The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Blenheim rock garden

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Beyond the lake, and above the cascade, is formed what is called the rock garden. It may occupy an acre, and is surrounded by a fence, rather too conspicuous, both from within and without, of rude flagstones set on end. The doors in this fence are formed of similar stones, turning on pivots, so as to turn either way, as easily as a common turnstile. We passed very hastily through this garden, but we saw it sufficiently to enable us to form a decided opinion, and to rank it with the rockwork at Syon, and that in the beautiful alpine garden of Lady Boughton, near Chester. (VII. 551.) (We have since heard that this rockery has been removed. We should have been very much gratified by a plan and view of the flower-garden and the rockery at Hoole House, but we find that it cannot be obtained - Cond.) The styles of the three rockeries are totally different, though their object is the same, viz. that of displaying to advantage alpine plants. The object of Lady Boughton is, to show a range of the summits of rocky hills; that at Syon, to display a ridge of massive blocks of stone intermingled with vegetation; and that of the Duke of Marlborough, to show rocky scars on the face of a steep bank. One great advantage which the latter has is, the possession of abundance of stone of the same kind (viz. the limestone of the locality), abounding with organic remains. There is nothing particular in the disposition of the stones in the scars; but the stairs, which pass obliquely through them from one scar to another, and thus connect different horizontal galleries, are very well managed. Each plant has a separate nidus, with appropriate soil; and the more rare sorts are numbered in a particular manner by the duke. On a wooden tally, 9 in. long and 1 in. broad, painted lead colour, there is about an inch on the upper part painted yellow: on this an upper row of black dots represents hundreds, a lower row tens, and the lowest units. Among the plants are a number of rare alpine species in general mixture; and sometimes, if we are correct in our recollection, green-house species are introduced among them. Where the rockwork is so extensive as it is here, much more effect would be produced by keeping the exotic species by themselves, for the purpose of producing a distinct succession of scenes. This principle, indeed, ought to be extended to the disposition of even the hardy alpines, which should have appeared in masses of one order in one place; but neither at White Knights, nor at Blenheim, has the duke ever shown any taste for beauty, but as displayed in objects taken singly. The stones composing the rockwork are a good deal covered with moss, which takes off from their new and raw appearance. On the whole, this rock garden, defective as it is, appeared to us the only redeeming point in the duke's gardening operations at Blenheim. The greater part of his other works we regard as injurious to the character of the place; and in this respect we agree with our elegant and enlightened correspondent "An Amateur." (See IV. 87.)