In an elevated position, Ashley Farm commands magnificent views over the surrounding countryside. There, on a 5-acre site, Roger and Jackie Pietroni have, in a mere six years, created an inspirational garden. In designing the garden they were assisted by Simon Dorrell from Bryans Ground and the Arts and Crafts influence can clearly be seen in some areas. The ‘rooms’ adjacent to the house are more formal and richly planted while orchards, a nuttery and natural pond merge into the open countryside. The garden is packed with interest and with many places where you can sit and contemplate.
Jackie is a member of HPS Hereford and mid-Wales Group and joined us on our tour of the Cornish gardens in 2009. Her garden was opened to the public for two days under the NGS for the first time last year and we are privileged to be one of the first, if not the first group to be offered a private viewing. This is a garden destined to hit the gardening headlines in the not-too-distant future.
The romantic 3-acre Arts and Crafts garden at Bryan’s Ground has been developed since 1993 when owners Simon Dorrell and David Wheeler acquired the 1912 period property. It is colourful and atmospheric, divided by walls and hedges into more than 20 outdoor rooms filled with topiary and flowers. Architectural structures have been introduced such as the Dovecote and the Sulking House, and there are quirky sculptural features ready to surprise. A more recently acquired five acres have been converted into an arboretum.
Bryan’s Ground has recently been reopened after a period of closure and is now open to the public until mid-July. Ours is a private opening, timed to see the garden at its early-summer best.
Garden restoration projects abound, usually in a glare of publicity, but that at Westonbirt School is taking place almost unnoticed. We have the unusual opportunity to be walked and talked through it by the man who is engineering it.
Westonbirt House is a vast Victorian pile, now a private girls’ school, dating from the 1830’s when the gardens were laid out on an equally grand scale with no expense spared. After many years of neglect and decay with attention only to basic maintenance, a limited project to restore the formal gardens was launched some three years ago. Leading the project with just a small band of volunteers and working only one day a week is Peter Dennis.
A self-styled ‘heritage gardener’ Peter worked for 16 years as second-in-command at Hidcote where he was instrumental in researching and restoring the Lawrence Johnston designed gardens there. He is a highly knowledgeable and experienced plantsman who has now re-built and re-planted the Italian Garden together with an inspired ‘hot’ border. Projects in the pipeline include, amongst others, replanting the fernery, clearing the lake and planting out the surrounds, and restoring the rocky dell. Peter will tell us about his research into the original layout and planting of the gardens and how he selected and sourced contemporary cultivars. His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious.
The Old Rectory is the home of Lady Mary Keen, garden designer and writer. The garden extends to two acres and has been created over about 18 years. It is a garden designed for atmosphere and exudes calm.
Lady Mary claims hers is not a plantsman’s garden but she clearly shares a weakness for a pretty plant like the rest of us.
The house and garden are set among wooded Cotswold hills beside a tiny Saxon church and the garden is laid out to draw the eye to these features. The initial calm expanse of lawn in front of the house gives way to sunken areas of exuberant colour, an auricula house, a winter garden and a dark reflective pool. Behind the house, steps lead up through seasonally changing borders, past the restored schoolroom to the greenhouse and gooseberry garden, wildflower orchard, and into the vegetable border.