The slow and natural evolution of a Tudor estate
Over a period of 20 years, designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd has been developing the gardens of this Berkshire home. Words Jonny Bruce, Photographs Jason Ingram
It was more than 20 years ago that designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd was first approached to help develop the expansive gardens of this Tudor estate in Berkshire.
“A long relationship,”as Arabella puts it. “One that has developed in a slow and natural way.”
No garden of sincere character or charm can be created overnight and certainly this property has a long history with the original farmhouse dating back to around 1530 – although enlarged in the 1920s. The later brick extensions have a different character but, despite the material difference, the building hangs together. Unified at the centre of this garden, the house provides an impressive backdrop to the various garden areas, each with its distinct atmosphere.
What English country house with mixed formal and informal planting.
Size Seven-and-a-half acres.
Soil Clay above chalk.
Climate Temperate but its relatively high elevation means it’s very windy.
Hardiness zone USDA 9.
When I asked Arabella which part of the garden made her happiest, after considerable deliberation, she responded “the orchard”. In this lovely area wildflower meadows feather the garden’s relationship to the surrounding parkland landscape. Gentle, mown paths lead through these meadows to a poignant part where each family member has been represented by a different tree in a copse centred around a stately holm oak.
Arabella Lennox-Boyd’s garden at Gresgarth Hall
Walking around this glorious garden in the company of Kevin Jordan, who has been head gardener here for more than ten years, it is clear that perhaps its greatest success is the relationship that exists between designer, gardener and owner.
Over the past year big changes have taken place in the garden with hedges being realigned and the Fountain Garden borders being totally reimagined. It is the dynamic and evolving nature of this garden that helps keep Arabella, Kevin and his team so enthusiastic about it.
At the gateway between the Sunken Garden and Pond Garden Arabella has created a calm feel using a largely green palette, dotted with spots of cool colour from alliums, Allium ‘Mont Blanc’ and Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’, and Iris ‘Summer Sky’. On the wall Clematis montana var. alba twines with wisteria.
In the Rose Garden a whimsical sculpture of a young boy dancing on the back of a snail is surrounded by a mixed planting of roses and perennials with blues and silvers playing off the pinks of the roses.
The borders are in a constant process of evolution with Arabella continually involved in their development. Currently, in this sunny corner Iris sibirica and Centranthus ruber combine harmoniously with the silver foliage of Artemisia absinthium ‘Lambrook Silver’.
A south-facing courtyard on the north side of the main house provides the perfect suntrap for the herb garden, composed by Arabella and divided into six raised beds with a wattle edge of woven split hazel. In early summer white valerian and bearded irises flower between clumps of aromatic herbs.
In the most northern corner of the garden is one of the more unusual areas where a small stream winds down to a large pond populated with water lilies and flag iris. Stands of bamboo and upright stones that mark the stream lend this area a Japanese aesthetic.
The area to the front of the original house is dominated by a mix of roses. In the foreground the hybrid musk rose Rosa ‘Vanity’ revels in the warmth of this South Terrace while climbing roses clothe the house’s flint flushwork wall. The dominant climber is the soft-yellow Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, although there is also an unknown, pre-existing pink rose, thought to be Rosa ‘Cécile Brunner’, clambering through it.
A shady pavilion surrounded by variegated foliage plants, including the large Liriodendron tulipifera ‘Aureomarginatum’ and clipped Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Queen’, looks out over the Sunken Garden, the border of which is marked by globes of alliums and the spires of foxtail lilies.
A large, willow-leaved pear Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ adds a statuesque grace to the Fountain Garden. Its silvered foliage is an important element that Arabella has repeated throughout the garden.
In the orchard mature and characterful fruit trees rise above a haze of summer meadow, which stretches out to connect with the surrounding parkland. Through good management these meadows have increased in diversity and over time extra layers of interest, including bulbs, have been added – camassias have done particularly well in the moist ground.
Find out more about Arabella’s work at arabellalennoxboyd.com
Jason Ingram is an award winning garden photographer based in Bristol, UK. He travels widely shooting for magazines, book publishers and advertising agencies. He also works with top international garden designers and Landscape Architects on private projects worldwide.
Jonny Bruce is a gardener and writer with an arts background. Having trained in historic gardens he moved into nurseries, learning sustainable growing methods and deepening his plantsmanship which he now applies as a planting design consultant.
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