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The restoration of the Formal Garden at Hestercombe 1973 to 1980 Part 4

Article Index

  1. The restoration of the Formal Garden at Hestercombe 1973 to 1980 Part 4
  2. Maintaining the garden
  3. Costs
  4. A garden brought back to life
  5. References and sources
  6. Further information
  7. All Pages

Missing plans

The pergola with planting restored. Photograph summer, 1977.The pergola with planting restored, 1977.

Plants ordered for the pergola border in 1976 included Lavandula ‘Munstead', Phlomis fruticosa, rosemary and santolina, together with roses ‘Francoise Juranville', ‘Madame Abel Chatenay' and ‘The Garland' (click here for Jekyll's plan of the pergola, click here for Jekyll's plan of the north border, and click here for the north border and pergola rose beds plan).

The original plans covered most of the garden, but there were no plans for the Rose Garden, the steps leading from the Rotunda to the Grey Walk or the beds behind the Orangery.

For these areas, Lorna improvised, based on her (by now) thorough knowledge of Gertrude Jekyll's style and plant preferences, and using the Country Life photographs as reference. In the Rotunda, planting included clematis, olearia, tree lupin, a variety of roses and Euphorbia wulfenii (click here for plan).

‘With some fear and trepidation I invented it and waited for someone to notice,' Lorna recalls.  ‘I was very relieved when nobody did - luckily it was so well known that this was being re-done with Jekyll's plans!'

The Rose Garden

Lorna also drew up a new plan for the Rose Garden, with four rectangular beds on each side of a central rill containing a selection of mainly old-fashioned gallica roses (click here for plan).

Rosa ‘Little White Pet' ran down the rill side of each bed, while each pair of beds contained a separate rose cultivar of ‘Perle de Panachées', ‘du Maitre d'Ecole', ‘Tricolour de Flandres' and ‘Tuscany Old Velvet'. The outer raised borders were edged with box hedging and planted with roses ‘Robert le Diable' and ‘Blush Gallica'.

In preparing the Rose Garden for planting, Wilf and Jim had to remove two feet of soil from every bed, replacing it with fresh soil from the Combe, in order to avoid ‘rose sickness'.

This was an arduous task: the raised beds are five foot high, and numerous barrowloads of soil had to be wheeled up and down on planks. The gardeners had a small tractor to collect soil from the Combe, which Jim had begged from a colleague at County Hall, where he had worked previously.

The upper terrace

Lorna also created a new planting scheme for the upper Victorian terrace, which leads from the house and overlooks the Great Plat.  While pre-dating the Lutyens-Jekyll garden, it was important that this area blended visually with the garden beyond.

The re-turfed and planted Victorian terrace. Photograph by Madeleine Pickthorne, summer 1979.The replanted Victorian terrace in 1979.To reduce maintenance, the existing beds on the terrace were grassed over. Wilf and Jim - ever budget-conscious - used turf lifted from an area known as the ‘tennis court' in the field beyond the end of the formal garden, which was kept regularly mowed.

The border beneath the balustrading that overlooked the Great Plat was planted up in spring 1976 with Rosa chinensis ‘Natalie Nypels', Lavandula ‘Hidcote' and Stachys lanata ‘Silver Carpet', which picked up the colour theme and repeated plants from the Grey Walk below. A large ornamental stone bowl at the centre of the terrace was planted with Yucca gloriosa, white martagon lilies and pink and white gypsophila (click here for plan).

The Dutch Garden and Orangery borders

The Dutch Garden and Orangery borders were restored between 1977 and 1979. The Orangery had once had a backdrop of mature limes, but this had been lost. The Crown Estate Commissioners supplied saplings of pine, larch and lime, as part of the ‘Plant a Tree in 73' campaign run by the Tree Council, which were planted in this area (click here for Orangery planting plan).

The paving in the Dutch garden was lifted, levelled and replaced, and the borders were planted in spring 1978 with china roses, yuccas, lavender and nepeta, edged with Stachys lanata ‘Silver Carpet' (click here for plan).

The large, Italianate terracotta pots that formed a repeating vertical motif throughout the garden had been lost, but evidence from the Country Life photographs, plus a surviving fragment of one pot, bearing its original Cupid, enabled a potter at Somerset College of Art to make a prototype for reproduction.

The replanted borders in front of the Orangery. Photograph by Madeleine Pickthorne, summer 1979.The replanted Orangery borders in 1979.