Playing truant!

We escaped for the day, one day last week, the weather was wonderful, hot and sunny, we decided to make the most of it and headed up the M5 motorway and the Devon link road to Knightshayes Court, a  house built in 1896 by John Heathcote Amory who was the then MP for Tiverton Devon.  The interior was designed by John Burgess, although there was a falling out with the family. During the second World War, the house was used as a convalescent home for the US  8th Air Force,  then taken over by the National Trust in 1973.

Knightshayes Court is famous for its woodland garden, which is huge, it makes my woodland garden look so tiny! Before reaching the woodland garden there were the terraces to enjoy and the formal garden. If you would like to join me on my walk through the garden, make yourself a coffee and come with me, we might be some time!

Knightshayes Court . Tulips on the terrace


This beautiful Chaenomeles put mine to shame, it was heaving with buzzing bees, but I couldn’t help wonder if theirs had been flowering non stop since November!

Formal garden

Before reaching the woodland garden, there is the formal garden and I always think this space is so beautiful, understated simplicity, an area of calm before the colourful flowers nearby in other areas.


The terraces were filled with very colourful flowers, including this beautiful Gentian.


Dwarf tulip

There were quite a few special gems in the terrace border, like this tiny little tulip. I think I must order some for the scree as it would be an ideal place for them.

Fritillaria meleagris

At last we arrived at the woodland garden and look what was the first flower to greet me!

Snakeshead fritillaries

The white fritillaries show up much better in the grass than the purple ones, but I was amazed how small they all were. Obviously on a slope they would have good drainage whereas mine are sitting in damp ground all year round, no wonder mine are so huge.

Cyclamen repandum

Cyclamen repandum amongst wood anemones, you will be seeing rather a lot of these.

Cyclamen repandum

Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non scripta

It’s bluebell time once more!


There are some really huge Magnolia trees here but unfortunately they had finished flowering, I had to make do with the newer, smaller ones.


More cyclamen repandum


Yes, on my wish list for this autumn, Trillium.


An Acer looking as colourful as an Azalea, who needs flowers with leaves like this!

Willow sculpture

One of a few willow sculptures we found.


Erythroniums, possibly Pagoda.

Woodland flowers


Pink Erythronium, I don’t think this is the variety Knighthays Pink which I have here, mine is paler than this. These don’t look too happy in the hot sunshine.

Willow badger

I don’t think any of us would want a badger this size in our gardens, it was about 10ft long!

Woodland flowers

Woodland garden



Woodland flowers

The little Claytonia that I have here, is keeping company with Cyclamen repandum.


Another Erythronium, this time a white one, maybe E. White Beauty. I think these flowers look a lot happier in the shade than the previous pink ones  in the sunshine.


White Trillium

White trillium with just a touch of burgundy at the base of the petals, very nice, must add it to the wish list!


This Trillium was beautiful, such a deep burgundy colour.

Knightshayes woodland garden

And more Trillium!



Narcissus on the front lawn

Wending our way back to the house now, there were lovely patches of narcissus on the lawn.

Willow deer

Willow deer on the front lawn.


“They” always say never to photograph flowers in the heat of the mid-day sun, now I know why, the colour is bleached out, the tulips were a much deeper shade than they look here.

Little and large tulips

Little and large tulips in a pot on the terrace.

That is the end of our tour round the gardens at Knightshayes Court. We then went for a super lunch at an old coaching inn which had a Michelin Star Restaurant and what a fantastic lunch it was, absolutely wonderful! The undergardener had also found a nursery on the map, bless him, so that is where we went after lunch and yes,

New plants

…….a few plants jumped into the trolley before I could stop them! They include a pulmonaria, hakonechloa and woodland phlox for the woodland, a few salvias for the border by the field and a couple of dwarf iris for the alpine scree. We had a really fantastic day out and I think playing truant now and again should be compulsory!

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32 Responses to Playing truant!

  1. Alain says:

    A beautiful place. I agree with you that the formal garden is very attractive.

  2. Rosemarie Eccleston says:

    Happy memories of our visit there ! So glad you both had a lovely day playing truant.

    • Pauline says:

      Yes indeed Rosemarie, I think it was a slightly different time of the year when we went before, it is always interesting, no matter which month it is. It was good to get away just for a day.

  3. Liz says:

    Hi Pauline,

    re: Watsonia. It actually looks very much like my Russian Dwarf Almond. Do you have any closer photos of its blooms? As soon as I saw the photo I was like ‘ooh Russian almond??’ but then read your comment where you were unsure what it was. Admittedly their specimen is much more scrappy than mine, so perhaps it’s my eyes playing tricks on me 🙂 or maybe a different type.

    • Pauline says:

      Sorry Liz, that was the only photo I took of it. I thought it was more like a perennial, it was no more than 2ft high and flopping everywhere, the stems didn’t seem woody as in a small tree, maybe I got it completely wrong!

  4. pbmgarden says:

    What a pretty garden. Looks like the weather was perfect too. I like the way the Chaenomeles was displayed against the wall. Have fun with your new purchases–so thoughtful of the undergardener to encourage adding more plants.

    • Pauline says:

      It is a super garden Susie, especially for someone like me who loves woodland gardens! I know just where all my new plants are to go, but I really must plant the back log that are waiting first!

  5. What a great visit and a stop at the nursery too…perfect!

  6. sally says:

    Hi Pauline,
    What a wonderful tour…..TY for sharing! So many flowering plants and shrubs! The Trillium is fascinating….and I love the willow topiaries…..are they topiaries if they’re made of sticks?
    How could you not buy plants after a tour like that!

    • Pauline says:

      It is a truly wonderful place, full of inspiration for me Sally. There always seems to be a lot of colour, no matter what time of year we visit. I think the willow animals are just called sculptures, topiary is when live plants need clipping. I must remember to order a Trillium in the autumn, it would be beautiful in the woodland here.

  7. Alberto says:

    You shall not coming home with a basket of brand new plants when you are playing truant… this is rule number one if you don’t want mum to suspect….
    The garden you visited must have been really nice and yes those chaenomeles may look terrific (at a first glance I thought it was a bignonia rambling up…) but let me say those fritillaries are crap comparing to yours!!!

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you Alberto, I have to admit to having similar thoughts about their fritillaries! It was a lovely garden and we do love visiting it at different times of the year. Rule number two is to plant the new purchases as soon as possible, don’t leave them in their pots for months on end!

  8. Sigrun says:

    Haha, before I could stop them! You poor girl!
    Knightshayes is wonderful, and spring gardens I love expecialy. I have seen the gardens in summer, years ago, and I loved the Kitchengarden very much.


    • Pauline says:

      How wonderful that you already know the garden Sigrun, that is amazing! The kitchen garden is wonderful and so huge, but we didn’t have time to visit that part of the garden this time unfortunately, after walking all round the woodland my poor muscles were protesting.

  9. Cathy says:

    Oh yes, you should do that more often and then post all your lovely photos again! There is such an abundance of old gardens to visit in the UK and I shall probably never get to see most of them, so it is lovely to see the places other people visit. The same tradition just doesn’t exist here in southern Germany. This looks like a wonderful place to go in spring, and with the added bonus of a nearby nursery too! I like the woodland phlox you chose…
    Oh, and you can be proud of your fritillaries compared to those at Knightshayes!

    • Pauline says:

      We are so lucky in having so many super gardens to visit Cathy, and quite a few within an hours drive of here. I agree, it is wonderful in spring with all the shrubs and woodland bulbs and perennials, there’s not so much colour later in the year. Thanks for your lovely comment about the fritillaries, I was surprised to see how small theirs were!

  10. Chloris says:

    What a wonderful day out you had. A beautiful garden, a wonderful lunch and a nursery. I can’ t think of anything nicer. Knightshayes is very special. I think the plant looks like Prunus tenella rather than Watsonia.

  11. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Thanks for taking us along on this wonderful tour! Sounds like you had a very special day!

  12. Helle says:

    Looks like a lovely day out. Plants do have this thing about jumping into trolleys – or online shopping baskets – as some did just now today! I read about your meconopsis in the other post, if mine do produce lots of seed this year you are very welcome to some. I have baileyi, lingholm and one where the label got lost. Possibly “slieve donard”.

    • Pauline says:

      It was a super day Helle, just what we both needed. Plants do like to misbehave don’t they, but it would be sad if they didn’t wouldn’t it! Thank you so much for your very kind offer of meconopsis seed, I would love to take you up on it when the time is right. I think I will try any that grow into plants, in the woodland for a change and see how they do there.

  13. Anna says:

    Oh Knighthayes looks a magical spot Helen and the woodland garden especially so. Oh and a nursery on the way home – what thoughtful forward planning on the part of the Undergardener 🙂

    • Pauline says:

      It is a really lovely garden Anna, we try to visit a few times each year to see all the different plants. The Undergardener is pretty good arranging things that he knows I would like, that could be why I married him 49 yrs ago!

  14. Frank says:

    I wish all the kids were as productive in their truancy as you were!
    I was thinking the trilliums were my favorites but then saw the large magnolia and the landscape views. Beautiful, all of them!

    • Pauline says:

      We had to make the most of our day away Frank and I certainly came home very happy! The deep purple Trilliums are on my wish list, I have been saying for years that I must buy some, but this year I really must!

  15. rusty duck says:

    I don’t know how I managed to miss this post.. We visited Knightshayes last autumn, to see it again in Spring is very special. We will have to go back..

    • Pauline says:

      I don’t think we have ever visited in autumn, do they have wonderful autumn tints? I think a March visit would be better for the huge magnolias which were over when we visited, but I know we have visited when there were hundreds of foxgloves, that was a beautiful sight, in May I think.

  16. Christina says:

    What a lovely day out, thank you for sharing it; visiting beautiful inspiring gardens is the one thing I miss more than anything else.

    • Pauline says:

      I know Christina, that I can always rely on Knighthayes to give me a “fix” of lovely plants no matter what time of year it is. It isn’t too far from us and is usually where we take visitors when they come to stay, the house is very interesting too.

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