The garden is comparatively new in relation to the house which dates back to the 12th Century. An old photograph of the 1880s shows a sloping field and it was not until the 1890s that the ground was terraced. The present layout dates from 1976. The priory is 600ft above sea level and very exposed, so the first thing that Maria Chaworth-Musters, the creator of the garden, planted were the yew hedges as shelters for the herbaceous borders.
An annual feature of the garden is the carpet of Daffodils in the orchard, some of which are extremely rare and which were recently the subject of a detailed article in The English Garden Magazine.The carpet of yellow, apricot, white and orange is a sight to behold during March and April.
Colourful Tulips have recently been added to the garden. Other plants grown at this time of year include a wonderful collection of Magnolias, Snake’s Head Fritillary which underplants the trees in the specimen shrubbery area, Hellebores and finally a stunning collection of both herbaceous Peonies and Tree Peonies, some of which are very old.
A stunning woodland carpet of Bluebells can also be found at Felley Priory in the spring.
The herbaceous borders are the highlight of the summer months and are renowned for their truly spectacular display.
The walled rose garden is filled with old fashioned roses – Gallicias, Bourbons, Moss Roses, Damasks, Albas and Chinensis. Under the old Elizabethan wall are many agapanthus and some tender shrubs.The borders around the old walls have a mixture of trees and shrubs underplanted by geraniums, hostas, digitalis and meconopsis, amongst others.
In the centre of the garden, the pergolas are covered with roses, vines, clematis and lonicera, and are surrounded by a knot garden made up of architectural box and yew topiary birds. This area was one of the first parts of the garden to be established and was designed to reflect the age and brickwork of the priory itself.
As the summer closes there is still plenty to see at Felley Priory. An extensive collection of hydrangeas provide wonderful autumn colour throughout the garden including some which are very rare and therefore not often seen. Many of the trees have wonderful autumnal colours of red and orange to enjoy, along with pale mauve and white colchicums.
The topiary is the original framework from which the garden was established and in winter it is still an outstanding feature. Even when snow-covered, the garden’s topiary is magnificent, with the bushes shaped into swans, castles and peacocks.
The start of the year heralds the arrival of 60 varieties of snowdrops. The collection is made up of the usual white snowdrops, as well as some rarer yellow types, including Wendy’s Gold, Sandersii Group Ray Cobb, Spindleson Surprise and Primrose Warburg, to name but a few.
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