Gardening Magazine

Summer Gardens of Dorset – Day Three

By Ronniejt28 @hurtledto60

A coach tour of six gardens in three days is just enough, I feel all gardens-out now. It has been a really wonderful holiday, meeting interesting people, eating lots of cake, drinking copious cups of tea and coffee as well as a lot of laughs playing impomtu very silly games in the evening.  The last two gardens of the  Saga Summer Gardens of Dorset tour were Compton Acres and Cranborne.

  • Compton Acres, Poole, Dorset

Summer Gardens of Dorset – Day Three

Built into the side of the Poole cliffside, Compton Acres  has five area, an Italianate Garden  consisting of a Roman Courtyard, a Grotto and a Grand Italian Garden pictured above.  Here you will find the traditional topiary, statues and pond, all giving the balance and symmetry required to create a peaceful and calm atmosphere.  Water is also hugely important in the garden design creating a relaxing mood.   I wasn’t sure about the bright red begonias, I find them too bold and certainly not conjusive to a calm feeling.  However, the experts know best, although I do wonder if the original Italian gardens had bright flowers, and if so maybe they used pelargoniums rather than begonias?

Summer Gardens of Dorset – Day Three

The Japanese Garden has lots lush greenery and water. It seemed that red painted wood was a recurring theme of this garden tour, found on the Monet style bridges in Abbotsbury and Bennett’s Water Gardens (Summer Gardens of Dorset – Day Two) and today at The Japanese Tea House.


Apart from the Italian Garden, if you are not expecting lots of color and flowers and are happy with woodland areas, waterfalls and a sub-tropical style garden then Compton Acres is just for you.  Personally, after four garden visits where only one had herbaceous borders, I was getting weary of all the green and longed to see flowers other than rhododendrons and azaleas.    I was therefore looking forward to our last garden, Cranborne Manor Garden.

  • Cranborne Manor Garden, Cranborne, Dorset

Although usually only open to the public on a Wednesday, we were granted the privilege of being able to visit when closed.


Cranborne Manor Garden surrounds the old Manor House (not open to the public) and has a number of different areas managed by two gardeners.


The kitchen garden, as expected, had a cutting flower patch with a fabulous border of roses underplanted with dianthus, making for a wispy effect.


The garden is not regimentated, all the planting was soft and gentle, giving a natural effect – just my type of garden.   As you walk around you will come across a Sundial Garden, North Garden, Cottage Garden as well as several others.  As with touring holidays you are quite time restricted : “…you need to be back in the coach by xx o’clock..” so sadly the chance to gave a good old amble and see everything is lost.

Sweet peas
Sweet peas
Philadelphus lewisii (mock orange)
Philadelphus lewisii (mock orange)

A couple of us tried a plant finder app PlantSnap.  Once I got the hang of the correct way to snap and upload a photo it worked fairly well – as long as there was internet connection.  A lot of the gardens in dips didn’t have any reception which as a bit frustrating.  The above were correctly identified as Philadelphus, Sweet Pea and Penstemon, which I knew anyway as I was just testing it.  I had hoped it would tell me the varieties but it wasn’t always that sophisticated, although it did correctly identify a salvia as ‘Amistad’.   With an iPhone and a good clear photo it is a very useful app and fun to use.

  • Saga Special Interests Holidays

I really enjoyed this tour and going on my own wasn’t a problem at all, everyone was so friendly, but then we did all had a common love of the garden.  The age group was mixed from about late 60 to late 80 and it didn’t matter at all, the more able helped the less able and everyone joined in.  Our Saga Rep, Sue, was a bundle of fun from beginning to end, hurding us up and skilfully dealing with the hotel if there were any issues.  We had a most enthusiastic and knowledgeable host, a horticulturalist of 35+ year experience, who walked and talked us around the gardens.  I will certainly go on another one – maybe Gardens of North Wales next year.

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