Aug 27, 2010

Grand, but not Grandoise: Barnsley House - Rosemary Verey

but not Grandoise
Barnsley House

Sustainable Gardening Fellowship
Royal Oak Foundation
June, July, August 2010
I started out visiting the gardens at castles, palaces, manors, but not houses.  When I realized that Rosemary Verey's home was practically down the street from Hidcote, I made an appointment to visit the garden.  The house and garden are now a luxury hotel and not open to the public.
Even though the Brits can say SORRY like no one else in the world, the woman on the other end of the telephone was especially cheery and said "come on over." 

Verey is one of those horticultural ladies who did everything:  garden designer, writer and broadcaster.  She was a well-known and well-respected fixture in the gardening world for years.  She has been on my radar, but not at the top of my list.  After viewing larger and larger properties, I knew it would be a relief to see a garden which would not require a fold-out map.  A garden that was part of a home.  A garden created in the late 20th century and a garden that was a reinterpretation of a grand tradition of gardening making.  I wasn't disappointed.
I have no one way of knowing whether or not the garden at Barnsley House is exactly how Rosemary Verey designed it.  If once it became a hotel, aspects of the garden were changed.  Still, I felt the garden was pretty much intact and certainly very close to what Verey designed.  I loved the intimate scale.  Below is the only "feature."  A small pool with pavillion, which existed on the property when Verey came to live at Barnsley House.
Most of the garden is a mixture of herbaceous plants combined with clipped boxwood, but low.  They are no 10 ft. tall hedges of any kind.  You can wander around the garden, notice the plant combinations and see the beginning and THE END.

And you think to yourself, I like that combination.  I could do that.  It's do-able.  I scribbled a few things down. And that's the point.  It's a garden made by one good gardener, kind of like you and me.

Aug 20, 2010

Queen For A Day: Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle
The Queens Garden

I followed Hillary Clinton's campaign eagerly.  I wanted her to be President of the United States.  I wanted a woman to be President.  I realized walking through the Queens Garden at Sudeley Castle that British woman feel quite differently about women in politics.  They have had women in power for hundreds of years.
The sign at the entrance to the Queens Gardens says that:
Katherine Parr
Elizabeth I
Lady Jane Grey
enjoyed many pleasurable hours in the garden.
and so did I.  It was a little like being Queen For A Day.

The Underneath of Things: Snowshill Manor - Charles Wade

The Underneath of Things
Snowshill Manor and Garden

An unhappy childhood can change your life forever.  It did for Charles Wade.

Charles Wade was shuttled off to his granny's house at age 7.  His grandmother was a Victorian woman with Victorian ideas. She did not allow Charles to play with other children or play at all.  On Sundays, she opened her chinoiserie cabinet filled with small treasures for her grandson.  This was the highlight of Charles's childhood and his savior.  It informed his entire life.
The garden terrace outside Snowshill Mannor.
One of the 22,000 objects Charles Wade collected.

Charles bought Snowshill Manor for his collection.  He had no interest in living in the house.  He  lived in a very small pared down house next to the Manor house.  He preferred it that way.  He spent all his time either acquiring more objects or just being around them.  What distinuguishes Wade's collection:  his absolute joy in the handmade from any place in the world. 

The object in the front is an early device for teaching a child to walk.

Wade loved the craftsmanship and inventiveness of these objects.  He cared for the underneath of things.
I have always been attracted to handmade objects.  There is a special joy in holding a ceramic pot made by an artist, that you don't get from a mass produced object.

I understand Charles Wade's affection for these
things and his desire to surround himself with them.

Aug 16, 2010

Don't Tell Until I Ask: Plant Labels

The donation box at The Garden House for plant labels

Don't Tell Until I Ask

Hidcote vs. Nymans
and a word from Christopher Lloyd

Only one of the reasons I was extremely happy when I got to Nymans, is relevant to readers of this blog.

On my first walk around Nymans with Head Gardener, Ed Ikin, I noticed every plant was labeled.  I was elated.  I would be able to learn the names of plants, without asking anyone.
When I arrived at Hidcote and walked around the garden with Head Gardener, Glyn Jones, I noticed none of the plants had labels.  Plant anxiety set in.  I would have to ask for help and within one minute I was sure help was needed.

I asked Glyn about the lack of labels.  "We don't believe in labels.  We think it takes away from the experience of the garden, of looking at plants individually and in the context of the overall garden design."

I started to think about what he had said over the next three weeks.  Was it true that plant labeling takes away from the experience of "looking and seeing?"
Plant label at Sissinghurst
In a single day, visitor after visitor ask the gardeners what a particular plant is.  The gardeners have been trained to stop what they are doing and answer visitor questions, and when they don't know the answer to find someone who does.  I have seen gardeners take the email address of a visitor who is interested in purchasing a particular plant or receiving seed from a unusual plant.  Gardeners in the UK are overwhelmingly generous with their knowledge.
Great Dixter no labels 

Christopher Lloyd on Labels:
The plants at Dixter are unlabelled.  I know this is a bore, when you quickly want a plant's name.  Generally there is someone to ask.  
Plant Label - Nursery - Great Dixter

Here are some of the reasons for my not labelling:
1.  This is my own, personal garden; I do not have the obligations of an institution like a botanic or National Trust garden. 
2.  I hate the look of labels.  Like a cemetery.
3.  They are expensive in terms both of materials and the time needed to list the plants and to write and place the labels.
4.  Plants (as against shrubs) need labels that are stuck into the ground.  The public removes them, the more easily to read, but does not replace them firmly or even int he right place.
5.  It is easier to pop a label into a handbag than to try and memorise it on the spot.
6.  The wrong label is read for the name of the plant to be identified.
7.  Visitors dart into the border, oblivious of footprints, the better to read a label that is out of reach from the front.
8.  If all labels are for that reason placed at the front, misapplication of names will be aggravated.
9.  Even when plants are clearly labelled, the public will still ask their name if anyone is around to talk to.  They're on an outing.  We're trying to work.
Christopher Lloyd
- from A Guide to Great Dixter

Nymans and Hidcote have differing approaches to plant labels.  I remain in the corner of labeling. I know that one day, the garden will become like the museum.  We will be attached to headphones, listening to podcasts about plants and garden design.  In the meantime, I enjoy having the information in front of me.

Aug 13, 2010

AS Steep As You Can Go: Upton House

 As Steep As You Can Go:
Ratley, Warwickshire

You don't go to Upton House for 
the porcelain, 
the paintings, 
the furniture
or art deco bathroom. 
You head for the backdoor,
walk down the lawn
and take in the view of the meadow
 or so you think...
Art Deco Bathroom
Copyright Peter Mauss.  No usage without permission.

Upton House from the back
Copyright Peter Mauss.  No usage without permission.

Looking from the House to the view or so you think
Copyright Peter Mauss.  No usage without permission.
A staircase...
Copyright Peter Mauss.  No usage without permission.
the steepest garden i have ever seen- like falling off a cliff into paradise
Copyright Peter Mauss.  No usage without permission.
Borders vertical...
Copyright Peter Mauss.  NO usage without permission.
Borders horizontal lead to the vegetable garden
Copyright Peter Mauss.  No usage without permission.
The Bog Garden at the bottom of the garden, looking towards the vegetable garden
Copyright Peter Mauss.  No uage without permission.
Looking back to house, you can see three small chimmneys at the top of the picture.
Copyright Peter Mauss.  No usage without permission.

When you are down at the bottom of the garden, you look up anticipating the climb back up.  You admire the guts it took to make a garden on such a steep slope, a garden of perennials, annuals, small trees, shrubs, and vegetables.

Aug 11, 2010

To Die In An Interesting Way: Sussex Prairies

Sussex Prairies
6 acres of garden

Garden Designers:
Paul & Pauline McBride
"Starting from scratch 
is always a thrilling thing." 
were the first words Pauline McBride said at the beginning of our interview.

And she should know.  Paul and Pauline McBride left Luxembourg and a garden design practice to move to England and begin a new garden:  SUSSEX PRAIRIES
During my time at Nymans, Head Gardener, Ed Ikin arranged for the garden staff to help out at Sussex Prairies.  The night before, I googled prairie, curious that an English garden has such an American name.

"The French got there before the English, and they had a word for it: prairie, their name for meadow.  But what they encountered, in what is now Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and points north and west, was more than your everyday meadow.  It was a seemingly endless sea of grasses as high as a person's head, teeming with flowers and bugs and other critters.  And not a tree in sight."   -from

When I arrived at Sussex Prairies, I understood the name.  The landscape (flat and open) lends itself to the style of planting the McBrides are passionate about.  Each plant and planting combination (dream partners as they like to call them) have been carefully chosen. 

I asked the McBrides why they made the garden?
1.  It's a showcase for our garden design business
2.  We do so much propagation, we might set up a nursery
3.  It's a visitor attraction - we hope to have garden travel companies, horticultural societies, etc.  
4. We are evangelists for this type of garden design
5. It's an experience for the people who stay in our Bed and Breakfast

"They have to merit a place in the garden." 

The McBrides have requirements for their plants.  They must have interesting structure, texture, foliage, seedheads and simplicity of flower.  

As Pauline said "We are interested in the way 
the whole plant works."

And lastly, "all the plants in the garden need to go out with a bang, rather than a flutter. "
And so does the visitor when he leaves Sussex Prairies. 

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee.
One clover and a bee.  And revery.
The revery alone will do, if bees are few.
Emily Dickinson

Sussex Prairies
Morland Farm
Wheatsheaf Road
Henfield, West Sussex, BN5 9AT

All photographs copyright Peter Mauss.  No usage without permission.

Aug 8, 2010

SEX, LIES & PAINTING: Charleston Garden


Home of 
Vanessa Bell
Duncan Grant
"This is not a garden for gardeners.
It's a garden for painters."
House Guide for Charleston

Years ago my mother had a reproduction Louis XVI chair I coveted.  She finally got tired of it and gave it to me.

It was at this time that I became aware of the Bloomsbury Group and The Omega Workshops.  The World of Interiors published a story that same year, about Charleston.  The Laura Ashley Company had reproduced some of the fabric designed by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant for Charleston.  I bought a yard or two for my French chair.

A week ago, I went to Charleston, home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and others.  In the first room of the relatively modest farmhouse, were two antique French chairs covered in the same fabric as my reproduction French chair.

Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant decorated their house by painting the walls, tables, fireplaces, trunks, bookshelves, desks, headboards and any other object they could get their hands on.  They also designed fabric and reupholstered their furniture in their own designs.  They collected interesting ceramics and their son Quentin Bell, a potter, created many of the light fixtures, tiles, bowls and dishes in the house.

The garden is an extension of their aesthetic.  It is a garden for painters.  Both Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, their friends and family (including Virginia Woolf and Robert Fry) spent a great deal of time in the garden, reading and painting.
The garden is small, similar to what a large American backyard might be.  It's all about color.  Exuberant, "untidy" and a reminder that gardens can be UNdesigned and wonderful at the same time.

All photographs of the garden copyright Peter Mauss.  No usage without permission.

Aug 2, 2010

Three Generations of Women Gardeners: Kiftsgate Court

Three Generations
Women Gardeners
Kiftsgate Court Gardens
 "When my grandparents bought Kiftsgate
just after the Great War the only garden was a paved area
in front of the Georgian portico which led down to a wooded hillside."
Anne Chambers
granddaughter and current owner

I am a sucker for a guidebook, especially if it's cheap. 

I bought the one at Kiftsgate Court for four pounds.  Written by Anne Chambers, the owner of Kiftsgate, the title of book tells the story:  Three Generations of Women Gardeners.  The garden has been open to the public since Ann Chambers, grandmother opened it in the 1930's to benefit District Nurses.  Ann's mother continued the tradition, opening the garden for NGS (National Gardening Scheme) and today, Ann Chambers opens the garden on a regular basis.

Kiftsgate Court is meticiously maintained.  Thanks to the guidebook, as you walk through the different sections of the garden you know which owner/gardener created which areas.
I have wanted to see a contemporary garden since I arrived in the UK.
"For some years we had looked for an oppportunity to add our own mark to the garden. 
When the surface of the hard tennis court became too uneven and our tennis was more a game of chance than skill, we decided to design a water garden that reflected our own enjoyment
of contemporary design and materials." 
Anne Chambers

This was what I was waiting for.
The water garden completed the cycle of 3 generations of women gardens adding to  Kiftsgate. 

I took a moment to reflect on the tradition of living in one's family house.  I know of only one woman who would like to live in her parents house.  She has two little girls and hopes that they will also want to live in that same house when it passes into their hands.  In America, we think it odd if people dont live in their "own place."  We want to make our making a new place.  Kiftsgate Court has taught me the value of adding on to what generations before have built.