Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Autumn Colours at the Abbey House Gardens

Westonbirt Arboretum, about 5 miles down the road from the Abbey House Gardens, has recently got lots of TV coverage on the national BBC news about their Japanese Maple Trees. Through National Forestry research they estimate that around 25% of their Japanese Maple trees are under threat as they have shallow roots and are thus more intolerant to drought - caused by our warming climate (see our almost rainless September just gone!)

These challenges faced by Westonbirt are also similar to those faced by our gardens. At the last count we had over 100 Japanese Maple trees that we purchased direct from Westonbirt. Our maple trees are littered around but largely in the river gardens. Its incredibly important to keep these maples well watered during any months that experience anomalies in weather conditions.

Westonbirt is famous for its Autumn colours and lots of day visitors to the Arboretum also call in at the Abbey House Gardens to make a full day in the Cotswolds. If you want a colour hit to contrast with the autumnal browns then you might be surprised to know we have lots of Roses still in bloom. Indeed one of our visitors on the 1st October wrote in our comments book:

'Wonderful roses in October, scent so unexpected.'

All this talk of Autumn reminded us of the lovely descriptive poem by John Keats. Keep these words in mind if you visit our gardens in October, a perfect narrative to what you might find...

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

'Natures Rich Weave' Art Exhibition - Opening Night Photos at the Abbey House Gardens

What a perfect night for the latest Art show at the Abbey House Gardens. The title of the show is 'Natures Rich Weave' An exhibition of work by Liz Watts and Melissa Wishart. The exhibition knits together painting, sculpture, textiles and words. The exhibition opened on Thursday 1st October and continues until Sunday 11th October.

The exhibition knits together painting, sculpture, textiles and words and some works have spread themselves into the actual gardens.

The show opens when the gardens open 11am until 5pm and its Free admission with the price of the garden ticket.

Honey Fungus Mushroom: Nasty but Tasty

The sudden change from September drought to October showers brings fresh challenges to the Abbey House Gardens. Spotted in the beds adjacent to the top lawn today was a rather unwelcome visitor, the Honey Fungus Mushroom. It absolutely loves old trunks and stumps as a place to grow, its probably sprung from the old Cherry Tree that once presided in that area of the gardens.
Below is a picture of the fungus, its an absolute enemy of all gardeners as its one of the most dangerous parasites for trees, causing an intensive white rot and ultimately death to any plant it infects. Not a welcome addition to the Rose beds. Its been dealt with immediately and all the roots and spores hopefully destroyed.

The Honey Fungus Mushroom does have some redeeming qualities, its non poisonous and edible. Ian is trying a clump with his breakfast after a bit of prep work. Fingers crossed as the nearest A&E is 10 miles away.

A fascinating and beautiful story attached to the Honey Mushroom Fungus relates back to Medieval times. The root (or Rhizomorph) of the mushroom that flourishes in the earth makes it way through the soil to find a tree or plant to infect. If you manage to catch one of the roots and then examine it in the dark you should find that its luminous. In medieval times they considered the roots to have healing qualities and used them to light hay barns and other ancient dwellings with clusters of them gathered together. These luminous roots developed the first ever notion of the 'magic wand'!!!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Pale Tussock Caterpillar helps prove the Abbey House Gardens Environmentally Aware Credentials

Often at the Abbey House Gardens we come across a new animal or insect that we find difficult to identify straightaway. Yesterday Carl, one of the gardening team, came across a very curious looking caterpillar near one of the rose beds in the herb garden.

(Carl with the Pale Tussock Moth)

One of the joys of such a find is the research required to correctly identify our new furry caterpillar friend. After much searching of our books and surfing the internet we can name our new friend the 'Pale Tussock.' Its an amazing looking creature, with a pink like tale and yellow and stripped head proudly showing off three mohican like tufts on his head. The strange 'mohican' tufts that cover his head have evolved as a method of dissuading bird predators from attack. - very distinctive as you can see below!

(close up)

It loves shrubs and trees as a natural habitat which explains why Carl found him in the herb garden area. The Pale Tussock also prospers in areas not covered in horrible pesticides and insecticides... so he has found a good spot at the Abbey House Gardens!

We think he was drawn to a spot near to the roses as that area is particularly nutritious ... all the roses adjacent to our stew pond are hand fed by the bucket load with the recycled water from the fish (such as the Coi Carp) as part of the filtration process. Its packed with good stuff like nitrogen that help to keep the roses so strong and colourful.

Nature at its best, with one species helping to support the growth of another.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Fantastic New Art Exhibition October 1st - 11th 'Natures Rich Weave' featuring Liz Watts & Melissa Wishart

We are delighted to confirm the dates for the next Art show at the Abbey House Gardens. The title of the show is 'Natures Rich Weave' An exhibition of work by Liz Watts and Melissa Wishart. The exhibition knits together painting, sculpture, textiles and words.

Liz has been a regular fixture in the gardens over the last couple of months using them as inspiration for many of her new works.

The exhibition opens on the Thursday 1st October and continues until Sunday 11th October. The show opens when the gardens open 11am until 5pm.

You can get more information on Liz Watts work here at her website.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

UK Wasp Alert - Barbara has got it in the bag.

There seems to be lots of stories in the media about the huge amounts of wasps this year in the UK. We caught a news snippet on the BBC this morning that suggests the amount of Wasps around this year is the highest amount witnessed for 30 years.

The Abbey House Gardens have always had visiting Wasps in the summer months as they often get attracted by the smell of fallen fruit from our trees. One of the suggestions by a viewer made to the BBC was to use a paper bag, fill it with air and then tie it to a tree or object close to an area thats visited by wasps. The inflated bag is meant to represent a wasps nest, and as wasps are largely territorial our friends in the garden might politely find somewhere else to inhabit! Thats the plan anyway and Barbara is giving it a go. Watch this space for the results.

Spartan Apples & Art at the Abbey House Gardens

One of the most commonly asked questions we get in the Abbey House Gardens at this time of year is about our Spartan apple tree, one of the 180 different types of fruit that we have in our colonnade. The apples from a distance look totally red and can in some cases be mistaken for plums pre to a closer inspection.

Even more intriguing for our visitors is the collection of fibre glass rods that populate the Spartan apple tree. The sculptural art installation was the creative result of a few days work by American born sculptor Joan Edlis and represents linear lines contrasting against the organic shapes of the spartan apple tree. Its been housed in the gardens for a few years now. The rods are originally designed to hold wind socks in air fields but in the gardens the act as a great focal point in the distance to draw our visitors around to the rear of the fruit colonnade.

The spartan apple is most notable as its the first apple to be produced from a formal scientific breeding program. The apple was supposed to be a cross between the North American varieties, the McIntosh and the Newton Pippin, but recently, it was discovered through genetic and scientific analysis that it didnt have the Newton Pippin as one of the parents and its identity remains a mystery. The spartan is considered a good all purpose apple for eating and cooking, straight off the tree.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Plant of the week: Acanthus Spinosa or Bears breechs

Every now and then we plan on featuring a plant you would expect to find in the Abbey House Gardens and give a litte bit of background on its origins and a few tips you might find useful for maintenance. We tracked down one of our gardeners Kevin today to tap his Brains on Acanthus Spinosa commonly known as Bears breechs. Its a plant that always draws the questions from visitors to the Abbey House Gardens.

You can find this hardy plant in either full sun or partially shaded areas of the Abbey House Gardens. It can grow upto 150cm tall if planted in a well drained area with regular watering intervals.

You can see the large green leaves to the plant below, this type of leaf structure has traditionally influenced ancient architectural designs on corinthium columns. Its presence in any garden brings a strong sense of classical design.

The flowers themselves can often be mistaken for fox gloves from a distance. This is probably why we get asked about this plant a lot by visitors to our gardens. They tend to flower between the months of July and September and can be seeded in March and April.

Kevin's big tip is particularly useful if your thinking of moving or removing this Acanthus Spinosa (Bear Breeches) from your garden. If you leave even the smallest spore in the ground this plant will come back time and time again. Take your time and do a thorough job when extracting!


Barbara in the News - Western Daily Press - 'West hotspots enjoy a 'staycation boom' despite all the gloom.

A great little newspaper article was published yesterday (August 17th 2009) in the Western Daily Press. Local Malmesbury journalist Tristan Cork has canvassed Barbara for evidence on how the recession has actually helped the Wests tourist hot spots positively as more people opt to save cash and stay in the UK.

Amongst other things the poor exchange rate has adversely effected Brits from travelling abroad. According to National Statistics the number of British Citizens travelling abroad dropped by 17%. The British travel website Expedia reported that the areas experiencing highest growth for online searches included Bath and the Cotswold's.

Barbara was quoted 'The good weather in the late spring and early summer meant our visitor numbers were up 70% in the first half of the year. The weather hasn't helped more recently, but people are opting to holiday here or go on day trips'

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Artwork in Progress for the Abbey House Gardens October Exhibition

Its always exciting to get a preview of an artists latest work in progress. In October we are featuring the work of two artists in the Belverdere at the Abbey House Gardens.

The title of the show is 'Nature's Rich Weave: An exhibition of work by Liz Watts and Melissa Wishart.' The exhibition knits together paining, sculpture, texiles and words.

Between them Liz and Melissa use a wide range of materials and ideas to explore the rhythms, tensions and wonder that exist between man, woman and nature, with uch of the work finding its roots in Abbey House's arcadia.

The exhitibion and cafe layout allow you to relax over morning coffee, light lunch or afternoon tea either in the midst of the art or the midst of the gardens.

Lots more information and visuals to come nearer the date of the event in October.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Some Fantastic New Aerial Photography at the Abbey House Gardens

Every month we like to photograph the gardens to catalogue the changes throughout the seasons. In July we have attempted to try some new photographic angles throughout the top gardens using whats known as low level aerial photography.

Its a great and exciting new way to view the gardens and get a different perspective on the scale and how the different garden sections fit together. They give a great view of a large selection of our 10,000 plant, shrubs and trees. We have lots more aerial photographs available to view on flickr here:

For more information on aerial photography click here.

Local Historian Jenifer Roberts presents 'The Madness of Queen Maria' at the Abbey House Gardens

Local Malmesbury historian Jenifer Roberts is proudly using the Belvedere Room at the Abbey House Gardens Malmesbury to celebrate the publication of her new book 'The Madness of Queen Maria'. The book examines in detail the remarkable life of Maria I of

The Belvedere room in the main Abbey House is a perfect location to launch this fascinating book as it has an incredibly rich history itself.

The date for this event is on Wednesday 29th July 2009, from between 6.30pm to 8.30pm. At the launch Jenifer will be selling slightly discounted and also signed copies for £10, the usual price being £12.50.

You can RSVP by contacting Jenifer on 01249 656078 or by email jenifer@paulbeck.net

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Humble Bumble Unearthed: Red Tailed Bees in the Geranium Beds.

In mid-June we were thinning a few of the Geranium beds adjacent to the herb gardens. In doing so we created a few very snug holes in the ground whilst we decided what would go in the spaces left by the Geraniums. Nature seems to have made the decision for us as when we returned a few days ago we found a queen red tailed Bee surrounded by her willing workers, about 35 bees in total.

They have already started to create the magical honeycombed 'moon craters' within their new earthy surroundings.

We have now researched the 'Red Tailed Bee' and have discovered this lovely species is unlikely to sting unless its nest is endangered. Only the queen bee is likely to survive the winter months and will use our man made hole as her place of hibernation. Next spring she is likely to start a new colony or maybe even find another colony to take over. We hope she stays a while as the bumble bee is becoming much less common in our english gardens and hedgerows. They are an important part of our eco systems as they help pollinate other plants such as fruit trees. Maybe she will feast on our 130 apple trees one day?

If you want to know a lot more about our humble Bumble then take a look at this short guide we found when doing our research: Help Save the Bumble Bee, get more buzz from your garden.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Cyrano de Bergerac at the Abbey House Gardens 21st June 2009. Get in quick limited tickets remain!

The first theatrical event beckons at the gardens Abbey House Gardens with a fantastic production of Cyrano de Bergerac on Sunday June 21st. It's being performed exclusively and for one night only by the talented Solstice Theatre Company. This classic romantic french tale has been edited to produce an hour long performance in part re-written by director Bella Gabbitas. Bella is guaranteed to bring out the humour so a most enjoyable evening awaits you just as it did for the highly succesful Emmas Fairytale.

It's a great way of spending some time in the gardens as the entrance fee to the performance also includes access to the top gardens, please feel free to bring along your homemade picnics and nibbles. A great way to end your Fathers Day treat or maybe enjoy the midsummers solstice evening.

The price for tickets is £8 (£5 for season tciket holders) and we advise that you arrive at around 5.30pm. The performance will be from a purpose built stage in the herb garden with its natural circular theatre shape and guests are asked to bring their own seating or maybe stand at the back.

Please email us at info@abbeyhousegardens.co.uk if you require tickets and we can then set up a paypal payment request. We look forward to seeing you for the solstice celebrations.

June 09 Abbey House Gardens Photo Updates

June brings new arrivals to the Abbey House Gardens. Roses begin to replace the Tulips in the top gardens and the River Gardens begin to burst with birds, insects and the occasional visible trout in the river.
(close up of some fresh Roses in the top garden beds)

Every month we update our photos on the home page but you can see all the June photos by viewing our Flickr account.

(the Herb Garden bursting with life, but soon to be turned into a stage for the June 21st performance of Cyrano de Bergerac)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Eating out, drinkng & dining for Lunch in Malmesbury, Try the Belvedere Cafe for food and hot drinks.

Whilst visiting the Abbey House Gardens you might like to try our newly refurbished and weather proofed cafe and dining area to recharge you batteries and drink in the gardens atmosphere a little. The Belvedere has seating both in doors and out and is situated adjacent to our peaceful stew pond and coi carp collection.

The Belvedere originally began life as a former coal shed and workshop for the house and gardens before its convertion to its current function room capabilities. Its now multiple uses include a corporate business meeting place, wedding reception area and gathering space for large group of visitors as part of the garden tour hosted by Ian & Barbara Pollard. The spacious area and glass sliding doors can be opened out towards the river gardens on suitable weather days to give a soothing mediterranean feel.

The cafe itself is open for visitors and diners from 11am everday until 5pm. Always ably staffed by the ever friendly Georgia and Jess. A new addition to the menu is the ever popular panini in three different tasty flavours and available for a very reasonable £2.95. For those guests who just require a hot drink to set them up for the garden meander please choose from our selection of Latte, Mocha, Expressos, hot chocolates, and range of quality teas.

Keeping things local, fresh and organic is important for us here at the Abbey House Gardens. You cant get more local, wholesome or pure than our very own 100% pure apple and pear juice. Our orchard houses 180 different trees with varying apple and pear types (130 apple trees in total), some of the trees are vintage dating back to the 15th and 16th century. We harvest the fruit every year and a local farmers wife paturises, presses and then bottles the juice on our behalf. 100% pure apple and pear juice, 100% organic. On a very good harvest year we sometimes produce a number of grapes and we have this made up into juice also. Why not sit up and sip our juice whilst sat on one of the benchs in amongst the orchard trees?

If you book as a large group to visit the gardens why not pre book you food for your lunch? Give us a few days notice and we will gladly source some local produce for our famous Wiltshire Ploughmans. Wiltshire ham, local wiltshire cheese (from local producer Ceri Cryer), and beautiful fresh rolls from Malmesburys old bake house. Just let us know your requirements whilst booking your group visit.

As with most things at the Abbey House Gardens we are quite flexible and accomadating with the requests of our visitors. If your after a venue for corporate meetings or hospitality then please call our office on 01666 822212.

From Naturalist to Naturist - Clothes Optional Day - Abbey House Gardens, Malmesbury Wiltshire - Sunday 31st May

As the Naturalist 'Bird talk' themed May bank holiday closes at the Abbey House Gardens, there is no time to rest as we jump straight into Naturism a theme!

This coming Sunday 31st May marks the first of the five much talked about clothes optional days of 2009. The gardens are open as usual from 11am to 5.30pm but all guests have the option of viewing them clothed or naked. The forecast for next weekend is currently very good with temperatures around 20C. The gardens usually receive around 400 guests during a clothes optional day, a figure that grows year on year.

Entrance to the Abbey House Gardens during a clothes optional day does not require a visitor to be without their clothes. The opportunity is offered to anyone who wishes to spend their time within the boundaries of the beautiful gardens without their clothes. We are not a club requiring membership, do not have club facilities and offer simply the opportunity to visit the gardens without clothes and without comment.

There is no pressure to dress or undress whilst on the property; it is a matter entirely for personal preference. Purchasing a ticket for admission buys you into an agreement to respect everyones elses freedom of choice to be with or without clothes and to respect, the environment into which you are entering and its boundaries, the wishes of the garden owners, the needs of other visitors and the needs of the wider local community.

If choosing to visit us on a Clothes Optional days we ask all guests to change in the Belvedere area of the gardens. We can then look after your bags in our cloakroom for a small £1 dontation to charity. The gardens support the Marine Conservation Society as a charity.

Visitors may bring their own food to eat in the garden on the understanding that they also take their rubbish home with them. We do offer light lunches such as vegetable soup paninis or pasties available to purchase between 12 noon and 3pm.

To reach the gardens on clothes optional days we advise a couple of options, either climb the 60 Abbey steps or arrange to be dropped at the Market Cross in the town centre (2 minute level walk to the admission gates). There is also a short stay car park in the town centre but parking is limited to two hours.

Photographs taken in the garden must not, under any circumstances, include other visitors and the Abbey House Gardens retains the copyright to all photographs taken within the grounds. (as above!)

For further information please visit our website

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

May 2009 - Monthly Photos of the Abbey House Gardens

Every month we like to catalouge the Abbey House Gardens as the flowers, plants, trees and wildfire change to adapt to the seasons. We hope over the 2009 season our pictorial diary will catalogue how much the gardens change, develop and can surprise our visitors.

April was dominated by our 150,000 Tulips. They gave the Abbey House Gardens an injection of strong primary colours throughout. May sees a gradual change in the tone towards more subtle greens, browns, purples, oranges and yellows.

The laburnum tunnel veiled with strong yellow tones is one of the most popular areas of the gardens during May. The tunnel stretches around 30 metres long and is full of beautiful smells and sights.

The gardens are inhabited by lots of wildflife. For the May 25th Bank Holiday we are planning a 'Bird Talk' focus... we photographed this lovely specimen down in the river gardens next to our popular Fisher Man sculpture.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Countryfile featuring the Abbey House Gardens, Ian & Barbara Pollard this Sunday BBC1 7.30pm

A very quick blog post to say make sure you have your feet up in front of the TV this Sunday at 7.30pm for a short slot on BBC 1's Countryfile.

Cant really supply much more detail than that currently as we are not sure what has made the directors cut. 

Hope you enjoy.

Ian & Barbara.