I was offered a tour of two well respected gardens recently and I jumped at the chance, especially as lunch and afternoon tea were included!
Our first garden was Stockton Bury Court near Leominster, traditionally designed around the house and outbuildings of a working farm, where the old stone barns and pigeon house give the garden a real sense of age and place, and where the planting sits perfectly around them.
A long view draws the eyes and feet forward through areas of the garden where every opportunity has been taken to encourage visitors to pause and appreciate the finer details which have been perfectly chosen to reflect either the working background and history of the farm or nature of the site.
Taking in the immaculate vegetable garden, with a detour through a hedge to a hidden wisteria covered folly on the way, the path leads past a spring issuing from a bluebell covered bank below which, under the overhanging boughs of an ancient oak, lies a tranquil pond where moss covered rocks enclose the water as if they’ve been there forever.
This mix of skilfully grown and artfully combined ornamental planting and natives allowed to remain around the edges, in a garden so in tune with its own particular history and landscape, is a real gem.
Our second garden, The Laskett has history at its core too but not of its site, this garden owes everything to the life and loves of its owner Sir Roy Strong and his late wife Julia Trevelyan Oman. First impressions are of a garden imposed onto the landscape, the planting sculpted into architectural shapes, the pathways dictatorial and the ornamentation theatrical, but within the confining neat and orderly hedges little surprises lie in store.
There are subtly revealing signs of a mellowing style, where wild flowers have been allowed to seed into gravel, mini wild flower meadows hide behind hedges and below the sheltering branches of fruit trees, in a quiet clearing, are poignant memorials to Julia and beloved family pets.
We can learn so much from a garden about its history, geography and geology. As an integral part of any garden visit if we look beyond the flowers, tea and cake there’s so much to discover about the lives and personalities of the people who made them, and it’s all there to discover in the attention to detail.