Ox Eye Daisies and Cornflowers make a wonderful display at Myddelton House

Ox Eye Daisies and Cornflowers make a wonderful display at Myddelton House

A visit to the open air theatre is always a treat, and last weekend proved no exception. We joined our good friends Dave and Jenny for a performance of ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, Oscar Wilde’s comic drama ‘with a message’. The symmetry of the plot coupled with showy 19th century language and costume were well echoed in the gardens of the venue, Myddelton House, in Enfield, Middlesex. Before the performance started I had a chance to look around this recently restored Victorian plot whose most famous former resident was the renowned self – taught gardener, artist and expert botanist, E.A. Bowles. In the late evening summer sun it was a joy. More of its key features later, but first, here’s a little background on the place.

Covering eight acres Myddelton House Gardens were occupied by Edward Augustus Bowles from 1865 to 1954. He dedicated himself to transforming the gardens with unusual and exotic plants. Originally built circa 1812, and completed in 1818, the House was built by Henry Carrington Bowles, one of five generations of London print and map makers. Bowles built the new house in the then fashionable white brick from Suffolk and named it Myddelton House in honour of Sir Hugh Myddelton, an engineering ‘genius’ who created the New River, a section of which had bisected the garden from 1613 until 1968.

The youngest son of five children to Henry Carrington Bowles and his wife Cornelia was Edward Augustus “Gussie” Bowles, who became one of the great gardeners of the 20th century. He originally trained for the church, but family tragedies caused him to change course and he remained at Myddelton House and developed the remarkable garden as a self-taught horticulturist. For many years people came from all over the country to visit. He became an expert on many plants, particularly the Crocus and was dubbed “The Crocus King”.

Crocus 'E.A. Bowles'

Crocus ‘E.A. Bowles’

Today’s gardens have an impressive range of flora with something to stimulate the senses each season, from colourful spring crocuses to dazzling summer irises. In spring 2011 a newly restored Myddelton House Gardens were unveiled, following a two year Heritage Lottery Fund enabled project.

The gardens are home to a beautiful carp lake, a Victorian conservatory and a number of historical artefacts collected and treasured by E A Bowles, including pieces from the original St Paul’s Cathedral and the Enfield Market Cross. There’s a 111 year old Wisteria which turns a brilliant blue when it flowers during May. A beautiful newly created Victorian Glasshouse Range retains unique details, such as four climatic zones, a vine house and a sunken glasshouse that would have been used to grow fruit such as melons and cucumbers.

The gardens have been well restored and further work is obviously in hand. It is a typical Victorian pot pourri of different gardens and areas of historical or other interest. I was particularly impressed with the glasshouse area with its clean – cut display of irises in a gravel – covered bed, cutting flower beds in lovely colour combinations and areas of wildflower planting which look like a soft, frothy sea which I was tempted to dive into! The House is the headquarters of the Lea valley Regional Park Authority and apart from the gardens there is a museum about E.A.Bowles. All are open to the public and there’s free entry.

The whole evening, including good company, fun drama and good food and drink was delightful. So, thanks once more, Dave and Jenny!

The audience awaits...

The audience awaits…

Further information:

E.A.Bowles – wikipedia

Myddelton House web site

Old School Gardener

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