Inspiring garden ideas from Snowshill Manor

Inspiring garden ideas from Snowshill Manor

I visited Snowshill Manor and came back with these simple but inspiring ideas for your garden. If you're looking for easy ways to use plants in a different way, to take your outdoor space to another level, read on...

Snowshill Manor in the Cotswolds is now a National Trust property, but it was originally the home of Charles Wade, who seems to have been a very eccentric character. He spent his time collecting thousands of objects celebrating traditional arts and crafts and displaying them for visitors.

Some of them are rather peculiar but his motto "let nothing perish" does at least strike a chord with me, keen as I am on reusing and recycling things where possible. 

He also designed a garden of different rooms. It is far more conventional than his collection of objects inside the house, but no less interesting for that. As always, when I visited I was looking for ideas that can be incorporated into any garden, and there was plenty of inspiration here, whether you have a similar garden to Charles Wade of several acres, or like most of us, something much smaller.

Here are a few garden ideas inspired by Snowshill Manor:

Inspiring garden ideas from Snowshill Manor

Add tall plants at the front of borders

Conventional wisdom says tall plants should be at the back of borders with smaller ones at the front. This allows good visibility of everything, but can often result in a rather too uniform appearance, as height increases steadily from the front of a bed to the back.

Particularly when viewed from the side, such planting schemes can seem to lack variety, even when packed with a wide range of plants.

The borders at Snowshill demonstrate that it doesn't have to be like that. Tall upright perennials are frequently found at the front of planting areas, bringing the flowers and foliage jumping straight up towards the viewer.

Height at front of borders Snowshill Manor Green Fingered Blog
Height at the front of borders at Snowshill Manor
I'd agree that there is little point in planting something where you can't see it (unless you can smell it instead maybe) but how often is that actually the case? 

With a couple of taller, more upright plants at the front, there are still spaces between them through which the shorter ones can still be viewed.

Entirely surrounding a lower spreading plant with taller specimens is not such a good idea. It would merely create the impression of a hole in the  middle of the bed and the lower growing plant would not be able to be enjoyed.

Bringing some height towards the front in places however, adds variety and breaks up what otherwise could become a continuous block of form and texture that lacks interest.

Stuff shallow borders full of plants

Another approach to planting the borders at Snowshill is simply to stuff narrow beds full of plants to the point that they appear ready to explode. This is a good tip if you have a small garden. 

If you are limited for space simply cram in as many plants as possible. 

You need to choose the right ones of course, based on your soil, aspect and location, but a suitable selection can create a luxurious effect, with lushness pushing its way out towards you.

Shallow borders stuffed full of plants Snowshill Manor Green Fingered Blog
If you have shallow borders, stuff them full of plants
At Snowshill you can see that this border, which is only about a metre deep, has been crammed with plants, from the nepeta spilling out over the paving at the front to the phlox at the back. Ans every space in between has been planted and filled in with alchemilla mollis, irises, delphiniums and spirea.

This makes the borders feel full and indulgent, providing plenty of colour and texture in a small space.

Repetition in long borders

This advice works particularly well if you have a slightly longer bed or border. Some repetition of planting can lift the overall appearance to another level.

Using the same plant several times spaced out evenly along a planting area is pleasing to the eye. It provides some regularity, symmetry even, something that we naturally respond positively to.

The repetition of one plant provides some structure too, acting as a foil for different plants with varying form and texture, in the spaces in between. 

In this border at Snowshill, the rhythm is provided by repeated mounds of Nepeta which draw the eye along the border.

Repetition of planting in a mixed border Snowshill Manor Green Fingered Blog
Nepeta repeated in a mixed bed in a formal courtyard 

In a slightly less  formal area of the garden, with a more relaxed style of planting, repetition was also used. This time it didn't add so much rhythm or structure, but the use of repeated white highlights of tall phlox served to encourage the viewers gaze further and further down the path, willing them to follow their eye and wander into the distance.

Repetition of planting in a mixed border Snowshill Manor Green Fingered Blog
Splashes of white phlox repeat along this less formal double border

Let plants choose where they grow

For a bit of extra charm in your garden, avoid being too fussy. Allow plants to seed themselves around and they will soften hard landscaping in a naturalistic way that gives your outdoor space a sense of individuality.

At Snowshill, ferns and mind your own business (Soleirolia soleirolii) are left to colonise the corners. Clearly if they are actually in the way then you could pull them out, but around the edges of steps and walls is perfect for  them. 

They cloth brick and stone in green softness, creating small areas of planting where it would be impossible to put plants yourself.

Ferns and Mind Your Own Business spread themselves Snowshill Manor Green Fingered Blog
Steps colonised by ferns and Mind Your Own Business

Use trees as a natural archway

Another way of making the garden feel naturalistic is to create an archway out of trees. Allowing one tree (as in the picture below) or two (as in the title picture) to grow over a walkway, brings you closer to those trees and adds to the feeling of being immersed in the garden.

Natural tree archway Snowshill Manor Green Fingered Blog
A tree branch across a path makes a natural archway
Walking through and under plants is a great way of creating that feeling of being in a natural space, and also adds to the sense of the garden belonging to the place in which it exists, rather than being something separate or artificial. 

Just allowing a single branch to grow across and over a path is all you need to feel part of the garden as you walk under it, instead of being simply an observer of the garden viewing it from the side.

Purple and orange colour combination

This colour combination was looking awesome at the time of my visit. Purple lupins and alliums set off the bright orange of geums superbly. They really make each other stand out. All can be grown in containers if you are short of space.

Definitely one to try in your garden if you can. 

Purple and orange flower combinations Snowshill Manor Green Fingered Blog
Purple and orange combinations at Snowshill
That's what got me excited at Snowshill, I hope you got some inspiration from it too. I'll be looking for more ideas from more gardens soon so keep checking The Green Fingered Blog for more.

Happy gardening,




  1. Snowshill Manor has beautiful gardens and I love how your visit inspired your own ideas and this blog post. We went last year for one of the NT Easter Egg hunts so my memory of the gardens was mostly what was visible at toddler height!

  2. Thanks for your lovely comments. I hope you've found my post on doing your own Easter Egg hunts in the garden!

  3. Jane Stephens7/03/2018 11:12 am

    Thanks for this lovely post. I have always wanted to visit Snowshill Manor and it was great to read your thoughts and garden ideas inspired by your visit.

    1. Thanks Jane, I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and I hope you get a chance to visit Snowshill soon.

  4. Beautiful gardens and plants! I would love to visit Snowshill if I ever got a chance to travel to overseas again. Visiting gardens also gives me inspiration for my own. Thank you for sharing at the #mygloriousgardens July link party!

  5. Thanks Ann, I love visiting these gardens for exactly that reason - the ideas and inspiration it gives me, and hopefully everyone else too!

  6. Oooh another garden for my list! Actually Paul, that’s what I like about your posts; we are not that far away from one another and we post quite similar posts about the gardens we visit! Snowshill sounds like my kind of garden -I also don’t let anything perish -I love the fact that plants are allowed to self send and find their own place -makes sense really doesn’t it? My feeling about borders is that stuff the rules! Plant what you like and where you like! I have many tall plants at the front too but as long as you can see through the plants they look fabulous. I also like the idea of stuffing narrow borders with loads of plants.
    Thank you for being such a loyal linker. I love reading your posts so much! Hope you are enjoying this beautiful if not dry weather! We had rain in the week so that went down well with me! Xx

    1. Much appreciated Sophie. Still no real rain to speak of here, just a few spots, the garden is really struggling, we need it desperately!

  7. PS your Pinterest button on your post is not working for me -I’ve still shared it but just to let you know Paul.

    1. Seemed to work ok on at least two of my devices, but thank you for letting me know. Hopefully it was just a glitch for you and nobody else - sorry about that!