A reader challenged me yesterday in the nicest possible way. Responding to my blog on Bourton House, she set me thinking about what it is that I love and warm to in a garden. If horticultural perfection was what lit my fire, then Bourton House would have been up there with a gong- so that led me to ponder on what it is that I love about gardens, if it isn’t horticultural perfection. And I think that, indefinable and possibly fuzzy though it may be, I am drawn to an expression of the person who made the garden or, in that absence of that person, a story being told in some way. And I love the creation of mood or of spirit, be it in the planting or landscaping, or in the way that both of those elements respond to the natural environment in or around the garden.
So, as we travelled on to Snowshill Manor, on that grey day after all the heat, I was expecting to be more interested in the house than in the garden. In fact, when we got there, the ticketseller actually said that the garden was a sideshow to the house. The house, it is true, contains a compelling personal collection of objects and objets lovingly selected by the unusual Charles Paget Wade– we easily spent two hours beguiled by the range and detail of what he collected. But the garden is much more than a sideshow- and is, in it’s more modest way, every bit as beguiling as the collection in the house.
Charles Paget Wade worked with the well-known Arts and Crafts architect, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, between 1920-3 on transforming what had been the farmyard of his Tudor manor house into a series of garden rooms, intent on creating atmosphere and and inspiring an emotional connection with the landscape. The bones of the hard landscaping that Wade and Baillie Scott created still remain, and have been beautifully written upon in terms of the planting by the National Trust gardening team.
It seemed to me that the garden inspired the same sense of adventure as the collection in the house, and in walking through, I was struck by children playing in the weeping pear trees and the fun created by the being-restored miniature village, Wolf’s Cove, which was captivating. Using a almost ordinary plant palette, the gardening team have created borders of airy, frothy planting in blues and yellows, and have left alone the small sheep fields so that they still abut the main garden area as they were intended. And yet it is not too twee- it is rather refreshing, simple and very attractive.
So nothing grand here. Simple, effective plantings repeat throughout, areas that can be left are not mucked about with, stories are told and enchantment is created.
Below are top and bottom views of the Long Border.