A garden full of surprises
Find out about garden, the not to be missed bits and what to look out for each season.
Exploring the sub-tropical garden
Which pathway will you choose to explore? They'll all lead you to discover a garden more reminiscent of the tropics than Devon.
We have The Statue Garden, once the tennis court, planted as a 'formal' area, with The Secret Garden just beyond with a very fine Canary Palm to keep you shaded. The Upper Gardens include The Gazebo Garden with a sweeping view across to Salcombe estuary and The Rock Dell, which as it name suggests, is set into the rock of the hillside.
Onwards to the Banana Garden, where, yes, you will indeed find bananas but not to eat. This is the most sheltered part of the garden where you will also find Magnolia campbelii 'Overbeck's' this magnificent tree was planted in 1901.
The Palm Garden and Woodland Garden will each tell its own story with palms, grasses and much more to keep you making discoveries.
The secret garden
A hidden gem - the secret garden, one of the many hidden corners at Overbeck's. You can't miss the tall date palm in the middle of the grass area. This palm comes from the Canary Islands and is very well established.
If you stand next to the wall and look over, below is a working greenhouse, the gardeners' bothy with a terracotta-tiled roof in the Mediterranean style, and a parterre with clipped box hedging which is cut twice a year by hand. Orange and lemon trees have been planted around the outer edges.
The bed of treasures
What is the 'bed of treasures' you well may ask. Affectionately known as 'B.O.T' by the garden team, it is full of exotic drama and has quite a tropical feel about it, like being in the jungle. You can travel through four continents just in this one border Asia, South America, Africa and Australasia. To be given the honour of being planted in BOT you have to be either rare, particularly linked to Overbeck’s as a garden and also one of the gardener’s favorites.
All of the plants are able to stay out all year due to the gentle climate we have at Overbeck’s and they are all show offs in one way or another, as they create striking architectural shapes and combine beauty with the rare and exotic. Look out for the Trachycarpus fortunei - this is the furry-trunked palm which visitors love to plait.
Early spring in the garden
In February the garden will show signs of spring with snowdrops, early magnolia, primroses, cyclamen and bulbs starting to come through. Unlike many gardens, the tropical planting and evergreen woodland ensure that Overbeck’s stays lush and green all year round.
Magnificent magnolias at Overbeck's
Overbeck’s has an excellent collection of magnolias, including magnolia campbellii‘ Overbecks’ planted in 1901, a species first collected in the Himalayas in 1849.
Scroll through to find out more.
The tree at Overbeck’s has long been recognised as an extraordinary example, with its beautiful deep pink flowers that can start to bloom form January onwards.
In late 2006, twelve new specimens were propagated and the tree was formally renamed, so that when the original eventually dies, there will be live material to create new plants. Hopefully, versions will start to appear around the world.
Protected from frosts in the banana garden, the daughter tree to magnolia campbellii ‘Overbeck’s' - a mere youngster compared to her 117 year old mother - vies for attention as her buds open with a display of soft pink blooms.
Springtime in the garden
Wind your way through the woodland and you will be rewarded with spring flowers dotted along the way. As winter bows out the garden begins to wake up as bulbs re-appear after their winter slumber – the first spikes and flowers are emerging for a March and April flowering – Chionodoxa sardensis on the bank above the Statue Garden; in the woodland, Anemone apennina; the first snakeshead fritillaries on the magnolia lawn. The main woodland bank has narcissus, all hybrids from Narcissus cyclamineus, which are characterised by the long narrow trumpets, and the petals swept back as though the whole plant was flying through the air. Their survival technique is a brief and glorious burst of growth, followed by riding out the dry summer and inhospitable winters in snug dormancy.
As spring progresses, bluebells the colour of the sky on a sunny day fill the woodland banks.
Summer in the Garden
The Agapanthus launch the summertime across the garden with their delicate petals creating purple globes around the garden. Everywhere and every day throughout May and June something new pops into bloom, delighting us all and bringing a sensory experience in texture, colour and perfume.
The woodland offers shady respite from the summer sun, and the magnolia lawn is the perfect space for a picnic, surrounded by endless foliage and dappled sunlight.
The rocky area by the lookout remains covered in moss, amusingly dotted with curious little spikes – navelwort, a fleshy weed has made its home here. The view across this outcrop towards the acers is simply glorious with green and burgundy hues.
Progressing along the terraces throughout summer are yucca blossoms, ginger lilies, and numerous hydrangeas, all prolific in hues and varietals.
The Statue Garden becomes a festival of colour, texture and scent as the summer plants compete with each other to reach the sky above the Statue’s uplifted hand.
Tropical autumn splendour
The subtropical feeling of Overbeck’s Garden is in full swing by the time September arrives. Over the summer the growth of the plants has been fuelled by the warmth of the sun to create a jungle of lush foliage. Arguably no herbaceous plant is more impressive than the tree like banana plants that dominate an area so profusely it’s known as the Banana Garden. Beneath them thrive exotic ginger lilies with their fragrant flower spikes in shades of red, yellow and white. Dozens of palms give structure to the garden, some intentionally planted in rows to create avenues, and others use their architectural leaves to create their own impromptu arch over a path.
Emerging from the undergrowth and heading to higher ground allows you to orientate yourself once more with views looking north, up the Salcombe estuary, or to the east and the headland of Prawle Point.
Winter in the garden
Up to Christmas the team will be planting. Here in the South Hams the soil is still warm and wet - ideal conditions for establishing new treasures.
Some of the less hardy plants will need to be carefully protected with bamboo umbrellas or horticultural fleece. The succulents; cacti, agave and aloes, will all have delicately constructed umbrellas over them to keep the worst of the rain off. They can take the wind and the cold but too much water and they’ll suffer. The banana plants enjoy being wrapped in fleeces to keep them warm and the ginger lilies, dahlia and colocasia love thick wood chip mulch over them.
'First Flight' statue
‘First Flight’ by Dublin born sculptor Albert Bruce-Joy 1842-1924 is a delightful work representing a life size figure of a young girl holding a nest of baby larks in her left hand whilst with her right, raised over her head, she offers liberty to the adult bird poised on her fingers.
'First Flight' by Albert Bruce-Joy
This bronze is a fine example of poetic sculpture and was the last piece of garden art bought by Otto, and the only one which remains in the garden. Originally made in marble, by 1875 it was being cast in bronze and these were often exhibited. In 1883 it was listed in a gallery catalogue with the Alfred Lord Tennyson 'Sea Dreams' verse which inspired it ( see below). Another bronze is in Aberdeen Art Gallery where it is called ‘The Lark’s First Flight’. The models for the statue were, for the face Miss Kitchen daughter of the Dean of Durham, and for the body Connie Gilchrist who became Countess of Orkney.
'First Flight' during the Second World War
The adult bird is missing from the statue in the Overbeck’s garden, and was, apparently, 'shot' off by a soldier stationed at Overbeck’s during the Second World War. Despite the garden being out of bounds to the soldiers one broke in at night and, using a catapult for target practice, 'shot' the bird. Ellis Manley, the head gardener at that time, found the bird on the ground the next morning and took it to the gardeners hut for safe keeping until it could be reinstated on the statue, which never happened and the bird was sadly lost.
Alfred Lord Tennyson 'Sea Dreams'
'What does the little birdie say
In her nest at peep of day?
Let me fly, says little birdie,
Mother, let me fly away.
Birdie, rest a little longer,
Till the little wings are stronger.
So she rests a little longer,
Then she flies away'