17 September 2012
Set against the dramatic backdrop of Dartmoor’s wilderness, Castle Drogo is a unique composition of stark contrasts that reflect the extremes of human ambition and ingenuity. Although the iconic castle is famous for being the last one built in England it is the remarkable formal gardens designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to complement the castle that create the most blatant contrast to the surrounding moor. Perched high on a hilltop 1000 feet above sea level and exposed to the harshness of Dartmoor’s notorious weather this is probably the most unlikely place to discover a fine historic garden.
Spring is the most glorious season at Drogo with extensive drifts of Narcissus and Chinodoxa giving way to the exquisite blooms of Magnolia and Cherry and the emerging foliage of Japanese Maples. Spring culminates with a grand finale of massed Azaleas whose joyful colours like spring sunshine are guaranteed to lift the soul and bring a smile to your face.
This morning I arrived at Drogo through a thick moorland mist and was greeted by a wintry veneer of frost on the immaculately cut lawns and yew hedges. As the sunlight gained strength the incredible scenery began to unfold, first the steep rocky slopes of the gorge and later the distant layers of hills with their defiant Tors. Song birds enjoy the microclimate of the garden as much as the flowers and both herald that spring has arrived here at last, even if winter is still unwilling to relinquish its tenuous grip from the surrounding hills.
Post by John Rippin, Head Gardener, Castle Drogo, National Trust. This blog was originally posted in April, 2012 as part of our Gardens month.
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