Monday, September 28, 2009


I visited the garden of Will Giles on September the 19th. It was an early start, of around 6am, but I'm not entirely sure. I was a little dazed at the time, and probably shouldn't have got behind the wheel of the car....

After meeting Paul Spracklin at his place on the Essex Riviera, we journeyed North-East, Norwich-bound. After many years of solely focusing on growing exotic plants, I knew I had to visit Will. My copy of The Exotic Garden is very well-thumbed, and although my focus had shifted slowly away from exotics in recent years, my day trip to Norwich completely blew me away.

Norwich is a long way from Wimbledon. I think it was about 11am that we arrived. Also touring Will's garden were Melissa and Keith, whose garden we also visited later on that day.

The weather was on our side. Nothing prepares you for when you first enter the garden. Spot the tree house...

Sorry, it's a bit of a blurry shot. This first bit reminds me of one of the Florida gardens. The exuberance and lushness of foliage would be on par with some of the planting at Fairchild Botanic Garden.

I like this bit, with the rubber plant and swiss cheese plant used to superb effect.

Will is very good at blending foliage colours together...

I think Will's new kitten was on the happy pills - it was into everything, and followed us all around the garden. Here he had clambered up the stem of a Musa basjoo, and on discovering he couldn't climb up any further, started meowing plaintively.

I don't know what sort of cat this is below, but it has to be the sleekest, most elegant cat I've ever seen. That colour and shine is just like a chestnut with the spiny casing freshly removed.

Will's bromeliad collection was the envy of our group. The Neoregelia at the front of the display was probably large enough to hold some 2-3 litres of water! Above right is an Alcanterea and the green spiky plant is a Doryanthes.

One of the many beautiful, slightly more elegant, species Canna.

Our little friend again.

The Parthenocissus was trained brilliantly into hanging lianas (if that's how you spell it), between the house and the tree house.

The new bit up the top. The work that had gone into the stonework was amazing. This area is at the top of some steps, and evoked a strong Mediterranean feel. I think below is a hardy Trichocereus and my favourite Agave, A.franzosinii.

Just amazing! The silvery leaved thing on the wall is a potted Encephalartos lehmanni, which has apparently overwintered in that position for a couple of winters! The latest set of fronds were just beginning to harden.

We went up to the magical tree house, with superb views down the hill and across Norwich. It was quite surreal sitting on sofas around the bough of a huge Oak tree. Of course our little friend had to come up there with us. The eyes and ears really are that big!

So that was the morning, pretty much. We stopped for lunch, then headed on to Keith and Melissa's garden in the afternoon. Stay tuned for Part 2...


James A-S said...

That has to be the garden of the great Will Giles in Norwich (he of the startling shirts and many cats).
Looks wonderful.

Rothschild Orchid said...

Looks like my kind of garden and definitly my kind of cats. Rather worryingly we have that table at Tumbledown too!

Hurry up with the words, I wanna know more!

Rob said...

Gosh - those are some quick comments! Just going to work on some words now...

Ms B said...

Bloody hell Rob! What a fantastic garden. I have seen it on't' telly & in magazines before but it seems to have become 'more', just 'more'!

And of course you need exotic cats to accesorize your exotic garden

Victoria said...

Great tour, Rob. Sorry I couldn't make it, I just ran out of spare time.
I love the idea of using the creeper in that way, and that cat is just so cute.
I'll get there one day!

Rob said...

Ms B, it has to be seen to be believed! I don't think you can ever capture the a garden fully in photographs. They always seem so much better in real life, and it's all about the experience as well, I suppose.

It was such a great garden. I'd like to go back.

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Everything looks surreal, even a cat!I have a feeling that I am somewhere in Hawaii. Tell the truth, it IS Hawaii, isn't it?!

Rob said...

Victoria, your post just popped up. I'm sure you would have loved his garden! The only problem is that it is a really long way to go in just one day.

After visiting the garden in the afternoon as well, I found myself driving through Wandsworth at about 11.30pm.

That's a hell of a long day, but it was well worth it!

Rob said...

Tatyana, Ms. Orchid, I hope Will steps in here at some point. I think the kitten is half Rex (curly furred) and half Sphinx (furless), but not entirely sure. Of course exotic cats are essential in a garden like this one.

Nutty Gnome said...

Wow, fabulous garden .... I'm fairly sure I saw it in a magazine ages ago, but it still looks wonderful!

I wandered into your blog from elsewhere and have enjoyed reading your posts .... and, like you, have ridden an elephant (in India) and held a baby crocodile (in Nepal) !

Thanks for a nice blog!

Rob said...

Thank you for your nice comment, Nutty Gnome!

Will's garden is always being featured in various magazines and tv programmes. I have read quite a few of his articles on specific plants too.

Perhaps we should start a crocodile-holding and elephant riding club?

Rothschild Orchid said...

Just lusting after this garden again and oggling at the fur babies. Rob the alien looking beastie is either a Devon or Cornish Rex. Now the gorgous chesnut cat looks like one I have always lusted after, a Havana. Very beautiful!

I so have to visit this garden next year.

RO :o)