Things aren’t quite turning out as planned. While packing to leave the home of our friends, I trip on my massively heavy, bulky duffel and immediately feel searing pain in my right pinky toe. Unlike after similar incidents, the pain doesn’t subside. The following day, I go to Urgent Care in a small Yorkshire village hospital and learn I have fractured the toe. I am strongly advised not to go on the hiking trip in the Scottish Highlands.
Terribly disappointed and in need of something cheery, Juliet and I decide the only logical thing to do is engage in some garden therapy. So we go to Castle Howard where I hobble around the spectacularly beautiful gardens at this massive estate fifteen miles north of York, owned and occupied by the Howard family for three hundred years. The “house”
is situated amidst thousands of acres planned with the utmost aesthetic care. Towering trees frame tranquil lakes. Formal gardens encircle fabulous fountains. A walled garden, while formal in style, is filled with a riot of flowers of every imaginable color.
Emerald lawns gently slope towards forests and waterways. Grand statues stand sentinel. Oh, to have such space!
The next day we go to Helmsley Walled Garden, another revelation. Entirely different from Castle Howard, it feels more like a garden a non-noble would have. It is much more manageable in size and less formal. In addition to the variety of plants, colors, and textures, there is a wildness, a denseness, a kind of unruliness that I love.
And the fruit trees, laden with red and green apples and the most perfect pears!
Before leaving, we have a chat with a volunteer gardener who tells us about a gem of a garden in a village on our way to the Lake District that is a must-see. And so we stop at Millgate House and explore an enchanting cloistered hillside garden crowded with small trees, flowering shrubs, and potted plants, rangy and untamed, covering every spot of earth.
Oh, what can be accomplished in little space!
After spending several delightful hours being inspired, we make the slow and scenic drive to the Lake District, arriving in the golden hour when the softening light makes the landscape radiant.
The hillsides are luscious and green, the trees perfectly shaped, the gardens immaculate, the sky punctuated by dramatic grey and white clouds.
After a day witnessing such beauty and grace, the broken toe seems of less consequence. And we have many new ideas to bring to our garden at home!