A Japanese themed garden created during the lockdown

The photos below show the Japanese themed garden completed during the recent relaxation of the lockdown. Designed and built by Maria Stripling in memory of a friend’s husband who had visited Japan on holiday and the lovely Kyoto tea house gardens. With elements including ‘turtle’ islands (denoting longevity), Azaleas, Acers and a Taxus cloud-pruned tree. With a gravel sea, stepping stones and sculptures owned by the family and perfectly at home in the new space. The forms and planting mirror the surrounding countryside and compliment the rest of the garden as well as the friend’s love of yoga, walking and, of course, ‘tea’!

The garden was due to open in July to raise funds for St Anns Hospice but that has been deferred. However, there are plans to create a video which we will share on here soon.

Flower of the Week by Bill Godfrey – Handkerchief Tree, Davidia involucata

Bill Godfrey is one of our long-standing garden hosts here at Didsbury Open Gardens. A true plantsman and passionate about gardens, plants and much more besides.  Bill has been sharing photos, stories and knowledge about a special plant each week. Here is a recent post to enjoy.

This week’s choice is the inflorescence of the ‘Handkerchief Tree’. 

There’s nothing naughty or immoral about a gardener’s ‘must have’ list. It’s not a deadly sin like envy, lust, greed or pride even. But given the space or opportunity in the garden, every gardener will have a ‘must have’ to fill it. Not all planting decisions are the right ones. Herbaceous plants can be easily moved or substitutes found, trees on the other hand need a long term view and a wrong decision is not so easily remedied.  The jury is still out in the case of my Davidia.

Two things co-joined to ensure the Davidia involucata was top of my ‘must have’ list. We were with one of our Garden Tour groups in Tatton Park garden under one of the finest examples in the country and we were riveted by Michaeljon Ashworth’s story of its discovery. Over to MJ …


“The late nineteenth century saw much European exploration in China.  Access was grudgingly granted to the fading Empire and such were the riches of nature in remote Xanadu every missionary and merchant saved and sold skins and seeds as well as souls.

In 1874, Père David, Catholic missionary, zoologist and botanist, returned to Paris with a (just about) live giant panda and 250 new species of plants.  Among the plants was a tree that blossomed pocket handkerchiefs or Matisse/Picasso doves. This tree was pursued by the Cotswold born Ernest Wilson who learned his trade at a nursery in Solihull and the sobriquet “Chinese Wilson” when he was headhunted by Kew to plant hunt in China.  Wilson was well equipped for this mission.  Healthy and fit, he was a born diplomat who listened to local advice and had a good eye for what would make a good garden plant.

Arriving in Hong Kong via the USA, Wilson found himself locked down in an outbreak of Bubonic plague.  His aim was to meet up with Augustine Henry, a Scottish medical officer in Yunnan, who had taken up plant hunting as a hobby and named 500 new species.  Wilson finally met him as he was about to leave for home in 1899.  His parting gift to Wilson was a scruffy piece of paper (an ersatz map covering 20,000sq miles), with a large X indicating Henry’s location for the fabled white-braced Davidia.

Wilson planned an expedition in search of the marked tree. In 1900 anti- European feeling was strong in China. Pursuing his goal after deciphering the map as well as being pursued by insurgents, Wilson found the X of his treasure map – by now reduced to a hefty stump beside a house supporting beams and posts of Davidia timber!

After 13,000 miles Wilson had arrived and failed. However, by pure chance, his return journey found him a month later in a Yangtze gorge gathering seeds from the only Davidia he ever came across in China. He described it as the most interesting and beautiful of trees growing in northern temperate regions.

It took 11 years for those seeds to produce adult trees bedecked with white bracts. Wilson’s star was ascendant as, leaving the seeds with Veitch’s nursery, he set off on his second expedition, newly wed to his sweetheart Nellie.  Cornus, Acers and Meconopsis fell into his collector’s hands. Treasures indeed. His later life was spent working out of Boston for the Arnold Arboretum until he and Nellie died in a motor accident in 1930.”

Thanks Garden Guru MJ

Finally …

Our Moor Cottage tree was planted as a sapling in 2003 close to the north boundary wall of the spring garden (on the left beyond the Ceanothus and Sambucus nigra in the attached photo). We had fourteen years before the first hanky appeared. You can imagine our delight as more annual flowerings followed to justify our long wait. 2020 wasn’t such a good year for hankies; perhaps because so many seed balls were left hanging from the tree after the mild winter.

If you are close to Tatton and we are permitted to visit the garden, don’t miss its most glorious sight – the two, white dove-bedecked trees to the left of the long drive past the last Baron Egerton’s nostalgic rondarwel. You’ll understand why I just had to find space for one.  Whether it will outgrow the space available or be belittled by imprudent pruning, remains to be seen. Not in my life-time however!

Davidia 29.4.19[4][1]-1Davidia inflorescence cut-1Davidia seed pods 20[1]-1

Gardens, lovely gardens everywhere!

Our garden hosts are busy keeping the borders weeded, planting up new purchases, feeding the veg patch, painting pergolas and relaxing in lockdown. We’ve been sent few photos of ur beautiful gardens, and work in progress by hosts, Deborah Grace, Peter Mackereth, Julie York Yvette Harper-Lee and Simon Hickey. All promising some lovely garden visiting across Didsbury when we can open again.


Didsbury Open Gardens 2020

While our June 2020 event has been postponed (possibly taking place on Sunday, 6 September 2020), there will still be plenty of work done in the gardens. We will ask our garden hosts to share photos and post them here for all to see.

First, here are a few lovely pictures from the gardens of two of our long-standing garden hosts and plantsmen, Bill Godfrey (with some very interesting information he recently shared about the plants) and Simon Hickey – both have gorgeous gardens!

The flower offering for Easter Day deserves to be something very special.  The ‘pride of Madeira’, Echeum fastuosum, growing happily in Manchester with four glorious electric blue flower spikes (the photographs don’t quite do justice to the blue). It is Madeira’s flower, Cornwall’s too seen by friends on an English Language Garden Tour with Michaeljon and Jeremy in the Tresco Abbey garden, Isles of  Scilly. Our plant is three years old and flowering for the first time. It could last another five years if it’s protected from frost. (Bill G.)

This week’s choice has to be the Camellias. Symbols of love and affection:White for true love. Pink for remembering someone who is missed. Red symbolizing passion and deep desire. Violetta’s flower. (She gives me goose pimples just thinking of her). The great spring-time Camellias play their own joke on passers-by by screaming “Come closer, come nearer, nearer and let me touch your nose!”  Gardeners know to resist; they have no scent at all! Not all Camellias are scentless. The scented Camellia sasanquas bloom in the autumn. Tatton and Chatsworth have good examples under glass.  The Moor Cottage red Camellia is 26 this year. (Bill G.

‘Clematis avalanche’ from simon Hickey.






Didsbury will Open its Gardens, on 21 June, 2020

We are pleased to announce that the Didsbury Open Gardens charity event will take place on Sunday 21st June 2020.

Over 20 lovely gardens will be open, with activities, music, an arts trail, an Owl and Bird of Prey display by the Wild Wings sanctuary, and much more.

Programmes will go on sale at the start of May in A Taste of Honey Deli on Burton Rd, and in The Cheese Hamlet and Cidsin Cafe, in the village centre.

Still only £5 each, the programmes are great value for a family and community day out, with all proceeds going to St Ann’s Hospice.

We hope you can join us!

Maria & Simon

Over £13,000 raised for charities

Over 1400 visitors enjoyed this year’s event and more than 30 open spaces and gardens.  The charities that benefited included Maggie’s, St Anns Hospice, Didsbury Good Neighbours, Cancer Research UK, Genesis Appeal, Centre Point, Cystic Fibrosis and others.

A big thank you for supporting the event and to our hosts, musicians, artists, volunteers, and all involved.  It was a lovely day across Didsbury and congratulations are due to everyone involved for the money raised for charity.

Many thanks to Julian Wadden for sponsoring the programme.

Hope to see you next year!

2018 Open Gardens Details for Didsbury In Bloom

Flock to Didsbury Open Gardens on Sunday 17 June

With over 30 spaces and gardens, and 8 new gardens this year, plus music, and an Arts Trail, who would want to miss the event on Sunday 17 June.  We have some interesting art being exhibited this year, and no more so than the new collection of Mosaic Birds created by Sally Cartwright for the Didsbury Open Gardens. Inspired by the flying birds from the Willow Pattern and a study of seagulls. Use of broken china from 1970’s kitchen ware, Victorian dinner plates, and a few Orla Kiely accidents – finished with gold leaf.

Her Birds can be viewed in one of our Parkfield Rd South gardens next Sunday and are guaranteed to catch the eye as you wander around this large, beautifully planted family garden.

Didsbury Open Gardens 17 June Arts Trail

Not only will we have over 30 open gardens and spaces but we will again offer the Arts Trail, with pop-up exhibitions by various artists in a number of gardens. A summerhouse will host an exhibition by photographer John Eastwood in the Welton Avenue garden, and Eric Jackson of ‘Statement Artworks’ will be a big draw. BBC presenter and DJ Mark Radcliffe described Eric’s work as ‘Brilliant, witty and acerbic’ – so don’t miss it (The Old Surgery Garden) if you are looking for something out of the ordinary, special to the north of England and not available on the high street?

Then there are the ceramicists including Peter Mackereth and Sarah Pink who will set up stall in the Mayfield Drive garden, Nick Roberson’s stonework and sculpture and a demonstration at St James Church, and the lovely Mosaic Birds by Sally Cartwright at one of the Broooklawn Drive gardens.

Lat but not least, visit the Dan Pearson garden at Maggie’s at The Christie and view the work of National Portrait Gallery exhibited artist, Lucy Burscough, who is artist in residence at Maggie’s.

See you there!IMG_1801

Didsbury Good Neighbours to help with this year’s event

Didsbury Good Neighbours (DGN) will be part of the Open gardens day this year, helping senior residents of Didsbury to get to some of the gardens and look around. The charity, which is based at the Holt Pavilion in Didsbury Park, run a variety of activities for people at the Cafe and also a weekly programme of events.

Volunteers support residents in the community and this year we are asking anyone who needs some help to visit some gardens to get in touch with DGN in good time and they will try and help out.  Contact them on Tel: 07749 504298 or email: info@didsburygoodneighbours.org.uk. More details are in the programme which goes on sale this weekend. See Home page for details of where to buy a programme.