Beech Gardeners – spring into summer 2018

Gertrude Jekyll garden

In April Kathy once again lent her games room to the BGs for a talk by Rosamund Wallinger entitled “Restoring my Gertrude Jekyll 1908 Garden from Dereliction to Glory – and the ups and downs”.  16 people attended, including visitors and new members.  Her garden was at Upton Grey and she told us that they had very little knowledge of gardening until they went there so they decided to research the garden and found a full set of plans in the Reef Point Collection at the University of California, Berkeley.   They then recreated what they hoped would be an authentic Gertrude Jekyll garden.  They spent years travelling and researching and tracking down original species of plants to put in their garden.  She told us about Gertrude Jekyll’s life and her travels and the people who influenced her design.  She learnt about drifts of flowers, wild gardens and ponds and brought all these garden design ideas back.   It was 32 years ago when the Wallingers bought this property at Upton Grey and found that underneath the jungle were the foundations of this very special garden.  Gertrude Jekyll had designed it in 1908 for Charles Holme, who was a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.  It has taken them decades to achieve this project and the photo above is of some of it.  It certainly has whetted my appetite for a visit sometime soon.

In May we visited the West Green House Garden at Hartley Wintney which has been created and maintained by garden designer and writer Marylyn Abbot for the National Trust.  14 of us went  and after a period of miserable weather, at noon on the day of our visit the clouds dispersed and the sun came out;  blue skies and fluffy white clouds  – a good omen for a lovely afternoon.  We had frozen to death on a garden visit at the same time last year so had hedged our bets and booked a package which included a talk, entrance fee (free for  NT members) and tea.  The house was bought from the NT by Marylyn Abbott and she created and maintains the gardens.  Miss Abbott herself gave us a very amusing and informative talk on the history of the house and gardens in the enormous greenhouse were we were served tea.  The house has a long and colourful history,  at one point being left to the housekeeper’s second son….. and was the target of the largest IRA bomb on the British mainland.  Lord MacAlpine had teen a tenant of the NT previous to the sale to Miss Abbott.  After the Brighton bombing the IRA planted a large bomb in a dustbin outside the front of the house, in an attempt to assassinate Lord MacAlpine.  Their intelligence was faulty and he had moved out a few months previously and the house was empty at the time.  Fortunately a night watchman on site, doing his rounds, took exception  to the bin being there and moved it to a different location further from the house.  When it went off it caused considerable damage, moving the house on its foundations and blitzing outbuildings.  On completion of extensive structural repairs the NT decided to sell to Miss Abbott who has refurbished both house and garden.  When we had finished our tea Miss Abbott took us outside and pointed out various features, including the offspring of as lone swan and a Canada goose who returns every year to mate!!  We were taken into a part of the garden not usually open to the public as the gardeners were mowing there;  so we got to see where the operas are performed and the west façade of the house with busts placed up in high alcoves, and resident rooks.   It was a magical garden with espalier apples forming part of the parterre.   They plant 10,000 tulips every November and used 70,000 box cuttings from disease-resistant Box to complete the formal layout.  Miss Abbott is still planning and moulding the garden to her vision.

Silchester Hall gardens

In June, 16 of us visited Silchester Hall near Tadley owned by the artist, Jenny Jowett.   She and her late husband had purchased it in the 1960s when it was just a weedy field with a few trees.  They spent the next 50 years working on it together and turning it into a beautiful haven of flowers, trees, water, vegetables etc. and has grown a lot of the plants from seed.

Kathy has written a potted history below.

Silchester Hall near Tadley is owned by the acclaimed botanical artist, Jenny Jowett.  It was another beautiful afternoon and we were shown Mrs  Jowett’s studio where there were also paintings by her late husband, and also her garden.  Silchester is an idyllic English Village and Mrs Jowett told us about the history of the house and garden, and Silchester itself.  As Calleva it was the most important Roman settlement and the vast walls take an hour to walk around.  It is the largest archaeological Roman site in Europe and though the layout was explored over 100 years ago, the Victorians discarded anything that was not intact and perfect as not of interest.  So work continues on the site every summer by up to 100 students at a time, exploring this pit where everything was dumped.  Reading Museum holds the finds from the digs – there used to be a museum on site but it kept being broken into.  Silchester Hall is built on the remains of a Tudor building, partly a brewery.  The 9 ft high vaults are still under West Silchester Hall – the very wealthy individual who built Silchester Hall as a copy of his house in Holland Park in the same yellow brick thought they would come in for housing the maids!!   We had a wonderful tea afterwards with lemon drizzle cake.    Mmmmmmmm !!   We also had an amazing floor show put on while we had tea – red kites swooping and diving on small prey exposed by a local farmer cutting silage.  Below are some photos of our visit including the BGs stuffing themselves on cake.

On 4th July we gather at Ian and Kay’s house for a picnic – as we all left home to walk there the heavens opened and then the sun came out again.  We arrived to find poor Ian and Kay uncovering the tables which they had hastily covered over, and mopping up all the chairs.  We all took a plate of something to contribute to a wonderful spread.  And the rain held off.  Thank you Ian and Kay for having us.

Hill House, Old Alresford

On 1st August we visited Hill House in Old Alresford.  It was really hot and we all wilted as we wandered around this lovely garden owned by Mrs Sarah Richardson.  Once again (as usual) we had a wonderful tea of cake – chocolate, coffee or lemon drizzle.  All home made by Mrs Richardson.  Below are some photos of the garden and some of the beautiful flowers, obviously struggling after so many weeks of drought.