The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Chesea Then and New

Marcus Barnett's design for The Telegraph used a successful formula for design that it reminiscent of many recent Chelsea gardens: a modern patio with a clean stone/hedge backdrop, clipped blocks of yew and beech, elegantly limbed up trees and the ubiquitous low wildish herbaceous planting mixing flowers and grasses. In another year, it could have easily won Best in Show but this year, Dan Pearson offered something completely different.

Dan Pearson's design sponsored by Laurent-Perrier was very wild and intricately planted. It was inspired by the Trout Stream at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. In fact, soapstone boulders from the estate were transported to Chelsea to form the hardscape of the garden. The complexity and details of the planting boggled the mind.  My main criticism of the garden was that it was a three-sided island garden which made photography difficult without having spectators and/or buldings in the backround. It also made the fantasy that transports one to another place and time impossible. That said, the triangular shape allowed veiwing the complexity of the plantings easier. The edges of the garden which were inches away looked as if they had been there for hundreds of years.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rousham House and Gardens

Before visiting Pettifers Garden, I stopped to see Rousham House and Gardens in Oxfordshire. I am also hoping to include Rousham in next year’s tour. Rousham Gardens’ reputation preceded my visit. It is arguably one of the finest gardens in England. Rousham remains a private garden and was surprisingly quiet, especially as compared to another landscape garden we visit, Stourhead, which is owned and operated by the National Trust and had hundreds of visitors when we were there last week. I saw perhaps 10 visitors at Rousham and felt as if I had the garden to myself for the morning.

Rousham is an excellent example of an Augustan age (early 18th century when British artists emulated the original Augustan age in Rome 27 BC-14AD) landscape garden and was designed by William Kent (1685-1748). It is recommended to follow the circuit walk, drawn up prior to 1738 by the head gardener, John MacClary. My photographs follow the circuit which takes the visitor around the perimeter of the garden through a series of water features, statues and follies.

Rousham House and Gardens is still owned by the same family that created it and remains precisely as Kent envisioned. The brochure for Rousham says it all: “Rousham is uncommercial and unspoilt with no tea room and no shop. Bring a picnic, wear comfortable shoes and it is yours for the day.”

Rousham House from the Bowling Green

The view from the house with central statue made in 1740.

The Lion and the Horse by P. Scheemaker

The Octagon Pond

The Upper Cascade with a statue of Venus

The Watery Walk

The serpentine rill in the Watery Walk is elegant and feels contemporary even today

The octagonal Cold Bath

Temple of Echo by Kent and Townsend

 Paladian Doorway

View of the house; the ha-ha can barely be discerned

Statue of Apollo

Heyford Bridge 1255

The reverse view of Apollo through The Long Walk

The Lower Cascade with the Upper Cascade above

The Arcade

The ancient hedges that separate the Bowling Green from the Walled Garden

The Walled Garden predates the work of William Kent

The formal Pigeon House Garden

Monday, May 18, 2015

Visiting Pettifers Garden

If Piet Oudolf’s garden and Helen Dillon’s garden had a child, it would surely be Gina Price’s garden, Pettifers. I had the good fortune to visit Pettifers Garden while in England for The Best of English Gardens Tour. I took a day away from the group to do reconnaissance for next year’s tour. 

Pettifers Garden, in Oxfordshire, has been on my radar for several years now. I have spent many hours surveying photographer Clive Nichols' luscious photographs of the garden throughout the seasons on his website. Gina’s head gardener, Polly Stevens, took me on a tour of the garden and it became immediately clear this is a plantwoman’s garden. Gina has lived at Pettifers since 1984, but became interested in gardening after learning about The New Perennial Movement which championed grasses in borders. Over time, grasses and perennials have replaced roses and shrubs. Interestingly, several shrubs, like various Cotinus species, have been slowly added in recent years.

Nothing is sacred in the garden and plants are constantly being moved or replaced if the garden picture isn’t pleasing. Gina has combined grasses, which will peak in the late summer, with flowering perennials in an engagingly loose formality.  To my eye, she combines the best of Oudolf's naturalistic style with Dillon's gorgeous plantings; reinterpreting and combining each style in a unique and fresh way. Gardening friends had recommended that she enclose the garden with walls dividing the garden into rooms which Gina resisted. The result is a garden that has the open feeling which talks full advantage of the magnificent views of the countryside. I would love to visit this garden many times throughout the year and hope to include it in next year's tour.

The view from the house. Cornus alternafolia ‘Variegata’ to the left in the foreground. I hadn’t expected to such an open space in the center of the garden. In the distance, the borrowed landscape of the far hills makes the garden seem much larger than its one and a half acres.

A long border backed by a formal yew hedge.

A stunning foliage combination of epimedium, euphorbia and rodgersia.

The formal, yet contemporary, Parterre Garden has become as iconic as Oudolf’s waved hedges at Hummelo or the central canal at Helen Dillon’s garden in Dublin, Ireland.

An allee of Malus transitoria, the cut-leaf crabapple, was at its absolute peak while I was visiting.

A close up view of the flowers. The almost willow-like foliage was particularly fresh looking.

Cornus controversa ’Variegata’ to right in the lower garden.

Looking up at the house through the Parterre Garden.

A cross-sectional view of the house and retaining wall.

The tulips in the Parterre Garden are a color echo the magnolia that can be seen through the yew ‘chimneys'.

The dark purple of the 'Black Parrot' tulips contrast with the lawn and the chartreuse-foliaged plant at the edge of the border.


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