The Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group

Three groups of plants – one group of enthusiasts worldwide

South West Branch Visit to Heanton Satchville 11 May 2017

S.W.Branch visit to Wick Farm Gardens, Holsworthy and Heanton Satchville, Huish, Merton nr. Torrington

Seventeen members of the South West Branch ventured into mid Devon to view two very different gardens.


After lunch we made the short journey along the road to Heanton Satchville, the main seat of Lord Clinton. Entering the park by way of a small gated lodge, we followed the long drive to the house while enjoying the wonderful mature parkland trees, some very ancient, but also some younger and newly planted to ensure continuity.

Parking in the courtyard in front of the house, we were welcomed by Lady Clinton and Paul Hipkin, Head Gardener, and three other gardeners, who were deputed to accompany us on our tour. In fact Lady Clinton came with us for the whole time as well. We gathered in front of the house, with views over the park and the Devon Red cattle; a special interest of Lord Clinton’s. The herd had been decimated by Foot & Mouth, but has been built up steadily since then. In the distance was Dartmoor.

To the other side of the frontage was an immaculate and very large lawn at the end of which, beckoning us, were flowering azaleas and numerous Rhododendrons, including several enormous Loderi varieties scenting the air. Paul had been hoping for some help in naming the Rhododendrons, some of which had been planted in the 1960s and we tried to oblige. In many cases the discussion that ensued was more productive and stimulating than finally arriving at a name which may or may not have been correct!
Through enormous and ancient trees we walked, wondering at their size and form. The new Spring leaves added delicacy and colour to the massive Oaks and Beeches. A curving path led to a wooden gate, through which we walked into the woodland. Just the other side of the gate was a very effective stand of white stemmed Birches with bluebells and Shuttlecock ferns within. Beyond this, a very large and beautiful group of three probable Naomi Rhododendrons was flowering profusely as was a large and open bush of R. Moonstone. A large clearing to the left had been the site of three trees including an old Monkey Puzzle which had been the subject of much debate in the family. Nature made the decision for them by felling it and its two neighbours in a recent storm. With their enormous stumps ground out, this had become a planting opportunity, with the light let in.

More woodland paths led to large bushes of Rhododendron yunnanense in its white coloured form speckled with delicate flowers and orange speckling at the throat. This was much admired, and cuttings were taken with permission, Paul even lending his secateurs for the purpose. It was nearing tea time, so we made our way along a mixed border against the Kitchen Garden wall, again beautifully maintained.

Through a door and down some steps by a wall, there was a surprise; a short and sheltered bed with very interesting plants, including a lovely group of yellow and brown slipper orchids, Philesia magellanica, Fothergilla minor and other select specimens.

Beyond this we aimed for the Stable block and its main refectory room which had a long central table laden with an enormous and delicious tea. Lady Clinton kept pressing more and more food on us and would not take no for an answer!

We gave a donation to Devon Air Ambulance, and thanked Lady Clinton for her generosity, Paul Hipkin and the gardeners for showing us round, and the tea ladies for preparing a feast of a tea. We happy band left with memories of an afternoon spent in a wonderful, inspiring and beautifully maintained garden.

John Marston

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