Part 3: The Grey Walk

Part 3: The Grey Walk

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File0016The first area to be replanted was the Grey Walk. Wilf and Jim began clearance in September 1973.

Some of the stonework was repaired over the winter by local firm Williams & Williams, and the borders had to be planted up in time for the formal launch of the restoration on Saturday 30 March 1974.

By early March, Wilf and Jim had dug over and prepared for planting the beds of both the Grey Walk and the Plat. Plants were arriving on site, but before they were set out, Madeleine joined Wilf and Jim to mark out the plan on the ground in lines of sand.

On 15 March Roy arrived from Cannington with 17 students from the Advanced Amenity Horticulture course and the remaining plant stock. Planting began in earnest, to be completed just two days before the launch.

Gertrude Jekyll's plan for the northern part of the Grey Walk shows planting all on the same level, whereas in fact there is an upper and lower border with a wall in between (click here to see plan).

On her new plan for the Grey Walk, Madeleine split the Jekyll plan for the northern border into three parts along its length to provide planting for each of the separate areas (click hereto see plan and click here for the key to planting. See below also for full plant list).

The Cannington students were initially bemused by the fact that the plant names on the lower part of the planting plans were upside down.

The Grey Walk, looking west, 1974.

Cannington students plant the
Grey Walk in March 1974.

In drawing up the new plan, Madeleine had followed Jekyll's own practice of labelling the plants so that they would be the right way up for the gardener reading the plans as they faced each bed.

The practicality of this arrangement soon became apparent when the students began to put in the plants, and turned from the upper to the lower borders - 70 years on, they were most impressed by Miss Jekyll's forethought!

Of the existing planting, two groups of Choisya ternata and four of Myrtus communis were retained in the new planting scheme, as well as much of the erigeron and valerian throughout the stonework. The walk, composed of four borders and two retaining walls, was dominated by Lavandula spica ‘Munstead', punctuated by yuccas, eryngiums and verbascums.

‘We were a bit cautious about planting yuccas in the wall that goes down from the Grey Walk to the Plat, because we were afraid it might damage the stonework, so we put in one, rather than the four Miss Jekyll had specified,' recalls Madeleine.

An original choisya in the
Grey Walk, 1975/6.

The shades of silver and grey foliage were enlivened with flower colour, such as the steel blue of Echinops ritro.

Lavender, santolina and nepeta were planted in both the borders and retaining walls, forming a continuous cascading mass from one level to another.

The walk also featured two of Gertrude Jekyll's particular plant associations: pink china roses combined with rosemary and white everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius albus) followed by Clematis jackmanii, the clematis covering the bare ground left by the pea.

In Wood and Garden, Jekyll wrote: ‘Among the Rosemaries I always like, if possible, to ‘tickle in' a China Rose or two, the tender pink of the Rose seems to go so well with the dark but dull-surfaced Rosemary'. [2]

In all, a total of 43 different species and varieties were planted in the Grey Walk. See the Grey Walk plant list below.

The Lower Grey Walk in summer 1979.

Plant List

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