Walking on the Wildside with Hostas.

Yesterday we went to Dartmoor to visit a hosta nursery, Bowden Hostas, in Sticklepath, Devon, then after lunch we went to visit the garden Wildside, the garden of Keith and Ros Wiley.  Bowden Hostas have won 24 gold medals from the RHS and they hold a Royal Warrant to Prince Charles, what better place to buy your hostas!



You can feel free to wander round the garden to get inspiration before making your choice from the poly tunnel. Some of the hostas are HUGE, there was a plant of Snowden which was absolutely amazing. Yes it is spelled like that, should be Snowdon like the mountain in Wales but someone made a mistake when naming it!


Hosta heaven ! Yes, of course we bought some, 4 in all plus a couple of ferns which they also sell. Very happy with what we bought, just have to hope that we are still living here in 10 yrs time and can see them fully grown!

Wildside courtyard

After lunch we went to the garden, Wildside, at Buckland Monachoram which is a fairly new garden on Dartmoor, started in 2004. We have seen it on TV a few times and read about it in various gardening magazines, so a visit was certainly overdue. An essential piece of gardening equipment here was a JCB,  to carve a flat south facing field of 4 acres into a series of hills and valleys to make sunny and shady slopes for suitable planting. The first area we went to was the courtyard garden, seen above and below.

Wildside courtyard

This is a view of the courtyard from halfway up one of the hills leading into a new area which is just being planted and sculpted.

New area wildside

Part of the new area, with the plants only being small you can see how the soil has been moved to make hills and valleys. This gives good drainage when the heavy Devonshire clay is mixed with grit and compost.

Damp area Wildside

Back through the courtyard to the first area which was planted, this small valley had a pond and bog garden and looked absolutely fantastic. The planting was more mature and gave real shadows on the shady side of the hills so that corresponding plants could be used.

Sunny slope Wildside

Further round, behind the hill, were drifts of Rhodohypoxis on the south facing slopes, along with dianthus and dierama.

Pond at Wildside

This is the large pond that I remember them creating during a Chanel 4 TV programme, toys for the boys, diggers everywhere scooping out the earth and depositing it to make the hills, love the planting.

Orchard at Wildside

All of a sudden when we turned a corner we were in an apple orchard with a meadow. Lots of lovely flowers in the meadow including orchids.


The last area we came to before leaving was a little valley with acers and  hostas. In the distance you can see a standing stone as a focal point,  lots of  these stones here in Devon get used as gate posts.

It was then time to visit the nursery and see what could be bought. I was tempted by the rhodohypoxis and bought 3 to plant in a trough, not having the sharp drainage or a nice slope to plant them on, maybe what I need is a JCB to play with! I was very impressed with this garden, it is so different from any other garden that I have seen in Devon and deserves all the publicity that it has received.  One definitely to visit if you can and also to repeat visit at different times of year, it will look fantastic in August with all those grasses.

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20 Responses to Walking on the Wildside with Hostas.

  1. Liz says:

    Hi Pauline,

    Looks lovely!
    Only have a couple of Hostas here and they’re not particularly large either – probably something to do with the fact they’re not in full shade!

    Wish I had the space to play with to be able to make all these different areas. Although, I think tbh I’d likely have a large meadow that I can sit in over summer and daydream.

    • Pauline says:

      Liz, some hostas don’t need full shade,the yellow ones can take more sun than some of the others. A four acre meadow, with a hammock I presume, sounds delightful!

  2. Anna says:

    Oh what a perfect day out Pauline. Was it a birthday treat? Being a January born babe I’m most envious of those born in warmer days when garden visits can be made. We visited Wildside a couple of years ago in September when it was an absolutely glorious and breathtaking riot of colour. Must return.

    • Pauline says:

      Yes, it was my birthday outing Anna, postponed from the previous day as it was torrential rain all day. We were lucky with the weather and just had one shower while walking round. My hostas and ferns were my present so I was a very happy bunny! I can imagine Wildside was full of colour in September, I have warned my husband that we will be going back!!

  3. Christina says:

    The Hosta nursery looked amazing, they are a plant I am learning to plant in my dry shade with success. I visited Wildside 2 years ago, May 2010 and I have to admit I hated it. I went with a friend who’d been before and loved it, maybe it was a little early in the season for it but I found the palnting bitty, not a enough of any one plant to make a statement, the only thing I liked was the courtyard and the wisteria grown as standards but planted informally. But it did make me think why I didn’t like it and I learned a lot. I so glad you had a lovely birthday treat, what could be nicer than buying plants and visiting a garden, Christina

    • Pauline says:

      Christina, how sad that you didn’t enjoy your visit to Wildside. I will admit that the new areas were bitty but with lots of the same plants repeated, I thought too much Stipa tenuissima. The other half had planting that had matured and I thought there was plenty of each plant, for example Primula sikkimensis in the bog garden and all the rhodohypoxis on the sunny slopes. We all like different gardens and planting, wouldn’t it be very boring if we all liked the same thing! We really enjoyed our visit and will certainly visit again at a different time of year.

  4. I like the idea of being able to see the full sized Hosta growing outdoors at the nursery before you buy them. Besides, seeing the mature specimens would help squash the urge to plant them too close because they look so small when you bring them home, despite what the tag says. 🙂

    Which Hosta did you end up taking home? I’m very partial to the ones with white margins or white centres, as they show up so well in the shade.

    • Pauline says:

      Northern Shade, you are so right, I bought a plant of Snowden, just a small plant, but the one we saw in the garden must have been at least 10ft across! must give it plenty of room. Also bought a plant of Liberty (yellow rim) after seeing it recommended in Carolyn’s blog along with Striptease (narrow white line in pale green centre) and Great Expectations ( Yellow centre).No white variegation on these, but I already have quite a few with white edges or centres.

  5. Customers at my nursery can see the full grown plants in my gardens and they love it. My uncle was from England (alongwith with most of my ancestors) and spelled his name Snowden so maybe it’s not Welsh mountains that were intended. The garden looks wonderful in photos.

    • Pauline says:

      What a coincidence Carolyn, that your ancestors are called Snowden, however I have read numerous times that a mistake was made when registering the name of this hosta. Thank you for recommending Liberty in your recent post, such a lovely plant, yes, I did come home with one!

  6. Hi Pauline, It must have been very hard to choose given the overwhelming selection available at Bowden Hostas. My favourite view of Wildside was the one with all the dianthus. That spicy scent is not everyone’s favourite, but heaven to me. I have always had terrible luck with dianthus in the past, but this year I actually have a few plants in flower. I bet this would be a fantastic garden to visit in late summer with all the grasses in peak form.

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Jennifer, dianthus don’t like my heavy clay but they grow beautifully in troughs where I can give them the soil they like. Late summer will be the time of my next visit, I have warned my husband that we will be returning, maybe not this year, but sometime soon!

  7. Alberto says:

    Wow Pauline, that garden must be fantastic to see! All those grasses and the informal planting, definitely something for me! And the pond is huge and with beautiful plants! The hosta nursery must be a real temptation, huh? Did you buy some big leaved hosta? Curious to see the ferns you got too, they must look beautiful in your bog garden, are you placing them there?

    • Pauline says:

      Alberto, as soon as I walked into Wildside and saw all their grasses, I thought of you!! Yes, we did buy some large leaved hostas, I bought Snowden, which was so huge in their garden, my plant seems so tiny, how long will it take to grow?! Also bought a few more hostas that should grow to a decent size, minature sized ones would soon be lost here. Two ferns came home with us, one is Athyrium Ursula’s Red which is widely available and I have been meaning to buy it for a long time, the other is new to me, Onychium japonicum or the Carrot fern! It is 50cms tall with very feathery fronds and should contrast nicely with the hostas. I will plant the ferns at the drier end of the bog garden, don’t think they like it too wet.

  8. catmint says:

    Happy birthday Pauline, what divine photos of the garden. You have even captured some tall catmint (I think that’s what it is) in the foreground of one photo! I would love to do that on my birthday too. Except my birthday is in December and the garden would not quite look the same, would it? cheers, catmint

    • Pauline says:

      Yes Catmint, that is catmint in the photo, maybe ” six hills giant”, that would be fitting among all his little hills ! I really enjoyed the garden, so different from ours except for round the pond and the boggy bits. December is your summer isn’t it, do all your plants go dormant in the heat? Thanks for your good wishes.

  9. debsgarden says:

    Wow! What a fabulous garden! I agree that it deserves all the publicity it gets. I especially love the pond area and the apple orchard. And I would have had a hard time making up my mind at Bowden Hostas. I have never seen a selection so large. I think I would have spent way too much money!

    • Pauline says:

      We did enjoy the garden Deb, we too found the planting in the pond area inspiring. maybe need to make some changes here! Have been busy planting the hostas and ferns that we brought home, forming more contrasting textures in the shade. Had to be focused or we would have spent too much!

  10. belated birthday wishes Pauline, glad you had a nice day and got some nice presents, I would love a JCB to dig a pond in my garden, the garden looks nice perhaps the 2 years since Christina went have meant a lot of plants have filled out, the orchard looks nice and inviting, Frances

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks for your good wishes Frances, most of the new plants have now been planted, having to dodge the heavy showers! I agree, the plants will have filled out and 2 yrs can make such a difference in how a garden looks.

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