Arriving from the thatched summer house which overlooks The Ovals Garden (currently being replanted) is The Bowling Green Terrace, so named for its original purpose. We have surviving letters from Sir Francis Drakes’ sister when she lived in the original vicarage here and consequently we like to think that Drake (who lived at the nearby Buckland Abbey – well worth a visit) may have had a practice for his game on Plymouth Hoe before he took on the Spanish Armada.
The Bowling Green Terrace today is home a number of Rhododendron hybrids, several of Fortescue’s raising, their parentage variously involving, R. ‘Hawk’, R. wardii and R. campylocarpum. There are also fine specimens of the scarlet ‘Tally-Ho’ and perfectly formed butter yellow R. ’Hotei’.
Two unusually-grown shrubs are also worth noting on the left – a Wisteria sinensis trained horizontally along a bed and growing down the wall of the tennis court terrace, and a fine specimen of Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’, an example of careful pruning to enhance its aged appearance – like a large Bonsai.
At the far end are a number of the arrestingly blue R. augustinii, one of Fortescue’s great favourites and collected by him in its variable shades. Just as you leave the terrace climbing The Prospect to the right (known also as Tom’s Steps after Tom Hooper who worked in the garden for over 50 years), you pass a superb specimen of Fascicularia bicolor. This lovely, if rather spiny Chilean bromeliad features rosettes of evergreen foliage which turn vivid scarlet each Autumn surrounding a central cluster of the most dazzling turqiose flowers!
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