Three nights B&B, from about £1,300
Britain is well stocked with stately homes and manor houses, major and minor, that in their heyday sported great gardens. While many have vanished completely and others are still firmly behind closed, private doors, there are a smattering that live on as great hotels, making them the perfect getaway for garden lovers.
Barnsley House hotel and spa in Gloucestershire was the home of Rosemary Verey, one of the most influential gardeners and garden writers of the second half of the 20th century. Verey was arguably better known in the US than Britain, although the Prince of Wales was a disciple and regular visitor to Barnsley House. The gardens are undergoing sympathetic restoration and the potager – an old idea that Verey resurrected and popularised – now supplies the kitchen of the hotel’s superb restaurant.
Wawa folding rocking chair
Designed 20 years ago by former sculptor Richard Ward, the Wawa folding rocking chair has been relaunched this year with fabrics from some of the best established and most exciting up-and-coming designers. The rocker’s folding mechanism is beautifully simple, superficially like a deckchair and with similar portability thanks to its very light weight, making it ideal for conservatories and gardens. The fabrics for the relaunched range are from designers such as Eleanor Pritchard, whose work has a strong mid-century aesthetic, and Margo Selby, known for her popular handloom designs.
Capricorn mohair welly boot socks
£11.95 a pair
Christmas socks may be the ultimate cliché gift, but as any gardener knows there is no less inviting place on a freezing winter day than a cold, dank wellington boot. So if you intend to buy foot knitwear this Christmas, you may as well go for a sock that does the job. Capricorn Socks are British made, using mohair from Angora goats. Mohair in a sock makes it hard-wearing, warm, comfortable and machine-washable. Those of a delicate olfactory nature will appreciate one of mohair’s most remarkable qualities – the socks don’t smell after being worn.
Moonlight design garden lighting scheme
Gardens don’t sleep when the sun goes down, but they are much harder to enjoy after dark; especially in winter. Lighting makes a garden more accessible at night and can have a genuinely transformative effect – a carefully lit tree trunk can have the presence of a Corinthian column at night, becoming just a plain old tree trunk when the sun rises again. Well-placed lighting can create almost theatrical effects; light washes, highlights and shadow patterns. The result extends the garden’s usable time during the summer months, and in winter creates an illuminated outdoor picture to enjoy from the warmth of indoors.
Former marketing and advertising executive Philippa Craddock retrained as a florist, quit London and set about designing innovative and distinctive floral arrangements from her studio in Pheasants Hatch, East Sussex. She has built up an impressive list of clients including Tiffany & Co, Lancôme, Claridge’s and the Saatchi Gallery, leading to Condé Nast Brides magazine describing her as the “must-know florist”. She now sells through Selfridges as well as online, including a range of Christmas wreaths.
If there are three things worth spending money on in life, so my grandmother used to say, it’s underwear, eyewear and secateurs. Poor quality secateurs are not only a false economy but a health risk too; blunt blades are far more likely to result in an injury. These Tobisho secateurs are hand forged in Japan, using the same blue paper steel technique employed in the manufacture of Samurai swords. Because the blade and handle are formed from one piece of steel they are exceptionally strong, and feel beautifully balanced in the hand. Most importantly, they have a refined cutting action and smooth, precision cut. Drawn from a leather holster, you can combine cowboy and ninja fantasies in one fell swoop.
“Split shaft” power tools have been around for a while, but have always risked being a jack of all trades and master of none. The idea is simple; take the engine and driveshaft from a brush cutter and split the shaft halfway along its length so that multiple heads with different functions can be plugged in, like a piston-powered Swiss Army knife. Honda’s Versatool uses a powerful four-stroke engine promising less noise than a two-stroke and no fiddling around with oil/petrol mixtures. It has seven attachments, including a soil cultivator, a pruner, an edge cutter for tidying lawn edges, and hedge trimmers. Honda’s reputation for quality should ensure the various implements do the job intended, and don’t languish unused in the garage.
Cacoon hanging chair
The husband and wife team behind Cacoon have spent the past 20 years making sails for ocean-going yachts. On a work trip to Mexico they spotted a colony of weaver birds with their distinctive suspended nests, and the idea for the Cacoon was born. Made from light but incredibly strong sail cloth, the Cacoon is part hanging chair, part hammock, part floating tent. It makes a great garden hideaway for grown-ups and a fun play den for children. There is something irresistibly relaxing about swinging gently in the breeze; fortunately the Cacoon comes equipped with cup holders, should you get a little too chilled out and drift off to sleep.
007’s Barbour jacket
J Barbour & Sons has been making outdoor clothing for field sports enthusiasts, farmers, sailors and gardeners for more than 100 years from its base in South Shields in northern England. The Beacon sports jacket is based on the limited-edition version worn by Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall. A slim-fit, blazer-style waxed jacket in olive drab, it has neat touches like leather-bound cuff edges, and classic Barbour tartan lining. Slim-fit jackets are ideal for gardening as there are no loose flaps of cloth to get caught in machinery or tools, while the waxed cloth repels thorns and rain with ease. A season out in the elements will give it a cool patina that money can’t buy.
The Book of Palms, by Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius
This wonderfully whopping folio (442 pages and measuring 12.4in x 17.1in) was based on the author’s 1817-1820 expedition to Brazil and Peru with the zoologist Johann Baptist von Spix. The pair travelled through the Amazon basin – the most species-rich region of the world – sketching and collecting specimens. The 240 chromolithographic illustrations are beautifully detailed, and represent a landmark in taxonomic description, botanical illustration and the realistic representation of species in the landscape. Such was the significance of this work that when von Martius died in 1868 his coffin was carried to the grave decked in palm leaves.