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

Dropmore Garden

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Dropmore, Earl Grenville.-July 31. Beautiful as this place always is, it has been very much improved since we last visited it in 1826. (See Vol. III. p. 257. and p. 481.) Mr. Baillie has been succeeded by Mr. Frost, a most active and intelligent young man, well fitted for such a situation. A new entrance lodge has been formed on the Burnham side, covered with trunks of trees, in the manner of a Russian log-house, with a chimney top in the style of those of Venice; rather an incongruous assemblage, which forms a false note of preparation for a place which, in other respects, is generally in consistent taste. We were first shown into the range of flower-gardens, which forms a line with the lawn front of the house; and certainly there is nothing of the kind in a flat situation, that we know of, superior to it. In point of picturesque beauty, the flower-garden scenery at Redleaf, Montreal, and Bromley Hill, is much finer; but the flower-garden at Dropmore shows what may be done by art on a surface wholly without natural advantages. The effect is produced by the arrangement of the beds, and by the distribution of pedestals with vases, statues, and other sculptures, and by therms and other mural and architectural ornaments. To connect the whole with the house, there is an architectural wall, with an open Italian parapet in the front of its border in one place, and in others various hot-houses, which are placed against it. The vases and sculptures are partly of real, partly of artificial, stone, and partly of china-ware. There are benches with carved backs, made of wood, but painted and sanded in imitation of Bath stone, which are particularly good; as are a number of Austin's vases, fountains, candelabra, and other ornaments; as well as a manner of forming pedestals of open brickwork for supporting sculptures. The parapets are of artificial stone, or brickwork covered with cement; the wall against which the hot-houses are placed is of brick, covered with trelliswork; and the hot-houses are of wood, painted green. This green colour in the hot-houses and the trellises is what we can never reconcile ourselves to: it detracts from the avowedly artificial character of the rest of the scenery. We shall not offer a single argument on the subject, but simply state our own feelings, wnich have always been the same ever since we saw, in 1806, the pea-green hot-houses of Mr. Hare (now, we believe, Sir Thomas Hare), at his seat in the neighbourhood of Downham, in Norfolk. The reason of our dislike can only be found in the want of harmony between this green and the green of nature. Let the woodwork of the hot-houses at Dropmore be imagined of a stone colour, or of the colour of any kind of timber, or even brown or grey bark, and how different would be the effect! In walking through the grounds, we were everywhere, as in 1826, charmed and delighted; and we were still more so now than then, at finding the number of rustic stands, vases, &c. diminished. The pinetum has received numerous additional species, and the sorts which were rare in 1826 have now attained a considerable size, and some have been found hardier than was expected. We particularly allude to Cunninghamia lanceolata and Araucaria imbricata, both of which are found so hardy as to stand here without protection. We could enumerate a number of species, with the sight of which we were much gratified, but we refer our readers to Mr. Frost's article on this subject (p. 559.). It is almost needless to state that in the flower-garden were to be found all the new, rare, and beautiful hardy flowering plants. We were particularly struck with the number of plants of that gorgeous iridean bulb, Gladiolus natalensis (psittacinus), splendidly in bloom; Madia elegans, Petunia ph�nicea, Calandrinia grandiflora, and Verbena venosa, which produces underground stolones, and is particularly fitted for filling a bed in a very short time. Tour-nefortia heliotropioides is likewise well adapted for beds, and also Nicotiana longiflora, which we found profusely covered with odoriferous flowers. The day being cloudy, the �notheras had a splendid appearance. The masses of Campanula carpatica in some places, and of Verbena cham�drifolia and of the common clove in others, had a most brilliant effect. There is a large compartment of standard roses, the highest of which, in the centre, is 15ft., and which slope down on the sides to 5 ft. Mr. Frost is endeavouring to naturalise many plants, both annuals and perennials, in the woods, by planting and sowing there all his spare plants and seeds. It is incredible what may be done in this way, since it has been proved that the seeds of some stove annuals will remain in the open ground during our winters, and come up and flower vigorously during summer. Viewing the subject in this light, we see no reason why the common pelargoniums, some of the fuchsias, balsams, and many other plants of warm climates, should not be treated as hardy annuals, as well as nasturtiums, marvel of Peru, &c. Perhaps many such annuals may be naturalised in the warmer parts of the island. But we shall not attempt to go into details. Stuartia virginica Dec. (Malachodendron L.) is now magnificently in bloom here, as are various plants in the hot-houses and conservatories. [Editor's Note: After Lord Grenville�s death Dropmore passed to his wife and then to the Fortescue family,r Lord Kemsley, the University of San Diego and Corporate Estates who (2005) received permission for conversion of the estate to multiple residential use].