In a quiet part of Northumberland amid sheep grazing fields lies one of the most wonderful gardens in the country.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 23, 2010. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questins.)
Twenty six years ago, Bide A Wee cottage garden was an old sandstone quarry site consisting of rough grass and gorse surrounded by an outer stone boundary wall. Landscape architect Mark Robson has transformed the site into one of the gardening treasures of the UK. Northumberland's climate approximates to USDA zone 8.
The present garden covers about 2 acres and features a pond near the old quarry wall, borders on many levels with numerous stairways providing a meandering path throughout the garden. Old buildings are adorned with climbers such as gold leaved ivy and mile a minute vine, Fallopia baldschuanicum and there is a lovely orchard path, woodland borders and a meadow.
The gardens open two days a week, on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons from May until the end of September. It also opens in April under the National Gardens Scheme with proceeds going to nursing, caring and gardening charities.
Bide A Wee is home to the national collection of centaurea (cornflowers). Many gardens and individuals throughout the UK endeavor to collect and preserve a group of plants in this way. Over 90 species and cultivars of Centaurea are planted mainly near the fence separating the plant sales area and ticket shed from the garden. There are cornflower plants planted throughout the borders as well. They range from the native hardhead C. nigra to the large yellow flowered C. macrocephala.
The garden borders at Bide A Wee cottage are absolutely packed with plants. It is a real plantsman's garden containing many unusual and rare plants.
The pond sits at the bottom of the quarry wall which is covered with ferns such as the wonderful hart's tongue fern, Asplenium scolopendrium and the sensitive fern Onoclea sensibilis. A path leads downwards from the woodland section passing rhododendrons and tree ferns. Plants around the pond include rodgersias, skunk cabbage, candelabra primulas, many types of fern including the magnificent Osmunda regalis, huge leaved Gunnera , Ranunculus acris 'flore pleno', irises, and Persicaria bistorta.
As the garden is built on several levels, you get some very interesting views of the plants, either looking down at them from above, or looking upwards. The steps often bring you to eye level with the plants. Adjacent to the garden is a beautiful meadow area which is filled with wild flowers. Honey bee hives are also situated here and overlook the Northumberland landscape.
A path through a wonderful stone archway leads you through borders lined with old apple trees. In the adjacent border is a wonderful mixture of astrantia, grasses, cow parsley, Chaerophyllum hirsutum, Cirsium rivulare, yellow daisies. poppies and ranunculus. There are clumps of the Himalayan lily Cardiocrinum throughout the garden and they are a magnificent sight. Long, fragrant white trumpets with a black throat rising up to 8 feet in the air. Another stand out plant is the wonderful honey spurge, Euphorbia mellifera with an incredibly strong scent.
If a gardener ever wanted ideas for planting combinations, Bide A Wee is the place for inspiration! Perennials, bulbs, grasses and ferns are all interplanted in the most wonderful way. You can spend hours in this garden studying just one border!
Bide A Wee cottage has a charming plant sales area and I've picked up some real treasures there. They also do mail order. For details check their website at www.bideawee.co.uk
All photographs in the article are my own.
About Sue Taylor
Originally from Northumberland, and now living here again after 10 years in Yorkshire and 10 years in Maine, USA. I've been a gardener for many years and also enjoy wildlife. I love houseplants, particularly sansevierias.