May 2016 – Guilsborogh Gardens and Coton Manor
This was the first HGS outing designed by Glyn Goodwin and Janet Warr and we must congratulate them on their selection of venue, the convenience of the journey, and their win in the lottery of weather. We drove through the Northamptonshire countryside and were reminded how the villages in this county are as pretty as any to be found in the Cotswolds.
Gower House and Dripwell House are linked so we moved from formality and close planting (1) to carefully tended open country (2).
Coton Manor is much more commercialised with shop, restaurant and plant sales. Known from Domesday the original house was burnt down in the civil war and rebuilt with salvaged stone. Like many such estates it declined in the 20th century and was rescued by an American lady who married an Englishman, their family, now in the third generation, are still owning and tending it. Coton is also blest with a lake, ponds and many rivulets (3), (4), which give form to the gardens and must be appreciated by the permanent residents, flamingos and hens (5) and (6).
Summer Holiday 2015 – Gardens of Cheshire
Six gardens in five days was the full programme enjoyed by members of the society who travelled to Cheshire for the annual holiday. Three were of national importance.
Biddulph Grange Garden was created by James Bateman, son of a wealthy industrial family in Lancashire. After leaving Oxford in 1845 he became an enthusiastic plant collector from America and China and he designed his garden to accommodate them. It is a world away from the 18th century open parkland made nationally popular by Capability Brown, being a dense gathering of pinetum, lake, rhododendrons, dahlias, and Chinese garden separated by hedges, walls, rock faces and tunnels. (1) house, (2) parterre, (3) Lake, (4) Chinese garden.
Tatton Park House and Garden sits in the middle of a 1000 acre deer park owned by the National Trust and it was from the coach we saw the tented town about to be opened for the famous RHS show. However the house and 50 acre garden were more than enough for us to inspect on our day’s visit. The mansion built by the Egerton family (5) is fronted by the Italian parterre (6) with its views over the countryside and on the side are the glass houses filled by tropical plants and trees (7). Then venturing in the garden on the Broad Walk past the topiary (8) we reach the monster rhubarb (9). At the far end there is the delightful Japanese garden (10) too delicate to walk through.
Undoubtedly the star garden was at Arley Hall admired by all of us for the sheer quality of its gardening. The present house (11) was completed in 1845 By Rowland Egerton-Warburton and is a model of Elizabethan architecture. Later that century the family developed the gardens and they remain much in the original design, the double herbaceous border (12) is one of the oldest and finest in England. The Flag Garden (13) was in full bloom and in a later style is the Ilex Avenue of fourteen clipped holm oaks (14).
(15)Waiting for the sales pitch at Bluebell Cottage
Summer Holiday 2014 – Devon
Our group of nineteen organised by Jackie Hopkins spent 5 days in July in Paignton visiting a wide variety of the nearby gardens. Lionel and Katherine Fortescue moved to the Garden House in Yelverton in 1945, designing and planting the two acre terraced walled garden centered on the ruins of a 16th century vicarage. (1st picture). The three oval beds are a unique feature (2nd picture). They set up a charitable trust in 1962 and successive head gardeners have developed the other eight acres. For example the Summer Garden in the “New Naturalism” style (3rd picture).
At Bicton Park Henry Rolle laid out the Italian Garden in 1735 inspired by Andre Le Notre at Versailles (4th picture). For some reason he placed the garden separately, so when the house was rebuilt it was surrounded by the newly fashionable parkland and the Italian Garden was left unchanged. By marriage and inheritance the Rolle family was very rich and lords of 45 manors, so in spite of the window tax Lord John Rolle could splash out on the Palm House for his bride Louisa (5th picture). 20 years later with the tax abolished, Decimus Burton built the Palm House at Kew using the same patented glazing method.
Starting in 1959 John Benger built up a dairy herd at Burrow Farm but he could not convert the old Roman clay pit to pasture. Instead Mary Benger extended her garden round the house to include the clay pit and then continued the enlargement so there are now 10 acres, mostly in a woodland style with paths leading to wide views over the rolling Devon countryside (6th picture). Recently some newer sections have been built, notably the Millennium garden (7th picture).
The house at Knightshayes was built for the Heathcote Amory family in the florid gothic-revival style and the walled garden was designed similarly, with special walks for the gentry to admire the produce and the gardeners’ skill. Like all walled gardens it became out of favour after the second war and decayed to the point it was grassed over and locked up. To the credit of the National Trust it is now revived and fully functioning with its walls and turrets in place(8th picture). As yet the glass houses have to be repaired but meanwhile a temporary structure is an excellent example of what can be done simply (last picture).
Visit 18th June – Town Place and North Hall
It takes along time to reach the Weald in East Sussex but the gardens there are worth it. Denise Diamond organised our outing to Town Place and North Hall. Both are private gardens designed and maintained by the owners, both have misleading names, there is no hall at North Hall, just a sixteenth century cottage, and “Town” is from the Saxon “tomb”. It is good soil for gardens, the acclaimed Nymans and Wakehurst Place are nearby.
Dr and Mrs Anthony McGrath have filled Town Place with English roses. The sunken garden is stunningly beautiful (1st picture). They have designed plenty of interesting features like this bicoloured hedge (2nd picture). Their most ambitious item is a full scale French priory in hornbeam complete with cloisters and buttresses on the “North wall” (3rd picture)
Celia and Les welcomed us at North Hall (4th picture) which is more modest (5th picture) but they had a plant stall and served tea and delicious cakes in the garden.
Visit 28th May – Vale End and Shelvers Way
A drizzling day did not prevent forty odd members spreading out over two gardens in Surrey in May. Two small gems filled with plants and interesting features. Daphne and John Foulsham have a pretty house at Vale End near Albury (1st picture) and a wonderful view over the end of the valley (2nd picture). John is an architect and he made his waterfall with roof pan tiles (3rd picture) Unfortunately Daphne has to put the arum lilies in the glass house over winter.
Keith Lewis proudly announced he had cultivated his suburban back garden on Shelvers Way since 1950. (4th and 5th pictures taken from the middle looking forward and back) He also fills his garden in early Spring with about sixty varieties of daffodil, his tulips are in pots so they are fresh each year. Clearly he has not yet retired.
Memories of 2013 Gardens
Walled Gardens and the Upper Classes
Our local Walled Garden is at Luton Hoo. The Earl of Bute bought the property after early retirement as prime minister and he turned out to be a better gardener than politician. Capability Brown landscaped his park and helped him build the magnificent walled garden, at the time the finest in the land. Later owners added glass houses when these became fashionable, including Sir Julius Wernher the diamond millionaire and his daughter-in-law, Lady Zia from the Russian imperial family. After the Second World War the gardens decayed, in common with many others, and the glass houses were wrapped in plastic to stop further rotting (1st picture). A team of volunteers cultivate a small portion of the large area (2nd picture).
On her retirement the Queen Mother bought the Castle of Mey with a small but fully productive Walled Garden (3rd picture) and magnificent views over the Pentland Firth to the Isle of Orkney (4th picture).
Sir Robert Walpole, profiting from his long term as Prime Minister, built his pile in the far North of Norfolk, out of site of George II, remembering Henry VIII acquiring Hampton Court and Queen Anne’s sour remarks about Blenheim. Walpole’s Walled Garden suffered the common decline after the Second World War but has recently been restored by the present owner, the Marquess of Cholmondeley, as a memorial to his Grandmother, Sybil Sassoon. Unlike Luton Hoo, Houghton Hall Walled Garden has had no lack of funds in its restoration, with hedges like topiary (5th picture) and every modern garden device like the Danish Waterflame (6th picture).
Alnwick and Mount Stewart
Alnwick has a modern garden created by the Duchess. Its main feature is the Grand Cascade which is a truly enormous mass of concrete with waterfalls and fountains. Elsewhere in the grounds Capability Brown designed the woodland walk so it is good to see the curves in the cascade following his serpentine tradition. However it falls back to geometry being precisely symmetrical about its principal sight line (1st picture). The kitchen garden remains in its position above the cascade where you expect squares within squares and the central source of water is correct by being an exact square (2nd picture). A modern garden needs modern statuary so Alnwick’s statues are of stainless steel. The subject here is physics with examples of a syphon and the surface tension of water (3rd and 4th pictures).
We can go back two centuries to Mount Stewart’s garden, where the statuary is traditional stone (5th picture), but it is not all solemn, with a Noah’s Ark guarded by four dodos (6th picture). Mount Stewart is in patriotic Northern Ireland with its multitude of union flags. Mount Stewart joins in with a bed of begonias to represent the Red Hand of Ulster (7th picture) and Yew topiary as an Irish Harp (8th picture). The thin branches of the trees behind conveniently provide the strings.
What’s in a Name?
In his talk on the spring flowers of South Africa the first photograph Peter Sheasby showed was of an arum lily. I saw it at Chelsea in the East Village Garden (1st picture). It scrubs up well and fully merits the care given to every leaf and petal required at Chelsea (2nd picture). On the Kew.org website it is described as one of the most iconic and widely known plants. Peter is a botanist and he called it Zantadeschia. In the first classification in 1753 Linnaeus described it as Calla aethiopica. Calla is Greek for beautiful but I don’t know why he resorted to Greek when he was so fond of Latin he changed his own Swedish name to the Latin version. It appears that later, in 1826, Sprengel did the research to show it wasn’t a lily at all, so he was allowed to name this new genus Zantedeschia after the Italian botanist living at the time, and so banishing this lovely flower to the far end of the alphabet.
Another plant with naming problems is Helenium. Here it is in its glory in the herbaceous borders at Wisley in 2012 (3rd picture) and it formed a complete border in Nymans in July. (4th picture). We also saw it at Pettifers in September, but here it has to compete with Pettifers’ wonderful view of the Cotswolds (5th picture). This helenium hasn’t got a species name. This is because it is a hybrid. Its parents aren’t known. It spontaneously occurred at the Sahin trial grounds in Holland, became very popular and has been on sale since 1997. It probably came from H. autumnale or H. bigelovii or both (all this from the RHS website). So in the catalogues it is called Sahin’s Early Flowerer, which is more of an advert than a name. Perhaps we should revert to the common name. The leaves of H. autumnale were ground up to make a snuff so its common name was “sneezewort”. Perhaps we should stay with Helenium.
I too visited Great Dixter in July. Phil said it was one of the most experimental and constantly changing gardens of our time. It is also disturbing. For example Christopher’s mother had a love of meadow gardening and he has followed her wishes. So in the topiary lawn where you would expect close-cut grass amongst exact shapes of yew, you get the exuberance of a flower meadow surging round the topiary (1st picture).
Elsewhere a conventional border has escaped over a paved path but the lawn is clipped neatly to the other straight edge. But only for a foot or so before the lawn breaks into wild meadow (2nd picture). Not like Llandhydrock where topiary, lawns and parterre all stand to attention in military precision (3rd picture). Llandhydrock is National Trust which doesn’t have much money but is blessed with many volunteers. So the lawns are cut with cylinder mowers and the edges trimmed with hand shears, as I saw at Kingston Lacy (4th picture).