, and mazes. It has been abandoned for years now and is in need of care and appreciation. Wish I had the funds to purchase and restore.

    Warmest regards, Lisa

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