Part 2: Existing Planting

Part 2: Existing Planting

1

The first task was to agree which of the existing plants should remain.

The bergenias were assumed to be survivors of Jekyll's original stock that had made themselves thoroughly at home over the years.

In the Rotunda, Miss Jekyll's original planting of Chimonanthus praecox still scented the air in winter and an original Magnolia grandiflora and a wisteria survived. Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) had colonised the crevices of the steps leading from the Grey Walk into the Rotunda. Choisya ternata remained in the square raised beds at either end of the Grey Walk.

Many of the original climbers survived on the pergola: two wisterias, vines and forsythia. A fine Magnolia grandiflora, together with a pomegranate, were still present against the retaining wall below. During restoration of the pergola, Wilf and Jim carefully detached the plants from the structure, pruned them and laid the stems on the ground while repairs were completed, after which they tied the plants back into place.

There was intense debate over which plants to keep and which to remove, particularly when it came to mature shrubs. A large tree-like cotoneaster and a magnolia on the West Rill terrace, and a 12-foot maple on the East Rill terrace were eventually removed because they were destroying the line of the walls.

The Rotunda with surviving planting in 1975.

An original maple in the West Rill in 1972/3.

Rosa ‘Reine Olga' with kniphofia foliage
and flag iris, 1979.

Roy Cheek argued that several mature shrubs should remain because they were in keeping with Jekyll's style.

A large, well-established rosemary in the Grey Walk was the right plant, but in the wrong place. There was a phormium in the East Rill border, which would also have been in keeping with Jekyll's style. However, the shrubs were not true to the original plans, so out they came.

The walls of the garden were jam-packed with valerian and Miss Jekyll's favourite, Erigeron karvinskianus, but these too were removed where they were occupying a hole earmarked by Jekyll for a different plant.

There were some reprieves, however. The pyracantha, vines and figs that clothed the walls at the top of each rill terrace, while not on Gertrude Jekyll's plan, showed in the Country Lifephotographs and were kept, as were the plants that survived in the Rotunda.

Two Japanese maples, one at the far end of each rill terrace next to the steps down to the Plat, where Jekyll had specified Viburnum tinus and Rosa virginiana (previously Rosa lucida) were also allowed to stay. Roy recalls a battle over these with Bil Mount, who felt they should come out.

Although they were not on the original plans, Roy believed he could date the maples fairly accurately, from their size and the growing conditions, to the very early days of the garden. Roy's opinion prevailed, and the maples are still there today.

Interpreting Jekyll's plans