The Palm House Kew Gardens
Formally called the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew the gardens are said to have begun in 1759 when Princess Augusta started constructing a 9 acre garden around Kew Palace, though there may well have been some garden around the palace before this. It has now grown to over 300 acres in one of the world’s biggest cities.
Kew is where horticulture and botany overlap and merge. As well as being a stunning garden this is a vast living collection of plants from all around the world many of which reached the west via Kew. If you are looking for to find what a specific plant looks like you can go onto the Kew Gardens website and see if they are growing it and where, alternatively you can trust to serendipity and allow the garden to inspire you.
Although not really a “garden” it is one of the finest living collections of plants in the world and therefore worth several visits by anyone interested in plants.
Built in the 1620’s, the hall it is typically Tudor in appearance, and occupied up to middle of the 20th century by which time the house and gardens were derelict. The gardens themselves did not appear to be developed until the end of the 18th century when the road was moved away from the house and the parkland to the north and east of the house was screened from the road by a wall of knapped cobbles. The wall is still present and cobbles, knapped or not, are a common building material in the area.
A map 1839 shows the house and outbuildings set in parkland with woodlands and a lake formed from damming the Kiplin Beck to form fish ponds. By the1860’s the garden boasted an extensive plant list and the 19th centre also saw a new drive leading through the parkland to a lodge which is still on the Scorton to Nothallerton road, although the drive has long gone. The entrance to the front of the house was further improved by the addition the existing grand gate way and lime avenue. Most of the hedging also date from this time and by the end of the century the garden had probably reached its peak.
Like many Victorian gardens it was to prove unsustainable and by the 21st century only the major structural elements could be found. Fortunately a local group of volunteers where able to take charge of the property and with help from the grants and the earnings from the gravel rights have begun to return the gardens to their Victorian appearance.
At present the gardens are still in the early stages but are showing great promise notably in the walled vegetable garden and the front of the house. The rear now has a large lake formed from the extraction of gravel but this has been sympathetically landscaped and the gothic styled folly, believed to date from the mid-18th century or early 19th century, has been preserved now looks over the lake.
Le Château de Chambord looks like the archetypal grand French château, built in the 16th century and believed to have had some of its features designed by Leonardo da Vinci. If Disney was to build a château this is what it would build. The truth is though that it was in fact only ever used as a hunting lodge! An extremely large, grand and elaborate hunting lodge, but a hunting lodge all the same. The fact it was never really lived as a main residence means there has been little in the way of a 16th century French garden associated with it.
The château is very much the star of the show; immediately around it the surrounding woodland is cleared and left as grass to afford a better view of it. Several paths radiate out from this area to create vistas of it and the river Le Cosson has been reshaped to form a reflecting lake on two sides of the building.
Of more recent design is the English Garden which is said to be based on plans from 1889, but is only a small area of trees, shrubs and hardy perennials. Of more interest is the ornamental vegetable garden which is set out with an eclectic range of plants set between paths of gravel coloured glass.
The stables garden at le Château de Losse
The château and garden are situated on a rock outcrop which forms the west bank of the river Vézère and the château and stables are protected on the remaining three sides by a deep dry moat as fits its original purpose as a fortress. The hall of the château dates from 1576 and has remained unaltered since the 16th century.
The gardens are principally in three areas one to the north in what was the area for the stables, one to the south of the courtyard and one immediately south of the moat. The gardens rely on careful pruning to form a controlled ad inward looking style with little regards to the countryside or views of the river.
The stables garden is dominated by four symmetrical shapes each a reflection in the cardinal axes using clipped box with lavender and cotton lavender. This simple design is lifted by a simple rill running north/south from a wall fountain at the south end. What would be a rather flat design is then lifted with carefully placed fastigiated conifers and by clothing the soft gold stone wall with green foliage.
The area to the south of the moat is a simple design using hornbeam hedging with some areas of colourful planting in the enclosed space. By this area is an unusual pleached hedge with a conventional low hedge at the bottom and then three tires of pleaching above it.
Lernado da Vinci’s vegetable garden
Le Château du Clos Luce greatest claim to fame is as the final home of Leonardo da Vinci and the garden is set out as a celebration of his work. It does though have two redeeming features; one is the reconstruction of da Vinci bridges and the other is his vegetable garden. If you ever wanted inspiration for a garden bridge design a walk around the grounds would be a good place to start. The vegetable garden does allow you to get an idea of what a 16th century vegetable garden in the Loire valley might have looked like.
The entrance to Leckmelm Shrubbery and Arboretum from Google Maps
This takes a little find and is a world away from the highly commercialised gardens usually open to the public. It is situated on the north east shore of Loch Broom 3 miles down the A893 south of Ullapool. The post code IV23 2RH will get you close but you will still have to hunt a little, look out for the high stone wall set back from the road.
Originally started in the 1870s by Mr Alexander Pirie, who owned the Leckmelm estate and had made his money in the family paper manufacturing business in the Aberdeen area. The location made good use of its sheltered location on the west coast of Scotland where tender plants can benefit from the protection of the warm gulf steam. This allowed the planting of many rare and tender plants which have now had time to grow to impressive sizes. Covering about 12 acres the garden is criss-crossed with paths and initially the garden flourished with a staff of 12 gardeners by 1910. The garden also had a walled kitchen garden with greenhouses and utility buildings. Of this only the wall by the road still exists and the carpark is found through an arch in this wall.
Sadly; the garden was abandoned in 1945, many of these large Victorian gardens became unsuitable around this time, and the garden was left to grow wild until 1985 when it was decided to salvage what was left. Fortunately, the amenable climate and location meant many of the plants had flourished and there is now an excellent collection of mature trees and shrubs growing in the garden. The people working on it only have limited resources they can bring to the project but what the garden is none the worse for it and clearly the garden has enormous potential.
In truth this is more a resource than a garden but a very attractive one all the same. It is though a celebration of water lilies and lotuses which cover about 3 hectares. Started in only 1999 and opened to the public in 2000 the gardens make use of a site which slopesdown to the river Dordogne with a series of ponds and lakes. The most interesting feature though is the labyrinth; a 2800 m2 lake filled with different (labelled) water lilies and lotuses which are accessed by a network of decking walkways which allow you to get close up to the individual flowers.
The white garden at les Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac
The most remarkable thing about this garden is how young it is. I have often been faced with the modern demand for instant gardens resulting in the only hedges being of the much over used leyandii conifers and the problems they can cause. Yet in the early 1960s Gilles Sermadiras de Pouzols de Lille, with no formal horticultural training, decided to replace the English style garden around the family’s hereditary home with one in the French style. I’m sure if someone was to decide to replace an original English landscape garden today there would be an uproar, but then again that only replaced an early garden in the French style, but I am glad he did.
This is not an original garden 17th century garden reconstructed but a 20th century garden created in the style of a formal 17th century French garden. This is a modern garden, which the owners continue to develop, that just uses and re-interprets the underlying design principles of this style garden. To this end a very limited range of plants are used and they are controlled to create a very artificial environment.
The dominant feature of the garden is the topiary which uses the traditional plants hornbeam, box and yew and is all hand trimmed by a team of 6 gardeners repeatedly through the growing season. This may seem laborious and I do not believe a more plant oriented garden could justify this much labour being spent on hedge trimming. That said I have seen the same thing in other gardens in the same region and it is indicative of the essence of the garden and further more French believe in artisans working in traditional ways.
At close to 10 acres this is a large garden filled with clever and complex topiary and using many tricks of light and perspective. The colour palette is deliberately very restrictive, and there is a particularly nice white garden, though in a very different style to the famous one at Sissinghurst Castle. Eyrignac is not a plantsman’s garden but a celebration of the gardener’s art and what can be achieved with foresight and imagination.
Perched on a rock outcrop high above the fertile flood plain of the Dordogne river and surrounded by the rivers meander on three sides the garden enjoys dramatic views across the country side. There has been a château and garden on this site at least since the 17th century when the then owner, Bertrand Vernet, employed Poacher (a pupil of Le Nôtre) to lay out gardens there. Little appears to have been recorded about what this looked like but in 1860s Julien de Cerval became the owner and he developed the in Italianate style; creating a lot of what is seen today.
What is there now is a garden of two halves; one close around the château and a second stretching away from it to the north east following the natural ridge, but both making great use of the dramatic views across the Dordogne valley. Around the chateau is hot with little shade from sun and dominated by elaborate topiary using box. As is the norm in this area; all the hedging is cut by skilled gardeners by hand. Using hand shears and plumb lines the complex curves and shapes are created by eye and the gardeners have a lot of freedom to mould the shape as they seem fit. It is not possible to say what the original topiary looked like in the 19th century as the garden had been allowed to fall in to serious neglect. It was only in 1996 that its restoration was begun and it is a testament to the regenerative nature of box that the hedges now look so good.
The area to the north east of the chateau is far less formal and cool as the result of the topography and the canopy of trees which cover it. This woodland garden blends into the more formal area with a gradual move away from clipped plants but throughout the garden the range of plants is kept very limited and no part of it is what you would describe as a flower garden in the English sense.
Marqueyssac is a stunning example of what you would expect of a 19th century chateau garden in this part of the world and worth visiting if only for the elaborate topiary as a display of man’s control of nature.
Part of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE); Logan Botanic Garden sits at one of the most south-westerly points of Scotland, only 40 miles from the centre of Belfast as the crow flies. Bathed by the gulf stream to the west and sheltered by the Scottish Lowlands to the east this garden contains a stunning collection of tender plants.
Most of the most dramatic plants are the tender ones from the southern hemisphere and these are grown in the shelter of the walled garden. The walls, up to 15 feet high, are associated with a castle ruined in the 16th century though the garden itself was originally part of the Logan Estate prior to it becoming part of the RBGE in 1969.
Though a botanic garden and therefore a collection of plants rather than a garden per se it is a wonderful display of what tender plants can be grown in such a northerly latitude if the local conditions are used to their best advantage.