Sunday, June 1, 2014

HOW THE MANOR HOUSE AT UPTON GREY MADE ME THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT MY GARDEN

Of course my garden isn't anything like The Manor House. It's just that it was in my thoughts as we arrived home on Wednesday from a five week holiday. Five weeks during which time not a finger was lifted in my own garden.


Because we often travel for long periods of time I am used to coming home to an overgrown garden. For the first few days I usually look around in despair, sometimes shed a tear and the conversation will often turn to the possibility of selling the house. Then I say I am going to makes changes to the planting, to make an easier planting, so that when we leave this won't happen. It always does. When I left larkspur, poppies, love-in-a-mist and countless other annuals were in full flower and the massed plantings of bluebonnets were still setting seed. Now, their brittle dried stalks are crying out for removal.
 But this time was different. Yes, all the overgrown and dead plantings were waiting for me but I felt differently about all that had to be done to return my garden to normal and all because, on the very last day of our trip, we visited The Manor House at Upton Grey, Hampshire, England.

The Manor House at Upton Grey
You may never have heard of this garden. In fact it was just by chance that I was reading about Gertrude Jekyll and there was mention of this garden she had designed at Upton Grey. I googled it and found on their website that it was no more than two miles from where we were staying on our last two nights in England. We just had to visit. We arrived in the village of Upton Grey on Monday lunchtime and following the directions headed to The Manor House. As we pulled into the driveway there was a small sign saying, Closed on weekends and Bank Holidays. Wouldn't you know that of all the Mondays in the year this was a Bank Holiday Monday. Still, there would be a chance to see it tomorrow and so Tuesday found us pulling up the driveway into the small parking area in front of the house. As we walked over towards what might be the entrance we were met by the head gardener, Phil Brailsford, who took us into the garden room at the back of the house. Here we would pay our £6 entry fee and could learn about the amazing history of the house and garden.


When Rosamund and John Wallinger purchased the house in 1984 it was in an extremely delapidated condition, the garden an overgrown tangle of weeds with none of the original planting left. The Wallingers began the task of restoring house and garden. Later we were to meet John Wallinger in the garden where he shared with us that there were many broken pipes in the house that they had to wear Wellington boots to walk around. He also shared the cost of the property which, in 1984, was the same price we paid for our tiny, zero lot-line house with postage stamp-sized garden, in California. Of course we could never have met the financial challenge of restoring such a property. Rosamund Wallinger was  no gardener but she set about researching the history of the garden and found that Gertrude Jekyll's original plans for the garden were located at the University of California, Berkeley. She made a special trip to secure copies of those plans and along with photographs set about the enormous task of restoring the garden to the original plans.


Because Rosamund Wallander had no preconceived ideas about what she liked in a garden or even which plants she favored she was able to set about implementing the original plans along with the suggested plants. Finding those plants was not an easy task particularly as Jekyll sometimes did not specify the exact plant, saying only pink peonies. The plans were Jekyll's original plans for the garden and not necessarily those that were sent to the house.


It took over a year to clear the site. The dry-stone rock walls, which have always been a signature of Jekyll gardens had to be rebuilt and the beds sterilized and manured before planting could begin. Now 30 years later the gardens are as true to Jekyll's plan as they could be. It is likely that Jekyll never set foot in the gardens of the Manor House but if she came there today she would be justly proud of her garden plan and of Rosamund Wallander for bringing it to life.

The Pergola walk

Time to go out into the garden where we found both John and Rosamund Wallander, dampened by the morning drizzle and always ready to stop and chat and answer a question.

Steps leading to the rose lawn

Drystone wall

Formal garden

Peonies soon to fill the beds with their pink blooms




The yew hedge border

The bowling lawn and tennis lawn.


Delphiniums


The kitchen and cutting garden

The potting shed

This way to the garden


Entrance to the Wild Garden

Shallow grass steps leading to Wild Garden

Mown grass paths in Wild Garden
The pond with Iris orientalis

Oh to visit this garden in June when all the roses and peonies are out. I'm wishing now that I had taken more photos especially of the Wallanders. As we left the garden with Rosamund Wallander's book, 'Gertrude Jekyll, Her Art Restored at Upton Grey', in hand, I mentioned to David that he should have taken a photo of Rosamund as she was signing my book.

So now we are home and there is much to do in my own garden. It may take me a week or two to restore order to my gardens but nothing like the task that the Wallanders faced. That is why this time I am getting on with removing the spent annuals without complaint. 

25 comments:

  1. Beautiful photographs and story! The Wallinger restoration is magnificent. Bravo to Phil Brailsford, head gardener and his crew.

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    1. I think much of the work was done before he joined the garden. He is so lucky. He lives in the little house right there on the property.

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  2. How nice to have you back! Did you blog about your visit one another site? Or will you post some more shots as time goes by when you have more time in the summer? I think there should be more "legacy" gardens instead of trendy ones, but you have chronicled about all the work involved. I like those "shallow grass steps" and the rock work on the paths, fences and benches. Thank you so much for showing us this majestic garden.

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    1. Thanks for the welcome home. No, this is the first posting. I did it first because foremost on my mind was getting back to dealing with my own garden. It just seemed the perfect combination. I have loads to share. Maybe during this long hot summer. I was taken with the shallow grass steps too. What a neat way to deal with a gentle slope.

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  3. Great story and I enjoyed seeing these beautiful gardens especially since I don't remember knowing about it before. Putting things in perspective helps and I'm also thinking that my own garden is not so much work compared to gardens like these.

    I look forward to more from your trip.

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  4. Glad you are back. I missed you posting!

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    1. Thanks, Malcolm. There are lots of posts to come.

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  5. So pretty! Restoring a neglected garden sounds like one of those great projects afterafterr I win the lottery...Thanks for sharing this one!

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    1. Rosamund Wallager herself said she had two great qualities, ignorance and stamina, and I suspect a deep pocket.

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  6. That shot of the formal garden is just wonderful! All the stone steps and rock walls are fabulous. Thanks for posting your photos. I can imagine how much work restoring this garden was for the Wallanders.

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    1. The rock walls of England are just amazing and the plants that grow in them.

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  7. What a beautiful garden. Thanks for sharing the backstory

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    1. It really is a wonderful story isn't it.

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  8. What a wonderful post, and a great reminder to all of us. I remember returning from the Fling in San Francisco last June, my garden was a mess and I felt so disconnected from it.

    I must also point out that even in your photos where your discouraged about your garden it always looks wonderful to me...

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    1. Oh, you know how easy it is to make your garden look its best. I hate to post the bad places.

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  9. I recognized the first photo of Upton Grey and thought, isn't that the Jekyll garden that etc etc. How nice to be able to see your photos and get a first hand report. I particularly like those curved grass steps leading to the wild garden. What a thoughtful transition from formal to informal.

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    1. So nice that you had heard about the garden. I think I have to see all her gardens starting with Lindisfarne.

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  10. Loved your photos. Do you know what the reddish plant is to the right of the steps at the Manor House? It also grows along roadside verges and I can't remember what it is. Tried growing it here in Pennsylvania years ago without success. Nothing like an English garden!

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    1. I believe it is Centranthus rubra ( valerian) It seems to grow wild in England as we saw it growing out of walls everywhere.

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  11. All the garden views here (including your own) are breathtaking. Do you suppose we are all programmed some way to appreciate other people's gardens for what and where they are and our own more as "always needing something"? It makes me wonder...

    I read on another author/garden blogger's post recently that she considered this a discouraging, "shaggy" time of year. I think that about nails it, everything feels either just past or not quite yet reaching its prime. I was away from my garden beds not due to travel but to allergy issues, and as I weed and thin for hours daily now, will try to at least complain less, after your shared lesson in gained perspective.

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    1. I think you may be right Deb. I didn't notice anything that needed doing at Upton Grey but I'll bet Rosamund could have given me a list. Shaggy is the word and it isn't a look I like.

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  12. What a lovely end to your trip to England. There is nothing quite like and English garden! Thank you for the wander through and the great story! I look at gardens as a journey : ) Welcome home!

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    1. Thanks for the welcome home and I am not going to complain about how hot it is. The only thing is that I would really like to spend more than 3 hours out there but just can't cope with the sun and heat.

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  13. Thanks for your log postings or gorgeous gardens I might never get a chance to visit. Wonderful how the rock walls are covered with moss and how the white flowers really pop as accents. I won't complain anymore either about my yardwork/gardening chores. My little patches of Texas are enough to keep me busy and happy!

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  14. Just so you know your influence. No need to post.
    http://janestrong.blogspot.com/2014/06/when-its-too-hot-to-garden.html

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