Monday, July 13, 2009

A tale of two designers

Sadly, my college course has now finished - I shall miss it, not just for the chance to jaw about plants for a whole day each week but also because I actually learnt a lot that may be of some use to me if anyone is ever foolish enough to let me loose on their garden.

As a finale, we spent the last day of the course visiting Bury Court, a fine garden not far from here, just over the border between Surrey and Hampshire. The interesting thing about it is that it was designed by two of the leading designers of our time: Christopher Bradley-Hole and Piet Oudolf. The result is a garden of two halves: the "front", an ultra-modern grid around a rather funky wooden building with holes in the sides (a sort of cross between a summerhouse and a pergola), and the "back" a sweeping curve of herbaceous border and sumptuous planting. You can probably guess already who designed which bit.

Here's the front garden: the grid system leads you around the garden and since all the plants are around head-height it invites you to wander into one of the paths off the main drag and get very pleasantly sidetracked.

Grasses predominate, but big hefty ones -there were loads of Miscanthus. All the plants, too, were the kinds that grow really, really tall: the plume poppies (Macleaya cordata) were looking particularly fine.

Though this bit of the garden mainly relied on foliage contrasts for effect, there were splashes of colour: daisies, kniphofia, and here from a little yellow eremurus (they were all over the place in this garden, as it's very dry, and they looked absolutely gorgeous: note to self - acquire as many foxtail lilies as possible next year). But on the whole, restrained and elegant rather then exuberant.

This was more typical, and very effective against that weathered old barn behind. In full flower, these are I believe Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', and though I'm not usually keen on monocultural planting this was stunning.

Ooh... more eremurus... luvverly...

Now, this is the back garden. Guess who had a hand in this planting.

In classic Piet Oudolf style there's some bold structural backdrop to it all: these yew hedges curved sinuously among the planting, crooking themselves around the flowers in a protective embrace and, of course, giving them something to show off against.

As always with this consummate plantsman you find lots of plants you'd never come across before but which shoot right to the top of your gotta-have-it-gotta-have-it list. Here a wonderful eryngium of softest pewter blue, the younger flowers still freshly green: it also had the softest texture despite the prickly appearance. I have no idea what kind it is: this is not a garden that has plant labels, so I shall just have to go on one of those quests that lasts most of a lifetime and has you going into nurseries saying, "I'm looking for this sea holly I once saw...."
And here's another one: this fabulous thistle-like plant was at head height yet those flowers were covered in the most curious scales: here's a closeup:

Kind of papery, like a wasp's nest. It just made you want to touch it.

I could go on for hours with pictures of individual plants as there were just so many. Here's another mouthwateringly-lovely scabious: don't tell anyone but a few of the seeds happened to fall into my purse (from a very non-perfect seed head, I hasten to assure you) so you never know, I might be able to persuade it to like my little patch at home.

It's blindingly obvious by now, no doubt, which half I responded to most enthusiastically: but as an exercise in compare-and-contrast it was a real education. Bury Court is a wedding venue (wish I'd known about it when I was getting hitched) though I think you can arrange to see the gardens by appointment. There are a few more photos on the website: but if you can possibly wangle a visit, do go and see it for yourself.


VP said...

Ooh lovely. It's interesting to see a Christopher Bradley-Hole garden that's not a Chelsea show garden and see the influences and inspiration coming through into a 365 day garden.

I was smitten by that same Eryngium when I found it at Hanham Court garden last week.

I went to London yesterday and at last put a name to a garden I saw when I sang for water last September. I took loads of photos at the time as it was on our way through to where we were singing. I thought to myself 'very Piet Oudolf', only to find out yesterday the garden's called Potter's Field and it is indeed a Piet Oudolf design :)

VP said...

PS Sadly Hanham Court garden doesn't do labels either. It's also one of the gardens visited by Miss Wilmott, so you can guess another of the Eryngiums which featured strongly.

The Constant Gardener said...

ooh I love the story of Miss Wilmott's ghost. One day I'm going to breed a plant which sets copious seed specifically so that I can do the same thing and drop a few behind me whenever I visit.

Haven't heard of Hanham Court - have heard of Potters Field (though haven't visited). If Hanham has one of those eryngiums it's going on the list :D

VP said...

Hanham Court's open for the first time this year, though it's been open under the NGS scheme previously. The owners are well-known garden designers (though I've forgotten their names!) and the garden was featured in Gardens Illustrated last month. It's only a few miles from me! I'll be writing about it soooooon :)

I was a naughty girl there - I 'rescued' a couple of sweet pea pods in the name of ensuring repeat flowering of what remained!

VP said...

Potter's Field's worth a visit too - I'll be featuring it as part of my public planting strand. Shame the 100 Open Spaces initiative got shelved when Boris took over from Ken.

VP said...

Me again! I was telling my friends the story of Miss Wilmott's ghost the other day. I described her as the original guerilla gardener!

That's it for now - byeee!

Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel said...

This was lovely to see and read, as I visited Bury Court when it was newly planted and built. I've often wondered how it would look as it matured. I'd so love to visit again, but doubt that will ever happen. This is surely the next best thing. Have never had luck with eryngiums; Miss Wilmott's Ghost or any I've tried. Your photo is heart-stopping, eye-catching, fill-in-the-superlative. Cheers, Alice

Barbara E said...

I love the textures. Thanks for sharing. The garden is now on my must visit list!

Plant Mad Nige said...

I love Piet Oudolf's faux savannah style planting and with good, hard backdrops, it works like a dream. Must go and see Bury Court, and soon!

But that Wilmott woman? What a nerve she had! I love people to see my garden, and enjoy the ribbing and criticisms many of them so freely provide. But it's MY garden, MINE and MINE ALONE - and WOE BETIDE anyone who has the damned nerve to drop alien seeds into MY PATCH. I love that big Eryngium and grow it. But I do not want anyone else taking liberties with my planting. Ellen Wilmott was a garden imperialist and somewhat of an overprivileged thug.

Gosh, I feel much better after that rant! Heavenly pictures, by the way.

The Constant Gardener said...

ah Nigel - where's your sense of romance? maybe she just wanted to be nice to people ;D

note to self: empty pockets beforehand if I ever go to Nigel's house...

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