Early July in the stone garden.

Holbrook Garden


In 2017 Holbrook Garden will open every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from 29 March to 15 September 10am to 5pm, admission £4.00 children free, no dogs. Picnics welcomed.

NGS garden openings in 2017 (10-5). Adm £4, chd free. (Plant sales are not for charity)

  • April Fri 7, Sat 8, Fri 14, Sat 15, Sun 16, Fri 28, Sat 29, Sun 30
  • May Fri 19, Sat 20, Sun 21
  • June Fri 16, Sat 17, Sun 18
  • July Fri 14, Sat 15, Sun 16
  • August Fri 25, Sat 26, Sun 27

  • Our 2 acre garden is situated on the South facing Holbrook Hill just outside Sampford Peverell, the soil is heavy clay. Early interest includes wildflower meadow plantings with cowslips and fritillaries and the woodland garden.

    The two acres have many innovative plantings which take inspiration from natural plant communities. Vibrant mediterranean colours are used. The garden slowly builds through the season from rhododendrons and snakeshead fritillaries to a crescendo of bright reds, yellows, oranges, and strong blues and purples in August and September - a time when many gardens are way past their best!

    A late summer tapestry inspired by Hermanshoff but using Rudbeckia subtomentosa, Ratabida pinnata, Verbena bonariensis, Salvia uliginosa and Pennisetum macrorum. photo 27 August.

    The garden continually evolves and there are many experimental plantings - a wet garden with primulae and iris followed by heleniums, big grasses and echinaceas; a stone garden with a butterfly rich planting of verbena bonariensis, salvia uliginosa and ratibida pinnata together with many pokers and agapanthus; and a developing damp summer meadow with asters, helenium species, lobelia species, purple loosestrifes and persicarias.

    In 2003/4 we planted a pink garden of experimental mixed planting of campanulae, achillea, astrantias, sanguisorbas and filipendulas. These are all planted as an intermixed population - in much the way that one might expect to find such plants in a natural plant community - in shadier areas certain plants might dominate, in wet ones others, in sunny parts yet different plants. More recently in winter 2004/5 and extended again in winter 2010 a total of 48 tonnes of pebbles and stone have been added to the stone garden to create an area suited to hot climate plants - tulips, iris and onions in early spring followed by artemesia, grasses, rock roses. Recent developments are an area of Pinus and Abies planted 2010-11.

    Perfumes, songbirds and nests are everywhere, we have large displays of crocosmia and pulmonarias and the national collection of the genus helenium. The garden, by its nature, is not best suited to wheelchairs but there are seats and picnics benches around. Big child buggies are best avoided please.

    And the garden writers say . . .

    "It is the atmosphere that is paramount; unrestrained and diaphanous." Gill Heavens, Devon Life Sept 2014

    "One of the best examples of ‘New Perennial’ planting in Britain" Noel Kingsbury (website)

    "All in all, you might drift through 20 or so different microcosms at Holbrook. But who’s counting? Certainly not the owners of this staggeringly diverse garden, still gathering the best plants the temperate world has to offer into their piece of Devon hillside." Anna Pavord, The Garden, Sept 2007

    "A combination of a garden full of interesting plants, a nursery and experimental planting is rare. Holbrook has them all" Noel Kingsbury, Gardens Illustrated, August 2007

    "this innovative garden takes its inspiration from natural plant communities and feels wonderfully at ease with itself as a result." Sorrel Everton, Gardens Illustrated Blog, October 2010

    Here are some recent comments from the visitors book . . .

    "Thank you. Wonderful spring colours and combinations" Jennie Sp..., Wellington 14 April 2017
    "Birdsong, bees buzzing, cocks crowing, perfume, flowers. lovely." Julia and Simon (Thyo?) 14 April 2017
    "Love the natural feel - fritillaries - wow!." Lesley and Ian Winter, Torquay 8 April 2017
    "A loveley, interesting naturalistic garden." Micheal and Pamela Gordon-Lee, Sidmouth 8 April 2017
    "Lovely display of spring flowers." Lionel and Barbara Smith, Tiverton 8 April 2017
    "Wonderful, every corner tells a story." Shan Wheeler, Graystooth 19 August 2016
    "Wonderful, paradise." Eva Hayes-Kinst 4320 Leje, Denmark 12 July 2016
    "Very nice and great associations." Andrea, Minika, Alessia, Biwer, Luxembourg 17 June 2016
    "Delightful naturalistic planting." Murray and Susan Horne, Dorset and East Sussex 29 May 2016
    "My birthday! I've been wating to come here for years. It was worth waiting for. Thank you." Annie McTienan, Exeter 27 May 2016
    "Lovely shapes, shades and layers of plants." Vil(?), Harpford Sidmouth, 17 May 2016
    "Wonderful to be lost in a garden where the plants are taller than us." Kathryn Gray and David and Maggie Hutchins, Axminster 17 May 2016
    "Magical artistic free flowing paradise." Davis and Nicky Ramsay, Porlock 17 May 2016
    "Wonderful beautiful garden." E G Hill, Chipping Norton 16 May 2016
    "Amazing house of comfort after too many coffees." D S Rogers, 1 May 2016
    "Love the naturalistic planting. The spring blossom was splendid. The polytunnels would service in my garden if I had room." Yvonne, Peter, Vicki, Jamie, Susan, Jen. Ogwell and Totnes 30 April 2016
    "Makes our souls sing. Wonderful." Jonathan and Susie, Exeter 16 April 2016
    "What an interesting/unusual garden." Jean Cleave, Alison and Annie Pushweaver(?), Axminster Devon 16 April 2016
    "Revisiting after a few years gap. Wonderful as ever." John Bell, Lyme Regis 4 September 2015
    "Loved the colour and variety of planting" Peter and Wendy Lee, Milton Keynes 12 August 2015
    "What a garden should be, thank you." Mick Braddick 11 June 2015
    "Wonderful mix of colour, wild and tame, very much enjoyed" Cecilia and Catherine Thorpe, Stoodleigh 7 June 2015
    "Lovely inspiring planting - keeping seats clear to sit on would be lovely, though lots of ideas to use at home" Carol and Geoff Roughton, Blagdon Hill 3 June 2015
    "Lovely. Just our type of garden - so many nice things" Fiona and Ian Duncan, Wellington, 4 May 2015
    "Lovely naturalist planting and haven for wildlife, more arrows to direct around garden would be helpful" Bev and Jenny, East Harptree 2 May 2015
    "What a wonderful place to visit it is obviously very cleverly planned but looks so natural. More labelling would be helpful" Sally, Clyston Honiton, 23 April 2015
    "Idyllic and restful garden, a welcome retreat from hectic modern life" Frank Potter, Exeter, 23 April 2015
    "Just my sort of garden, very inspiring" Mary, Sussex, 12 Sept 2014
    "Delightful garden, we would have found more labelling helpful" Jill and Steve, Herefordshire 11 Sept 2014
    "Lovely peaceful continuity, delight" Busterfield, Ottery St Mary, 8 Sept 2014
    "Finally a garden that keeps a good balance between nature, design and maintainance" Silke Huber, Zolling, Germany 4 Sept 2014
    "Beautiful planting and haven for wildlife" Belinda Weldon, Colyton, 23 Aug 2014
    "Fabulous colour in the gravel garden, paths a bit overgrown" Sally Dean, Totnes, 23 July 2014
    "I love it, it is fab" in childs hand. Louisa, Trull, 23 July 2014
    "I thought it was epic" in childs hand. Jenny, Trull, 23 July 2014
    "Very comfortable garden" Bob Brown, Worcestershire, 3 July 2014
    "Love the garden, just my style" Sue Londesborough,Herefordshire, 3 July 2014
    "Loved the informality. Wonderful ideas for plant combinations. We also have heavy clay soil" Mo Hughes, Bishops Cleeve, 23 June 2014
    "Simply perfect." Sally Blatch, Holcombe Rogus 16 June 2014
    "Beautiful garden - interesting plant combinatins. Guess lots of time needed to keep it looking so good. An inspiration for how to cope with our wild garden" Yvonne and Alan Bannister, Wroxall, 12 June 2014
    "This is obviously a very special garden because of your vision and practise - I would love it if some of the joy could spill over into your guide - this is very scolarly of all you have done - bring it alive as the garden is." Isabel Hare, 6 June 2014
    "As always an absolute delight withe new features each year, thank you" Jenny Sp..., Perry Elm, Wellington25 May 2014
    "Enchanting, love the rustic informality and surprisese around every corner" Hilary Boxer, Kentisbeare, 25 May 2014
    "A damp day but still a beautiful place in which to break our journey" Jeff(?) and Jane Forrester-Bohm, Oxford, 8 May 2014
    "Fabulous garden yet so informal and natural, thank you" Chris, Sarah Cann, Shaftesbury/Tavistock 16 April 2014
    "Lovely garden to meander through with lots to see" Joan Boad, London, 9 April 2014
    "So glad we visited yourlovely garden. The colours are stunning." Derek and Deirdre, Wokingham 6 Sept 2013
    "I love this garden, it just flows - so calm and easy on the eye" Barbara, Trentishoe, N Devon, 5 Sept 2013
    "Love the natural arrangement" Ursula and Chin,Caradon, Cornwall,5 Sept 2013
    "Love this garden, really exciting plant combinations - we'll be back in the spring" Sue and John Burnard,Beaminster, Dorset 28 Aug 2013
    "Lovely arrangements" Anthony Cline, Exmouth, 6 June 2013
    "Delightful way to spend 1st May" Gillian and Vron, Teignmouth, 1 May 2013
    "Inspirational" 'Family Seedlings' Dorset and Devon, 6 July 2012
    "A wonderful garden, really great" 'Family Kreutzer' Leipzig, Germany, 8 June 2012
    "A magical natural garden" B Daun(?) Sheffield, 26 May 2012
    "Great garden" June Western, Leeds, 1 September 2011
    "Delightful feast of colour" Peter and Angela Elliott, Devon, 4 August 2011
    "We came here on recommendation of Noel Kingsbury. How right he was. Lovely garden" Jane Schul and Jorgen Nordquist, Denmark, 15 June 2011
    "What a lovely natural way to garden" Mike and Maggie Gardner, Bussage Gloucestershire, 18 May 2011
    "Soooo much to see. Must keep you very busy" Carole and Howard, Essex, 13 May 2011
    "A pioneering garden, so much to see too, very peaceful" Sue Catchpole, Cheshire, 13 May 2011
    "A really good garden" T and J Miller, Norwich, 11 May 2011
    "2nd visit, love its wildness, peace and wildlife" Maria and Simon, Rochester, Kent, 21 September 2010
    "Wonderful garden, inspiring place" Marisha and Loenen, Aberdeen, 3 September 2010
    "Good adventure garden, cool ducks" Bethany, Malmsbury, 27 August 2010
    "Beautiful garden" Wim and Ailien, Netherlands, 13 August 2010
    "Spotted some baby frogs" Ryan Lennon, 5 August 2010
    "This is our type of garden, fabulous" 2 Aussies, 7 July 2010
    "Loving the wildness. Thanks for sharing and thank God there's no cream teas!!" Sarah Entwistle, 1 July 2010

    View earlier comments


    The experimental summer meadow with Lythrum, wild carrot and Lobelia syphilitica.

    Holbrook, our garden at Sampford Shrubs, is named after the hill on which we garden.

    Much of the grassed area is carefully managed to allow natives to seed and multiply. In spring you can see naturalised and expanding stands of cowslips, meadow buttercups and fritillaries. The ponds are host to frogs and newts which breed every year. Finally we have an organic vegetable garden and tunnel where compost, mulching and natural predation are used to good effect.

    But the way we grow our garden also has major benefits for us as gardeners. Working with nature by using thick mulches of shredded material or pebbles together and the careful placing of appropriate plants - using natural plant communities as an inspiration - means that our work is minimised - weeds are not eliminated but they are radically reduced. The garden is on a human scale - it is something that busy people can re-create for themselves. We have no hoardes of full time gardeners nor areas of labour intensive bedding and bare earth to keep weed free - 6-8 hours of work a week is a realistic total for the 2 acres. We hope you can come and share our enjoyment.

    Can garden groups visit the garden?


    Cercis Forest Pansy and Cercidiphyllum japonicum in late October


    Can garden groups visit the garden?