Kathy Brown writes on cooking and has made a garden which is as much appreciated for its beauty as for its cakes. Kathy is the author of a book on The Edible Flower Garden.
I wish more people used their gardens to grow food, as well as for delight. The first horticultural enclosure was made more than 10,000 years ago. Purely ‘ornamental’ gardening probably began no more than 300 years ago and only became dominant about 100 years ago.
The Baroque style avenues of sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) in Greenwich Park are believed to have been planted 1660-1. So they may have been 356 years old when these video clips were taken on 28th October 2017. Greenwich was imparked in the fifteenth century is the oldest of London’s Royal Parks. Maybe ten years ago they were looking unloved. Today they are very well cared for. Instead of mowing the grass under the trees, the turf is being removed and bark chippings are being spread, as shown below.
The roots of this ancient tree are now cared for with a ring of bark chippings which hold fallen leaves and chestnut shells
With good care the Greenwich chestnuts might live as long as the oldest chestnut tree in Britain (571 years and at Stourhead) but the aim should for them to live as long as the Hundred-Horse Chestnut (Castagno dei Cento Cavalli) in Sicily: estimated to be 3000 years old.
The Hundred Horse Chestnut as it was a 145 years ago (in 1872).
The Preface to the 1986 printed edition of this book made ‘ a personal plea for some restoration projects which would be of special historical value as examples of poorly represented styles’. The plea had no influence upon events but the following update may be of interest to readers: (1) The semi-circular parterre at Hampton Court, known as the Fountain Garden, has not changed. But the nearby Privy Garden has been restored with the greatest possible care for historical accuracy. I believe this was an error of judgement: the Privy Garden is an unremarkable as a Baroque parterre but looked good in its picturesque 1986 condition. The Fountain Garden remains rather ugly but would have been very splendid – if restored in the manner of the Privy Garden. (2) The Giant Steps in Greenwich Park have not been restored. The Royal Parks Agency commissioned a design for a Baroque water cascade on the site. It was opposed by the local people. I can see a strong case for restoring the original steps which would have been like Bridgeman’s theatre at Claremont Landscape Garden. Or one could make a respectable case for a new design on the site. But ‘restoring’ a cascade which never existed would have been illogical. (3) The Leasowes is now run as a country park. (4) Nothing has been done about the parterre at Melbourne Hall or the ornamental farm at Great Tew(5) Gertrude Jekyll’s garden at Munstead Wood is, I am delighted to report, being restored.
It’s time for another update:
The semi-circular parterre at Hampton Court has not been restored and the Privy Garden still lacks the aesthetic quality it had before it was restored
‘Restoration’ of the Giant Steps in Greenwich Park is under consideration and may well happen – I will do a blog post about this soon
The Leasowes is still run as a country park and with little regard for the outstanding importance of William Shenstone’s conception
Nothing has been done about the parterre at Melbourne Hall
Nothing has been done about the ferme ornée at Great Tew
Good restoration work has been done at Munstead Wood and it is open to the public by appointment
I suggested ‘some full-scale Gertrude Jekyll borders with colour schemes based on J.M.W. Turner’s colour theory’
The herbaceous border in Greenwich Park is not a national disgrace
With regard to the 7th suggestion, I was thinking about the long border in Greenwich Park but did not mention it because the Giant Steps seemed more important. In 2013, The Royal Parks appointed Chris Beardshaw to ‘completely redesign the border’. I have often admired his work at Chelsea and am sure he did a good job for Greenwich. But there are lessons to be learned:
The quality of the long border is poor. This may because you can’t just ask an expert to design a herbaceous border. You need to expert to have responsibility for its management and review the design very frequently. It’s best to have the expert working on the border and thinking about it all the time. Is this plant doing too well? Why is that plant suffering? Would it be better if those two plants were not side by side? do those colours go together?
The Royal Parks Agency (as it used to be) lacked expertise in the design and the design history of parks, gardens and landscapes. So they probably did a poor job in briefing Chris Beardshaw.
The Royal Parks are really bad at involving volunteers in the management of parks and gardens. This is a tragic wasted opportunity for bringing in resources of mind and brain and involving the community.
Gertrude Jekyll’s brilliant idea for the colour planning of herbaceous borders has never yet been deployed at the large scale and superb viewing conditions Greenwich Park could provide
The garden court at Schlosspark Klein-Glienicke has a distinctly Reptonian character
Humphry Repton’s influenced landscape and garden design outside as well as inside the UK. I see his books as England’s most important contribution to the theory of garden design and landscape architecture. They were lavishly produced, opulently published and sought after by collectors. Foreign travel was enormously hard in his lifetime, not least because of the Napoleonic wars, and many people found out about the English style of making gardens from books. Among them was Peter Joseph Lenné.
The Klein-Glienicke garden has a domain of art near the house, a Brownian park and distant views of lakes and forests
The Schlosspark Klein-Glienicke in Potsdam Berlin was designed by Lenné with help from Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau. The latter invited Humphry’s son, John Adey Repton, to Potsdam. Though remembered as an architect, and not known to have helped with the Glienicke design, John was familiar with his father’s theories. The Glienicke layout shows clear evidence of Repton’s Landscape Style.
The Lion Fountain
Glienicke was planned with a Beautiful area near the house and a transition to a Picturesque park (in the Serpentine Style) and a Sublime background (the Potsdam lakes and forests).
After their republication by John Claudius London, Humphry Repton’s works had a wide influence on the English-speaking world and were a starting point for Frederick Law Olmsted’s practice and the development of landscape architecture as an organised profession. Repton also influenced UK town and country planning with the principles that:
cities should be compact
agricultural land should be protected from urban sprawl
national parks and natural parks should be protected from development
The garden is beautiful and secluded. But the Wallenstein Garden in the Czech Republic was made by a cold, egotistical and autocratic man. In his plays about Albrecht von Wallenstein, Friedrich Schiller wrote that