Tag Archive: formal


WP_20150714_10_41_49_ProThe volunteers and staff at Blickling had a fabulous day out recently, visiting two nearby gardens not normally open to the public. Our first visit was to the medieval manor of Oxnead Hall.

Wikipedia says:

‘Oxnead is a lost settlement in Norfolk, England, roughly three miles south-east of Aylsham. It now consists mostly of St Michael’s Church and Oxnead Hall. It was the principal residence of the Paston family from 1597 until the death of William paston, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth in 1732. Under Sir William Paston (1610–1663), Oxnead was the site of several works by the architect and sculptor, Nicholas Stone, master-mason to Kings James I and Charles I…

The house was originally built for Sir Clement around 1580 but was remodelled by Nicholas Stone, for Sir William Paston, between 1631 and 1632. At its zenith, the house had seventy-nine rooms but under the Earls of Yarmouth it declined until by 1744 it was described as ruinous….

Nothing remains of the garden statuary installed by Nicholas Stone, though his Hercules, originally from Oxnead, can be seen in the Orangery at Blickling Hall. Blickling, in its parterre, also has a sixteenth or early seventeenth century fountain, consisting of a basin on a base, bought from Oxnead in 1732.’

The gardens here are extensive, with some lovely changes in level as they tip towards the River Bure. A recent occupant ws also something of an enthusiast for garden features; he added a ‘folly’ near the river and one or two other garden buildings broadly in keeping with the overall style. He also added a rather grand extension which, whilst in keeping with the roginal building, did not have planning permission, so is not occupied. The gardens are formally laid out near to the house, with agrand parterre of box and simple landscaping of the ruins of the old Hall, which have been left exposed and which in one or two cases, have been graced with further statuary.

I particularly liked the water gardens which weave among the River and give lovely views to the Hall and the rest of the gardens. the Head Gardener here (a former Blickling gardener), is making steady progress in restoring the grounds to their historic pattern, including a walled kitchen garden.

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To end the trip we all enjoyed some coffee and cakes prepared by the Gardener’s wife. Though impressive and well looked after, Oxnead’s gardens by and large lacked floral or other planting interest to suit my own taste in gardens, which leans towards the arts and crafts tradition where planting design and variety takes a more central role.

WP_20150714_11_39_31_ProOur second visit of the day was to prove right up my  alley…

Read more in a day or two’s time!

Old School Gardener

Keukenhof, Holland

Keukenhof, Holland

‘Why should we imitate wild nature? the garden is a product of civilisation. Why any more make of our gardens imitation of wild nature, than paint our children with woad, and make them run about naked in an effort to imitate nature unadorned? the very charm of a garden is that it is taken out of savagery, trimmed, clothed and disciplined’

S. Baring-Gould 1890

Your views please!

Old School Gardener

Beckley Park topiary garden, Oxfordshire

Beckley Park topiary garden, Oxfordshire

‘I doe not like Images Cut out in Juniper or other Garden stuffes: They be for Children. Little low Hedges, Round, like Welts, with some Pretty Pyramides, I like well.’

Sir Francis Bacon

‘What right have we to deform things given us so perfect and lovely in form? No cramming of Chinese feet into impossible shoes is half so wicked as thwe wilful and brutal distortion of the beautiful forms of trees’

William Robinson- ‘The English Flower Garden’ 1898

Personally, I really enjoy topiary- growing it, trimming it and admiring others’ creativity and skill in producing the rather more fantastic forms it can take; oh, and they also make me smile!

OK, so you are cutting back natural growth, but aren’t we doing that when we prune things anyway? What do you think?

Old School Gardener

 

WP_20140928_17_26_24_ProThis last ‘garden’ from our recent trip to Portugal, is a bit of a cheat. The main attraction is the gothic splendour of the monastery and associated cathedral, but there are some wonderful outdoor spaces too, so I think its worth sharing.

The monastery was founded by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and has maintained a close association with the Kings and Queens of Portugal throughout its history, housing several royal tombs and the national pantheon.

The church and monastery were the first gothic buildings in Portugal, and, due to its artistic and historical importance, was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1989. The Cathedral is the largest church building in Portugal and has a relatively simple undecorated interior- I was fully expecting golden baroque splendour on entering, but was pleasantly surprised.

The Cathedral is perhaps most famous for housing the tombs of King Pedro I and his mistress, Ines de Castro, assassinated, in 1355, under the orders of Peter’s father, King Afonso IV. After becoming King, Pedro ordered the remains of his beloved to be transferred to her tomb in Alcobaça and, according to a popular legend, had her crowned as Queen of Portugal and ordered court members to pay her homage by kissing her decomposing hand.

This pair of Royal tombs, of unknown authorship, are among the best works of gothic sculpture in Portugal. The tombs are supported by lions, in the case of the King, and half-men half-beasts, in the case of Ines, and both carry the recumbent figures of the deceased assisted by a group of angels. The sides of Pedro’s tomb are magnificently decorated with reliefs showing scenes from Saint Batholomew’s life, as well as scenes from Pedro and Ines’ life. Her tomb is decorated with scenes from the life of Christ.

The monastery complex provides an interesting, and, as expected, relatively simple series of rooms and spaces where the monks went about their everyday business.

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Outside, the cloister is a most inspiring space, simply furnished (and with some sympathetic conservation) with a few trees and close-cut box bushes- I was fortunate to capture it in the afternoon sun. The monastic gardens- not open to the public- are a fine example of box-edged parterres enclosing a series of beds that once were used for growing food and herbs. This important site lies about an hour’s drive north of Lisbon and is an area I hope to visit again as there are other landscapes and historical sites nearby, that we didn’t have time to visit.

Source and further information: Wikipedia

 Old School Gardener

IMG_9860I mentioned my trip to Bury St. Edmunds a couple of days ago. On the afternoon of that trip we visited a new garden to us, Wyken Hall, just a few miles north east of the town. This is my sort of garden.

After a very good lunch in the on site restaurant, we had a stroll in the sun. An Elisabethan Farmhouse forms the centre point of the range of gardens which include a number of small, but beautifully designed ‘outdoor rooms’ (the veranda,  pictured above, is furnished with 5 original mississippi rocking chairs), as well as a large, well stocked kitchen garden and several herbaceous borders, some cleverly colour-  themed. I particualrly enjoyed the pond with its elevated deck, a beech maze and the Silver Birch glade. The site is also home  to a working vineyard and  is well worth a visit (RHS members free, others £4, open from 2pm most days).

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Old School Gardener

IMG_9810I’ve mentioned Abbey Gardens before, in the context of my role as a Green Flag Award judge. That time- spring last year- the place was looking great in its colourful bedding of bulbs and other spring flowers. I visited it again recently and the formal beds were once again looking superb; bright, clever combinations of flowers provided the sort of formal scheme once extensively used in public gardens and parks around the U.K. However, it’s very labour and resource intensive and has therefore been replaced by lower cost alternatives in many places, but it’s still good to see it done well. And here it IS done very well.

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Apart from the borders there are other interesting attractions in the gardens, which also house the ruins of the abbey, and it has great views to the Cathedral with its ‘millenium tower’. And while we were there we had a wider walk around this lovely town with its extensive floral displays.

Old School Gardener

IMG_8624The second and final stop on our trip home from Devon recently, was Montacute House, Somerset. Surrounded by beautiful, formally laid out gardens, the warm, honey-coloured stone of the house glowed in the spring sunshine. There was a splendid display of tulips and wallflowers and a magnificent ‘cloud’ yew hedge reminiscent of those at Blickling House, near our home in Norfolk. We were fortunate to meet  a gardener in the ”orangery’, which, she explained, was not really in the best spot for this and had in the past been more of a shady water feature, with its tufa – clad grotto. This and it’s surrounds are gradually being replanted with ferns and other suitable species. Pots of standard Bay trees line the terrace outside where once orange and lemon trees would have been placed in summer.

‘Montacute is a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design. With its towering walls of glass, glow of ham stone, and its surrounding gardens it is a place of beauty and wonder.

Sir Edward Phelips, was the visionary force and money behind the creation of this masterpiece, which was completed in 1601. Built by skilled craftsman using local ham stone under the instruction of William Arnold, master mason, the house was a statement of wealth, ambition and showmanship.

Come face to face with the past in the Long Gallery, which is the longest of its kind in England. The gallery houses over 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.

Beautiful gardens surround Montacute, constantly changing, filling the house with scent in summer and providing an atmospheric backdrop for a winter walk…’

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Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

PicPost: Baroque Brassicas

Cabbage beds at Villandry, France

Old School Gardener

IMG_7088I frequently visit this wonderful Jacobean Mansion and more particularly it’s gardens and parkland. After all it is just 7 miles from home. A  walk around the park after a Christmas Day ‘brunch’ has become something of a family institution, often complete with festive headwear!

I try to visit the gardens at different times of the year as they offer something for every season, and back in September I was keen to experience the late summer colour festival of its herbaceous and other plantings. At this time of year it’s mix of formal and informal styles is most evident.

Coincidentally, there was a splendid event going on to celebrate the role of the Hall in the Second World War, including people dressed in military uniforms and plenty of vehicles and ‘kit’ from the time. This is my photo record of my most recent visit along with a very good summary of the gardens’ history and features from Wikipedia:

‘A house and garden existed at Blickling before the estate was purchased by the Boleyn family in the 1450s, but no records survive to give an indication of their appearance. After Sir Henry Hobart acquired the estate in 1616, he remodelled the gardens to include ponds, wilderness and a parterre. A garden mount– an artificial hill in Blickling’s flat landscape, was made to provide views of the new garden. With the accession of Sir John Hobart (later the 1st Earl of Buckingham) in 1698 the garden was expanded to add a new wilderness and the temple was constructed.

In the latter half of the 18th century John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckingham, embarked on works that would radically change the appearance of the gardens. All traces of formality were removed, and naturally arranged clumps of trees were planted to create a landscape garden. By the 1780s an orangery had been built to overwinter tender citrus trees. Following the 2nd Earl’s death in 1793, his youngest daughter Caroline, Lady Suffield, employed landscape gardener Humphry Repton and his son John Adey Repton to advise on garden matters. John Adey Repton would go on to provide designs for many garden features.

 

The estate was inherited by nine-year-old William Schomberg Robert Kerr, 8th Marquess of Lothian in 1840. He later re-introduced the formality and colour schemes of the parterre. After his death at the age of 38, responsibility for the gardens rested with Lady Lothian and her head gardener Mr Lyon. Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquis of Lothian, inherited the estate in 1930. After disparaging comments in a publication of Country Life, Lothian engaged socialite gardener Norah Lindsay to remodel the gardens. In the parterre she replaced the jumble of minuscule flower beds with four large square beds planted with a mixture of herbaceous plants in graduated and harmonious colours. Other improvements included removal of a line of conifers in the Temple walk, which were replaced with plantings of azaleas.

The garden today

The garden at Blickling covers 55 acres (22 ha) and contains formal and informal gardens, Grade II listed buildings and structures, woodland, specimen trees, Victorian garden ornaments, topiary, the kitchen garden .. and 18th century yew hedges.

The lawns which frame the main approach to the hall are bounded by yew hedges which were first recorded by William Freeman of Hamels in 1745. Surrounding the hall on three sides is the dry Moat. The plantings in the moist, sheltered conditions of the moat were considerably revised by Lindsay who introduced hosta, species of hydrangea, buddleja and rosemary.

To the rear of the hall is the noted Parterre garden which is located on the east lawn. Originally created as a Victorian sunken garden it was remodelled by Lindsay in the early 1930s. Set around an 18th-century listed stone fountain, she divided the garden into four large, colourful herbaceous beds surrounded by L shaped borders stocked with roses and catmint with an acorn shaped yew marking each corner.

 

In the terraces above the parterre there are plantings of peony, seasonal beds and the Double Borders created in 2006, contain a wide variety of perennials, shrubs and grasses with colours ranging from hot to cool. Close by, are the White and Black Borders which were established in 2009, together with a collection of eleagnus.

The western side of the garden features the lawned Acre which is fringed by a spreading oriental plane tree. Outdoor sports such as croquet are played here in the summer months. Further highlights are a collection of magnolia underplanted with autumn cyclamen, the shell fountain and the kitchen garden. To the north of the parterre is the Wilderness garden which is bisected by radial grassed avenues flanked with turkey oak, lime and beech trees and naturalised bulbs. The wilderness hides a Secret Garden with a summerhouse, scented plants and a central sundial.

Nearby is the listed 18th century orangery which houses a collection of citrus trees. Adjacent, to the building is the steep sided Dell which is home to many woodland plants including a selection of hellebore and foxglove. In 2009, an area of woodland was cleared close to the orangery to create a new garden. Stocked with a wide range of woodland plants including camellia and varieties of mahonia. Opened in 2010, it will be known as the Orangery Garden.

The Grade II listed Temple is approached by the Temple walk which is lined with azalea planted by Lindsay in her original 1930s design. Scattered throughout the garden are many garden ornaments including thirty pieces supplied to Lady Lothian in 1877 by Austin & Seeley of Euston Road, London.

Future projects include the creation of a philadelphus and rose garden. Both of which will be located in the Wilderness and open to the public in the near future .’ (Note – these have now been established and are open to the public- see pics below).

Further information:

National Trust Website

Wikipedia

Old School Gardener

IMG_8032Our October visit to Portugal concluded with a day packed with garden visits to the west of Lisbon and in the regal suburb of Sintra to the north- home to many a splendid palace and garden.

We began at a restored baroque garden in the riverside  town of  Caxias. The Quinta Real de Caxias is located quite close to the train station (direct services to and from Lisbon). It was a leisure residence of Queen D. Maria I, as well as the home of King Luís for a few weeks, before he moved to the Ajuda Palace (which we’d visited a few days before).

Inspired by the gardens at the Palace of Versailles, the formal parterres- woven in intricate patterns – are interspersed with various water features, statuary and tall Brazilian pine trees.

The waterfall, ornamented with terracotta statues (of the Machado de Castro school), is the centre piece. Set out at the end of the principal avenue the fountain itself (made out of weather – beaten limestone), is flanked by two wings of tiered terracing, accessed by staircases at either end – the perfect spot form which to view the patterns of the box parterres.

Awarded a European Prize for the Recovery of Historical Gardens, the local Council has done a superb job in restoring much of the baroque splendour of this ‘off the beaten track’ haven. I could have spent hours here ‘chilling out’ – and it would have been even more alluring if the water features had been in operation. Maybe that’s something for the next phase of restoration?

Old School Gardener

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