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- Kelmarsh Hall & Gardens, Northamptonshire -
July 2023

Hello Tracey.


My mentor at the Professional Garden Photographers Association has advised that he sees my aesthetic in Country Living Magazine. He appreciates my work has a unique style, and he loves what I create. He has indicated that Country Living are seeking 'Lifestyle Editorials', which is something I have touched on previously with you Tracey, if that is something you are happy to work on toward a submission to Country Living.

We will need to come up with a storyline for such an article, that I would love if it were to include images of you in and amongst the gardens doing your thing, or maybe we produce something around the nature that the gardens attract and how homeowners can bring nature into their gardens. When I first visited Kelmarsh, one of the many qualities that stood out was the abundance of wildlife. The Giant Scabious was drenched in Bees and other pollinators. I was walking in our local parkland this morning with a previous work colleague, who wants to attract nature into her garden, but wasn't sure what to plant. So this might be where we create images of you in amongst nature


We would need to decide time of year to create images for an article, mindful that it can take 12 months for publication, so needs to fit with the season at that time. I will be happy to look at the type of articles Country Living publish, will investigate the process and timings for submitting an article.


  1. Carte Blanche, what would Tracey love to say about the gardens and the exceptional work she does

  2. A story not well known about the gardens

  3. Areas and flowers that Tracey particularly loves and why

  4. Characteristics of some of the plantings, when planted, why, what they bring to the garden/location/nature etc. 

  5. The nature that the gardens attract.


the gardens, contextual, medium range and close-up.

some of the flowers/plants as a flat-lay

the tools that Tracey uses [modern and historical].


Tracey Stokes essay. 

Kelmarsh Hall Gardens are an almost forgotten jewel found nestled in rolling Northamptonshire countryside.

Behind the higgledy piggledy mix of rhododendrons, yew, and box hedges lies a relatively undiscovered


At first glance, one would be forgiven in thinking that the gardens were indeed forgotten, but they are very

much loved and cared for. Kelmarsh is certainly not about the perfect, the ordered, and the unattainable. It is

an English Country Garden, with a romantically dishevelled air, that is both pleasing to the eye and healing

to the soul.

Formal clipped hedges tame the overflowing, billowing borders, there is scent and colour to be found around

every corner, and flowers that pop up where’er their heart takes them. A beautiful triangular walled garden

lies at their heart, full to bursting with cut flowers of all descriptions, fruit trees line the walls and vegetables

sit amongst the cornflowers and sweet peas.

The visitor is greeted immediately with a mature lime tree avenue, underplanted with a fabulous display in

spring of fritillary meleagris, pheasants eye narcissus and cardamon pratensis. Walking through to the West

Terrace, furnished with grass panels and pleached limes, the dominating feature is the view, a beautiful lake

nestled in-between two rows of Horse chestnuts and green fields. The gardens then veer off either side,

encompassing herbaceous borders with tall swathes of Veronicastrum, Echinops and Thalictrums,

wonderfully scented old rose gardens, a wilderness full of cow parsley and old oaks, and of course the walled

garden with the Victorian Foster and Pearson glasshouse at its centre.

The gardens ethos stems from the doyenne of English Country House style, Nancy Lancaster, an American

socialite who moved to Kelmarsh Hall in the 1920’s. Nancy brought to Kelmarsh an eclectic mixture of style,

a wealth of good taste and a love of all things beautiful. She is credited with being the originator of the

shabby chic style, relaxed, a little frayed but a lot welcoming, which incidentally is exactly how one feels

when walking through the grounds. Working along side the renowned garden designer Norah Lindsay, the

two women created a garden that has not only stood the test of time, but continues to inspire and relate to

gardeners and visitors alike.

The relaxed grandeur and the delicate decay are quite difficult ideas to cultivate. A flower must bloom

beautifully, and die gracefully, seedlings must be allowed to find their own homes but not dominate the

landscape, colours and form must enhance and contrast with each other but not clash and sit uncomfortably.

The Gardens created by Nancy and Norah do all these things and more. We, as custodians, have taken up

their mantle and it is our duty to both preserve and continue their good work.

Despite the fact that the loggia yew hedges have got a little wider, the shrubs in the shelter belt a little

overgrown and the old plants a little jaded, the gardens have kept their enchanting ambience. Over the past

few years, they have been slowly, carefully, and dare I say it, successfully renovated. The double herbaceous

borders have been sympathetically replanted, using plants that both Nancy and Norah would have approved

of. The Walled Garden has become the home to a fabulous array of dahlias, in all shapes, sizes and colours,

enhancing and extending the display of Nancy’s beloved cut flowers. And the pale scents of the sunken

garden, home to so many glamorous evening cocktail parties held by Nancy, is once again frothing at the bit.

The hard work, enthusiasm and love that goes on behind the scenes is immense. From the very top, the

Trustees and Management ensure that the Gardens ethos and structure are preserved and maintained in

perpetuity for the nation. The Gardeners ensure that the life cycle of the seasons continue to reflect the floral

wish lists of those that have gone before and last but not least, there is a band of enthusiastic, willing

volunteers that ensure the tea, cake and smiles are forever flowing amongst the flowers.

We only ever truly borrow our Gardens, and it is up to us to not only preserve our past, but welcome the

future. Everyone here knows that we are only very privileged caretakers, and despite the last twelve months

of uncertainty, the gardens continue to grow and flourish. The work has continued, albeit with a much

smaller workforce. Many Roses, thousands of bulbs, hundreds of herbaceous perennials have all been

planted, wild, tall shelter belts have been tamed, copious amounts of seeds have been sown, and an extensive

propagation programme started (do love a free plant!) A Garden is never truly finished, and Kelmarsh is no

exception. There is always something to do, there will always be weeds, there will always be five jobs that

need doing at once, one is never bored and never without a bad back, but it is so worth it.

There is something quite ethereal about the magic of Kelmarsh, its not something that you can put your

finger on, but those that are privileged to work, live or just pass through, will know exactly what I mean. The

gardens at Kelmarsh are secret, but its one Im willing to share. 

- Musings -

Rough Musings Dumping Ground

There is real magic to a walled garden.


I am drawn to wild, loose, naturalistic planting, where plants are intermingled

in abundance, and work well together. 

Tall grasses add movement, charm and softness to a garden.

I am often moved by something that is dying too. Plants that are allowed to go to seed

create their own charm, and a new dimension.


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