July 2023 visit to Regency House, Hemyock


Our club visit in July was to Regency House Garden in Hemyock, a 5-acre garden reached across a ford. Given the amount of rain that we had in July, we were very lucky with the weather, which although overcast was at least dry.


We were welcomed by Wagtail the dachshund, quickly followed by the owner and main gardener, Jenny Parsons who told us a little about the history of the house and garden before presenting us all with a copy of a many paged document listing all the plants in the garden along with their approximate locations.


The house was built in 1855 as the Hemyock Rectory although the yard and adjacent barn are much older. Jenny has been there 33 years and reclaimed the site from the generally overgrown state in which she found it; a tangle of holly, bramble, and rhododendron.


The garden that we visited didn’t exist back in 1990 but Jenny has developed it over the intervening years around the features that she inherited, including some key mature trees, a giant magnolia on the house, and a walled garden.


The garden is about 150m above sea level on a south-east facing slope which allows the frosts to roll away and it is sheltered from the west winds by woodland. The soil is clay but has been improved over the years by the addition of barrow loads of leaf mould and tons of horse and farmyard manure of which there is no shortage as Jenny also runs the adjacent, small working farm, raising Dexter cattle, Jacob sheep, pigs, hens, and horses.


Regency House Garden has not been designed to a grand plan, but, has instead developed over the years as Jenny has created different areas to grow the variety of plants she loves. She was keen to show the club members around and set off introducing us to one plant after another. She was very apologetic about the state of some of her favourite plants, but as gardeners, we understood the difficulties that the recent strange and extreme periods of weather have thrown at our shrubs and borders.


The walled garden near the house has very tall walls made of a double course of flint and hand-made bricks so that the north facing walls show the flint side but the south facing walls expose the bricks which allow a variety of plants to benefit from the heat storing properties of the wall. This area has a quirky charm, as none of the angles are true and even the bricks are of differing sizes. Here Jenny pointed out an Acca tree (Feijoa sellowiana), otherwise known as the Pineapple Guava. It has unusual flowers which are edible and taste like marshmallows. The tree obviously loved the hot dry conditions of last summer as it produced a large crop of the tough-skinned, red-flushed, green fruit. These have a pineapple-spearmint flavour and are apparently good in stews.

A Clematis viticella ‘Rosalyn’ with small pinky purple double flowers was flowering well through a large shrub. The large shrub which we all commented on (but none of us correctly identified) turned out to be Holodiscus discolor. The shrub, just over 2m high was smothered in panicles of scented, creamy-white flowers and obviously thriving against the warmth of the brick wall.


To bring more structure to the garden and link the walled garden to the house, Jenny has planted a central avenueof espaliered apples—cookers on the right, eaters on the left. The vegetable garden is laid out on either side of this avenue. Rows of brassicas, strawberries, autumn fruiting raspberries and parsnips were growing on the slope below the rows of potatoes. This part of the garden had an edging of courgettes and chard and a block of sweet corn developing to the side. Lower down the slope on the other side of the cross path the central avenue continued, this time with pears in their variety. On each side of these the legumes, roots, and onions were growing, along with rhubarb and gooseberries. It is obviously a very productive kitchen garden, probably reminiscent of former days when the rectory was producing its own food.


The blue and white garden is planted around a central box square filled with Stipa gigantea. In July it was full of Agapanthus, Argyranthemums, Borage, Salvia patens and cornflowers set off by variegated Hostas


A stream, fed by the house’s original water supply flows into a circular lily pond. Each side of the stream, Jenny has planted a bog garden with Gunnera, Rheum palmatum, hostas, primulas, ferns, irises, foxgloves, Geranium macrorrhizum and Euphorbia cyparissias. The lily pond is Jenny’s next garden project as she wants to restore it to its former glory.


We wandered around the lake full of golden orf, where Jenny had been successfully battling a particular invasive type of pondweed and looked back towards the house across the extensive lawns. In this part of the garden the planting has been kept to a minimum with mainly whites and greens to set off the house, create a sense of calm and to retain the view from the house, of the field, usually full of Jacob sheep, and then to the hills beyond.


Of course, no visit would be complete without a cup of tea and a piece of homemade cake and Jenny did not disappoint us with her selection. We found Regency House Garden an interesting garden to wander around with plenty of benches to sit on and to enjoy the atmosphere of this quiet part of Devon.


We are back inside for our first meeting of the autumn on Thursday September 21st. Two of our club committee members who keep bees will be introducing us to ‘A day in the life of a honeybee’. This meeting will be inBuckland St Mary Village Hall at 7.30pm. Guests are welcome to join us for a small fee of £3.


                                                                                                                        Pauline Bartlett