Gardening in Somerset

Bruton, Somerset. When I say “gardening,” I am referring to my version of same, which means viewing and admiring the work of others who labor in the lovely gardens of England.

We have seen some spectacular gardens this month, curated by everyone from Capability Brown to all of our hosts and hostesses. They’ve given my personal gardener, Sir Don-o-Mite, lots of inspiration for our humble plot in New York. Alliums, I say!!!

Our second day in Dorset was all about gardens in nearby Somerset. We started out at a newly-opened estate, which will have a luxury hotel with a spa and private tennis court, a working farm which supplies the site’s cafes and restaurants, extravagant items for sale in the gift shops, elaborate gardens, and anything else money can buy.

On the grounds of a former vintage garden, the new site, known as The Newt (?) clearly shows that no expense needed to be spared by the new South African owners. Even the approach reeks of money and – have to admit it – lots of taste. I think the apple theme is a more dominant note. However, The Newt it is.

The gardens are still a work in progress and will take years to fully mature, which makes this a place worth visiting over and over, say the knowledgeable ones in my group. I just loved the architecture of the plantings and terracing, and the pops of color from the spring flowers.

Our lunch snacks were – of course – created with Newt produce and meats, all on paper trays for biodegradability. Must say the apple juice I had was the best ever – an apple in liquid form. (I”m not talking about Sarah’s green and healthy beverage.)

One magical garden was not enough for the day, however. We went next to Hauser & Wirth, an art gallery and multi-purpose arts center, and a destination for experiencing the Somerset landscape. Owners Iwan and Manuela Wirth live locally and created the site as a place where they could bring together their interests in art, architecture, landscape, conservation, garden, food, education, community and family. Such amazing ambitions.

A landscaped garden, designed by internationally renowned landscape architect Piet Oudolf (designer of New York’s High Line), includes a 1.5 acre perennial meadow, behind the gallery buildings. We have been here before in a different season, so impressed that Sarah was involved in the realization of the design. It has a very different feel than The Newt (will I ever get used to that name?) and has its own beauty.

The art exhibit changes regularly, and the current one did not speak to me personally, but some might find Louise Bourgeois’s spiders captivating. To each his own.

And then there’s the thingie that was an installation in London at the Serpentine Galleries at one point, which does allow for new and intriguing views of the garden through its windows.

Proof that this is a noteworthy place to visit? Why just last month, the Queen herself was here.

How to end such a wonderful day? With dinner at the local pub, of course. One could walk from Sarah and Peter’s house easily to the Rose and Crown, a country inn which has been much favored by locals and travelers for many generations. It was originally built in the 14th century to house the spire workers of the neighboring St Andrew’s Church.

The food is so good that it is verging on gastro-pub status, but it still retains its inclusive and homey touches. Between us, with some duplication, we sampled the: Yarlington blue cheese gnudi, with raisin puree, celery & candied walnuts; potato soup, black truffle vinaigrette, New Cross Farm asparagus & homemade bread; fennel-cured salmon with a shaved fennel, blood orange & sorrel salad; calves’ liver & streaky bacon, smoked mashed potato, crispy shallots & pan gravy; fillet of haddock with buffalo chorizo, peas & wild garlic pressed Jersey Royal potatoes; and pink Dorset lamb rump, Boulangère potatoes, grilled asparagus, wild garlic & lamb jus. Not a crumb left on any plate, but there did need to be a sampling of sticky toffee pudding, just to make sure it measured up to the rest of the meal.

It’s hard to believe what a good life we have been living. Don’t hate us too much. 


4 thoughts on “Gardening in Somerset

  1. The gardens are beautiful and the food is amazing. Will you be going to Wells in Somerset as well? I lived there for two years between 2004 and 2006. They have an excellent Saturday market, and they ring the cathedral bells for a long time in the summer, the most beautiful church bells I’ve seen. Our office was in the old deanery stables next to the cathedral, the stall dividers were there and it still smelled of hay. The doors opened to reveal glass walls behind it.

    1. We have been to Wells Cathedral for a tour one lovely Sunday afternoon a few years ago, along with a very nice lunch with friends. Lucky you!!

  2. While you Lady Dy-na-Mite and Sir Don-o-Mite enjoy the Beautiful English gardens we here in NY will have to suffice with Manhanttanhenge this evening.

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