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Sat 19th Nov, 2022. 2pm

Garden designer, nurseryman and lecturer Andrew Sankey delivered the final NGT talk of the year – ‘Six of the Best’, an illustrated tour of Knightshayes Court, Hestercombe House, Powis Castle, Hodnet Hall, Dorothy Clive Garden and Chatsworth. All these gardens are in the west of the British Isles where growing conditions differ significantly from those in East Anglia, not least in terms of annual rainfall.

Knightshayes Court near Tiverton, Devon came into the ownership of the National Trust in 1972 which acquired it after the death of Sir John Heathcoat Amory. The Formal Garden, overlooking the Exe Valley, was laid out by Edward Kemp when the house was built in the nineteenth century. Sir John and Lady Heathcoat Ameoy thinned out many of the trees in the wood, which had fallen into neglect in the 1950’s and 1960’s and created The Garden in the Wood, a fine example of architectural planting. One of the more whimsical features is the extensive yew hedge topiary of a fox being chased by a pack of hounds!

In 1903, the owners of Hestercombe House near Taunton commissioned Sir Edward Lutyens to create a new formal garden with a planting scheme by Gertrude Jekyll. The inclusion of a rill, pergolas and steps are all typical of a Lutyens garden. Gertrude Jekyll herself never visited the garden, but instructed Lutyens to send her soil samples and information regarding weather conditions. The garden was in danger of being tarmaced over, but luckily Jekyll’s original plans were discovered in a shed and Hestercombe has now been replanted according to her schemes.

Powis Castle near Welshpool is another National Trust property with a fine garden with Dutch terracing constructed circa 1700. Of particular note are the gigantic yews – Andrew displayed a slide that illustrated the precipitous drop that awaits any gardener who makes a slip whilst clipping these huge trees. Powis is frost free, thanks to its situation vis a vis the Gulf Stream and holds the foremost collection of Ceanothus.

Andrew considers the little known Hodnet Hall, near Market Drayton in Shropshire to be the finest water garden in the country. The garden was largely created in the early twentieth century by Brigadier A G W Heber-Percy, who invited members of his regiment to stay, with the proviso that they helped him dig out the series of pools that drop from one to the other. The acid soil of Hodnet makes it a perfect site for the cultivation of camelias, rhododendrons and other acid-loving plants.

Less than half an hour from Hodnet is the Dorothy Clive Garden in Willoughbridge. The garden was created in the 1940’s from a quarry by Colonel Harry Clive, who wished to provide his wife Dorothy, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, with a series of ‘constitutionals’. The quarry covers approximately 2 acres and is now in the care of the Willoughbridge Garden Trust. The garden, which now extends to 12 acres, is full of colour and scent, particularly in the rhododendron season.

The final garden in Andrew’s talk was probably the one that was most familiar to members – Chatsworth in Derbyshire. The gardens were designed in the seventeenth century, but Capability Brown did away with six of the original water fountains, moved the river and planted trees. The sixth Duke of Devonshire and his head gardener, Joseph Paxton made radical changes to the garden, not least in the construction of an enormous glasshouse – the Great Stove – the first of its kind. Sadly it is has not survived and the maze now stands on the site. Andrew also told the story of the Emperor Fountain, inspired by a fountain in the Tsar’s palace at Peterhof. Although the Tsar never visited Chatsworth as had been planned, the Emperor Fountain remains today as a testament to Paxton’s engineering skill and ingenuity.

Over 80 members much enjoyed Andrew’s fascinating and very entertaining talk and departed full of Christmas cake and plans for possible visits to at least some of these wonderful gardens.

Andrew Sankey

Andrew Sankey

Next Event

Annual General Meeting 2024

Saturday 20th April, 2024

All Saints Church, Catfield, Great Yarmouth NR29 5DA
Followed by a visit to The Old Rectory, Catfield. Massed planting of spring bulbs.

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