Darlington’s Thornton Hall opens its magical gardens eight times a year, and with summer around the corner, guests will be given the first chance to discover what lies behind the Elizabethan walls at a plant fair this Bank Holiday Monday, 25th May.
From then, enthusiasts will be able to enjoy the array of colours and delightful fragrances of this plantsman’s garden along with a brand new folly every Wednesday throughout June and the first two Wednesdays in July.
“It’s sometimes hard to believe when I began to plant the first one acre walled garden 20 years ago, I started off with a completely blank canvas and no gardening knowledge.
“Now when I look around, aside from the beautiful flowers which includes a large selection of David Austin roses, there really is something for everyone to enjoy, including statuary, a vegetable garden, two summer houses, an ornamental pond and a large wildlife pond.”
The three distinct walled gardens – which were laid out around 1550 – have attracted visitors from all over the country, as well as gaining international recognition, highlighted by the visit of Norway’s Rose Society in 2013.
In order to maintain the gardens to this high standard, Sue enlists the part time help of award winning gardener, Chris Parsons, 24, who won the nationally acclaimed Institute of Horticulture Young Horticulturist of the Year competition in 2014.
The annual tradition of allowing people to stroll around the gardens at their leisure, has not only offered people the rare opportunity to discover the magnificent gardens of the Grade 1 listed hall, it has helped raise more than £50,000 for various charities across the North East.
Alzheimer’s Research UK, St Edward’s Church, Great North Air Ambulance, Candle Lighters, Teenage Cancer Trust, Children’s Cancer Unit at the RVI and St Teresa’s Hospice have all benefitted from donations from Thornton Hall Gardens, which have provided the perfect settings for events such as flower festivals, fun days and garden lunches.
Sue said: “For me, it’s a pleasure enough to be surrounded by like-minded people who share my passion, but seeing the money being used for such great causes is an added bonus.
“There was no grand master plan for the gardens but they continue to evolve along with their reputation which has spread through word of mouth and carries on attracting and inspiring new visitors.”
To find out more about visiting Thornton Hall and its gardens visit www.thorntonhallgardens.co.uk