This garden takes a little bit of finding in the maelstrom of traffic chaos as the roads around Weymouth are re-jigged for the Olympic onslaught next year. We travelled more than two hours to get here, eager to pick up ideas for our new pond and garden.
The water garden itself - a series of ponds imaginatively developed within the boundaries of an old clay pit - is quite large, and is a gentle exploration rather than a series of horticultural pyrotechnics. Some of the ponds and surroundings seemed scruffy - Stapeley Water Garden it is not! - considering the fairly substantial entrance fee charged.
An interesting selection of water lilies (as well as other water plants and marginals) are well grown in spacious surroundings. Disappointment, however, awaits these hoping to find a specimen of any to take home.
Most of their plant trade is carried out via their website, which warns that the onsite plant centre cannot carry every variety, and that one should ring ahead if you are coming to look for something specific. Fair warning, but the reality was that there were no more than ? 5 or 6? fairly samey varieties of water lily on display in the otherwise empty display tanks. The rest of the small plant sales area was taken up with routine perennials and water plants of the sort we can find cheaper in our local garden centre, plus a few oddities such as a large number of Aesculus hippocastanum - conker trees! - which grow to monster proportions, and are best avoided unless one owns a country estate.
In retrospect, we felt this was an expensive and rather disappointing visit. In terms of admission charge and value for money, admission to this garden costs more than, for example, entering the horticulturally breathtaking garden at Knightshayes Court in Devon. As a visitor experience, it was a bit of a let-down.
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