Longstock Water Garden in Hampshire is part of the part of the Leckford Estate which is fully owned and managed by Waitrose. The extensive water garden was created by John Spedan Lewis in the 1940s as a place to work and reflect. Over the year as the seasons change there are a wonderful variety of plants to see.
As the days start to get warmer the garden slowly starts to come back to life.
Signs of new growth
The garden lies in an intense frost pocket at the bottom of Longstock Park, the tender first shoots can be vulnerable to late frosts, but as the uncertainties of March give way to the milder temperatures of April, everywhere is suddenly alive with new growth. The many species of deciduous tree unfurl their buds to reveal their fresh leaves, the reflections in the shiny waters change once again.
The first flowers of the year
The first signs of colour start to show as bulbs and perennials like the Snake's Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) and the Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton) begin to flower at the water's edge. Although the soil is mostly alkaline, there is a woodland area of acidic soil that rhododendrons and camellias prefer, and soon their blooms spread rich drifts of colour between the trees. Everywhere the stark outlines of winter are beginning to vanish beneath the clean, sharp green of thrusting leaves and shoots.
Time to visit the garden
The garden is open to the public from April, for more information on opening hours visit our contact pages.
At this time of year the garden intoxicates with its abundance of scents, sights and textures.
By now, it has become hard to tell where the bank ends and the water begins, as flowers and foliage jostle at the lakeside in tumbling profusion. At every turn, on every path, there is a fresh show of colour, an inspired combination of species or an unusual variety to wonder at.
Flowers and ferns are at their best
This is the time to see all 40 types of water lily in bloom and to enjoy scented marginals like Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria). The many varieties of Primula that began flowering in March will continue through to July. From May it's the turn of the numerous members of the Iris family, followed in June by the Astilbes, while half-hardy perennials, like our varieties of Lobelia, bloom into autumn. The shade of waterside trees provides the perfect habitat for many ferns.
Autumn, in its own way, is as spectacular as summer in the garden.
Rich colours abound
When the garden was designed many of the tree and plant species were chosen because of their superb autumn colours. Even on a dull day, the waters of the lake reflect dramatic vistas of gold, copper and rust, while late-flowering plants like the Toad Lily (Tricyrtis formosana 'Stolonifera') add sudden dashes of purple and pink.
Time to appreciate foliage and form
The leaves of Liquidamber, glow a rich russet, vividly illustrating how the tree came by its name. The Swamp Cypress (Taxodium disticum), too, contributes splashes of rusty red, while the foliage of the Cornus plants turns a brilliant scarlet. Add the pale yellows and ochres of the birches, oaks and other deciduous species, and the garden reveals ever-changing panoramas of colour right through to the dark days of November.
Closing down for the year
The garden closes to the public in mid-September, for more information on opening hours visit our contact pages.
As the days get shorter, stark shapes and stunning aspects are revealed.
A clear view across the water
Winter brings its own enchantments the chance to study the garden's intricate topography, with its archipelago of tiny islands and connecting bridges. Now the profuse growth of summer has died back and been cleared, only the shrubs stand above ground, the sheer expanse of the lake is revealed, reflecting the bare trees in its dark waters.