Christmas Get Together

It has been two years since our last Christmas get together in December 2019. It was so lovely to be able to finally meet and celebrate Christmas, and to thank our volunteers, staff and friends of the garden, and celebrate the past two years of Marwood’s achievements. We were able to skype with John and Libby Snowdon the garden owners and it was fascinating to hear his recollections of the changes to Marwood over the years. It is also a nice reminder that Marwood Hill Gardens is very much family home and business, a business that we all share a sense of ownership in. It was also a chance for everyone to gather to celebrate the past 16 years of Patricia Stout being the Property Manager at Marwood Hill Gardens before she leaves her role in early January. We will welcome Georgia, Business Manager in January 2022 and the whole team are excited to see how she will personalise her role.

It was a day of speeches, and the event was opened (via Skype) by the owners John and Libby, who recounted a brief history of the garden spanning from the death of Dr Smart in 2002, the arrival of Patricia, briefly outlining the successes and challenges faced by the business during this time.

Patricia has steered the business though many triumphs including the creation of Marwood’s carpark and was involved in many flower show competitions, including the Devon County Show, she Introduced events to the garden, including weddings and theatre as well as developing the garden tearoom.  Turning it from a home and private collection of plants into a self-sustaining business and one of North Devon’s foremost attractions.

I wandered round the garden early after the last set of storms (storm Arwen and Barra in late November). Expecting the worst, was pleasantly surprised to find our trees had ‘weathered the storm’. It was then I stumbled on our Gardener, Lin, staring down at a long dead Popular tree that had fallen in the recent storm in the herbaceous borders. I managed to kick this apart with just my gardening boots showing just how weak the tree had become after years of standing tall supported by the wall and vines. After further exploration a total of 8 trees were down, mainly in the shelter belt and at fringes of garden.

The main issue is what to do with the waste. If not processed it would build up and needs to be dealt with quickly. So much fallen wood must be either burnt, large logs stacked, smaller branches chipped. Malcolm has been continuously collecting and transporting this material to our yard.



Main jobs in the garden

  • Cutting back in the herbaceous borders, and across the garden. Every year the border is edited, with some plants removed, making way for new plantings. This year Peta (gardener) is removing the last few pink and reds in the display such as Hersperatha and Crocosmia. These plants looked at odds with the blue, silver and white theme. A large clump of Eupatorium purpurea was removed and many established clumps of Iris sibirica. The lifted plants need to be potted and labelled and are sold in our plant sales area.
  • Final leaf clear. We collect them regularly and often to ensure they are nice and dry and easy to rake. Rather than wet half decomposed.
  • All the trees fall need chopping up, transporting, burning or chipping. A big job!! What to do with the waste.
  • Cutting back hellebores in preparation for their flowering.
  • Digging up plants such as the popular Clerodendron bungei for sale

The team at Marwood would like to wish the community, our season ticket holders and visitors a lovely Christmas and new year.


Autumn treeNovember is such an atmospheric month in the garden, the lakes display beautiful golden reflections, the (somewhat slippery) paths are now covered with a confetti of pink and yellow leaves. Leafless trees, reveal the beauty of bark and tree structure. Conifers and evergreen trees begin to be more noticeable. In reaction to low light levels, wet conditions and cooler days, the plants have started to slow down and head for cover, not to unlike our hardy gardeners and volunteers, who favour more indoor based work such as propagation, nursery work, label making when it all gets too much. 

This is definitely a favourite time of year in the garden for both myself and many of our visitors. The herbaceous perennials of late summer begin to die down but autumn colour has not quite arrived. It could be presumed that the garden would begin to look quite tired, however here in the gardens there are several truly spectacular flowers that choose this ‘sleepy’ time to flower.

Marwood’s Garden Tearoom is the perfect place to gaze at the tall, golden flowered Stipa gigantea, which really looks beautiful in the low afternoon light. The black leaved Actaea simplex, with its contrasting white fragrant flower spikes looks striking in the borders. The deep blue hooded flowers of Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ and Salvia ‘Amastrad’ contrast well with the silver foliage of ArtemisiaRubus tibetanus (Tibetan bramble) and Plectranthus argentatus (silver spurflower). Topping it all off are masses of pink flowering Clerodendrum bungei and magnificent clumps of Kniphofia rooperi (red hot poker). Its bright orange beacons lighting up the garden.

‘The Planting a Bog, Blog’


Looking back at the August 2020 blog, we were just emerging from the national lockdown. I wrote at the time that regrettably the three B’s ‘Brambles, Bindweed and Balsam’ took control of many areas of the garden. This month the B’s ARE BACK and our attention has been frustratingly spent on tackling and removing these weeds. Once more our apologies if you’ve visited and seen grumbling gardeners lost in the brambles.

 Astilbe Ice Cream

Marwood Hill Garden was featured on Gardener’s world this month!  It was filmed on a sunny June day in 2019 and featured Malcolm Pharoah sharing his expertise on Astilbes. It was great to see Malcolm get much deserved recognition for his dedication to the national Astilbe collection and to Marwood Hill garden.

We are now officially open. a quick initial opening of the plant sales area over the Easter weekend before an official opening of the site on 14th of April. The garden is starting to feel like its old self again. Our loyal season ticket holders have not forgotten us, with many choosing to renew their membership and visit the garden. Many holiday makers are already arriving coming from across the UK.

This month in the garden it has been all about the bluebells displays, enchanting flowering cherries and the more subtle flowering dogwoods. Everywhere you look plants are emerging and unfurling in the first green flush of growth. Blue sky, dry and sunny weather, has framed the garden beautifully.


Now is a great time to take a walk across Marwood Hill Garden, the floral scent is phenomenal. The weather has been amazing this past week. Blue skies, sun, and warmth. Let us hope it continues into the Easter weekend. Flowers are sprouting up across the garden in a colour explosion. With no frost to worry about, the magnolias have put on a great display with an eruption of pinks, purples, and whites across the garden, contrasting well with the whites, reds, and pinks of the late flowering Camellias.

As I write this month’s blog, the sun is streaming in through the window. The garden is very spring like, a small colony of white and purple crocus have colonized the tearoom lawn. Snowdrops and hellebores which are still flowering but will soon give way to the masses of daffodils that are spread across the garden. Camellias are in full bloom in shades of red, pink, and white and the magnolias are covered in fat flower buds promising a good display in the next few months. There is an air of optimism in the garden with many local residents and garden volunteers having already received their first vaccinations, so there is a feeling of real positivity and that normality is just round the corner.

November to mid-February, is an ideal time to look at tree work in the garden. With leaves removed the branch structure of a tree can be better accessed and with most bulbs and herbaceous perennials lying dormant and protected under the ground, falling branches can do little damage. Conifers put on a new flush of growth in April and deciduous trees tend to lie dormant in the winter months, with sap only again beginning to rise from mid-February onwards. which makes it an ideal time to prune trees.

With the leaves having fallen from the trees, the bones of the garden have now been revealed. The bright white bark of the birch and eucalyptus are very striking and many of the smooth-barked magnolias are covered with a wide diversity of lichen in an array of interesting colours, white, grey, orange, blue, green and yellow. Some flowers persist including early flowering Camellias and Rhododendrons which are starting to show, flashes of pink, white and red. The white bell flowers of Leucojum (Spring Snowflake) and early daffodils can also be seen emerging from the woodland floor.

November has been a quiet month. The November national lockdown meant that holiday makers and visitors to our gardens all but disappeared, despite this we felt it was important to keep the garden open to provide a place for people to get a bit of fresh air and recreation.

It’s October and despite the rather wet weather the trees are still putting on a good show. An explosion of colour has erupted from Marwood’s woodland canopy. Flame-like reds and oranges, cooler lemon-yellows vie for attention against the richer, buttery tones. Trees that have been quite indistinguishable during spring and summer suddenly draw attention.

Wow what a busy month!!! This September has been an unusually busy month. Traditionally September would be a quieter time in the garden, when we see fewer visitors, as summer holidays end and the new school year begins. This year has been quite different. Children may have gone back to school, but much to our delight, garden visitors have continued to come to explore Marwood. Which has allowed us to show off the late summer highlights in the garden.

It has been several months since I have sat down and written the Head Gardener’s Blog. That is not to say when lockdown happened Marwood completely stopped, far from it.

Regrettably like other businesses many of our staff were furloughed. At the time of lockdown all the hard work had been done and our plant centre was full of a fantastic range of plants ready for sale and the garden was looking immaculate. After a week of trading the door was duly shut again (mid March). Despite this’ always keen to focus on the positive’ the Marwood Team viewed lockdown as an opportunity. It was the ideal time for us to set up the Online Shop. Boxes were sourced, couriers were chosen, and the Online Shop was developed. Much needed income started to flow into the business.

Take a tour of Marwood Hill Gardens in April 2020

If you go down in the woods today.......

Spring has finally reached the garden. Marwood is now dotted with pink, reds and whites. The early flowering Magnolia, Camellia and Rhododendron are blooming across the garden. The richly perfumed pale pink Magnolia sprengeri. The dark pink cabbage sized flowers of Magnolia campbellii subsp. Mollicomata are looking amazing, contrasting well with the nearby magnolia purple-pink flowered Magnolia ‘Charles Raffill'. Salix gracilistyla 'Mount Aso' is looking resplendent, with its bright red winter shoots above its pink and silver fluffy male catkins (available for sale). Look out for early spring flowering herbaceous perennials such as strikingly blue daisy like Anemone blanda and dark blue flowering Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’.

After four successive storms Atiyah, Brendan, Ciara and Dennis, three large trees have failed in the garden. One large Eucalyptus has fallen into the upper lake, with two other trees coming down in the bog garden and folly area. Many branches and detritus litter the garden. The tree surgeons made clever use of a small boat and a winch to remove the eucalyptus from the top lake and the garden team have been busy clearing fallen branches and logs away. With so many fallen trees, much space has been created for new planting opportunities.

February is here, bringing with it the prospect of lighter evenings, much to the relief of the garden team. We are however not out of the woods yet; the continuing battle with the wet weather which has fully saturated the garden and the threat of frost is still a very real possibility.

Early flowering Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ was the first bulb to emerge throughout the garden followed quickly by snowdrops, Hellebores and most recently Leucojum vernum (Spring snowflake). Early flowering Camellias, Rhododendron nobleanum and R. ‘Christmas Cheer’ have provided splashes of purple, pink, white and red.

My Name is Matthew Brewer, I have recently taken on the role of head gardener at Marwood Hill Gardens.

In all honesty, before last June, I had never heard of this garden but for a chance visit to Marwood whilst holidaying with my family. Upon entering the garden we naturally headed for the tearoom. Halfway through a ginger scone, an impromptu interview with the Garden Manager and my fate was sealed. Before joining Marwood I was working as a woodland Horticulturalist at RHS garden Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, together with a hardy band of volunteers clearing and developing its woodland.