When my girls were little, we used to visit Leeds Castle a lot. We would try to spot a shimmering peacock (there was an albino peacock, which was especially exciting). The girls would hide in the giant rhubarb (Gunnera), pretending that they had shrunk. We would lose each other in the maze and get spooked in the grotto.
We let our membership lapse a couple of years ago because a) it is expensive and b) there are so many other wonderful places to visit.
Today I went back to Leeds Castle.
This Hellebore was metres away from the entrance gate. What delicious freckles!
As I walked through the Wood Garden, I had memories of my girls in their little wellies, skipping off in front.
One of their favourite hollow trees to climb has been felled. I think this is the tree that had a large cleft between two branches, and the girls could stick their head through the gap. It has been carved into a rather lovely seat. Leeds Castle is associated with black swans, hence the swan motif here.
This part of the grounds has been planted with groups of shrubs. Many of these have colourful stems for winter interest. Here are some snowdrops with red Cornus (Dogwood) and yellow Salix (Willow) behind.
I had fun getting down low to take this photo. I wanted to capture the sunlight shining through the petals and stems.
If that wasn’t beautiful enough, look what I saw next!
It was still quite early in the morning, and the crocuses were just starting to open. If you look closely at this one, you can see that it has been nibbled just a little bit!
The anthers and carpel inside a crocus is a stunning tangerine colour.
There were more Hellebores above the Pavillion Lawn. I couldn’t resist having a peep. They are suited to being grown on a slope like this: if you stand beneath them you can more easily see their flowers.
I got an obligatory picture of the black swans on the moat. If you look carefully, part of the castle is currently wrapped in bandages. I wish it a speedy recovery.
The Culpeper Garden is a lovely walled garden, which at the moment looks like this:
This was the first day I felt the warmth of the sun on my back. It was delicious.
The walls help to heat the garden up. I love espaliered fruit trees. Especially when they are as old and gnarly as this.
I don’t know about you, but when I visit a garden over and over again, I tend to go in exactly the same direction in the same order as every other time I have visited.
Somehow, in the nine years I have been visiting Leeds Castle, I have managed never to have noticed Lady Baillie’s Mediterranean Garden. It is just a few steps down from the Culpeper Garden, but I’ve never seen it before!
It really didn’t feel like a February morning in England here.
Date palms. Who’d have thought?
I could have thought myself transported to the Riviera, if it were not for the squabbling swans on the lake.
I took this picture so that you could appreciate the blueness of the sky this February day.
I made my way back through the woodland garden, stopping again to admire the carpet of crocuses, which had opened to the sun.
It was rather lovely to see these great swathes of Crocus tommasinianus grown through grass. You don’t notice the foliage this way, and the flowers look like they are hovering, balancing on their alabaster stems.
I shall be back later on in the season to see the Culpeper Garden at its zenith. Who knows? I might discover another whole new garden I missed before?
The Mindful Gardener tends her own garden in Kent, The Garden of England. She likes to have a poke around other gardens for ideas and inspiration.
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