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

Highclere pleasure grounds

Previous - Next

The pleasure-grounds are about 100 acres in extent, and contain many fine specimens of exotic trees and shrubs, among which were tulip trees, black walnut, deciduous cypress, Virgilia lutea, and Magnolia acuminata and tripetala. The climate is so severe, that M. obovata and the stuartias can hardly exist. Among the shrubs, a large-leafed variety of Cotoneaster microphylla insulated on the lawn, its branches covering a space of thirteen yards in circumference, is a very conspicuous object. The formation of these shrubberies, we were told, was an arduous operation: the ground has been made to the depth of between three and four feet, and the mould was carted from the park woods in the vicinity of the lakes, a distance of nearly two miles. "The climate of Highclere, as might be expected from its situation, immediately under the northern termination of an extensive range of bleak woodless downs, is very unfavourable to horticulture. The profusion of lichens and green moss upon the trees attest its humidity. Many shrubs which endure the open air well at Newbury, only five miles off, live with difficulty here; and the only counterbalancing advantage is a comparative exemption from autumnal frosts. The site of the house is about 600 ft. above the level of the sea. Cunninghamia lanceolata lives out well in a shrubbery in the pleasure-ground. Among the rhododendrons is a healthy specimen of the very scarce Rhododendron campanulatum (Nepal), which has not yet flowered. It has the habit of a sturdy bush, or rather, perhaps, of a small tree. Its leaves are about the size of those of R. catawbiense, and are of a very deep green on the upper surface, but beneath are covered with the deepest cinnamon-coloured pubescence. [This rare and beautiful rhododendron has lately flowered with Messrs. Loddiges, and in Mr. Knight's Exotic Nursery. The corolla is white spotted with lilac, large, and bell-shaped.] We noticed two beds, containing nearly 100 bushes of hybrids between Azalea and Rhododendron. The method lately pursued, as before mentioned, is to mass the varieties and species as much as possible together. Thus, Andromeda acuminata, forming a small bed, is very ornamental. Erica vagans is so treated, and kept compact by an annual cutting in with the garden shears; Menziesia cï¾µrulea, gualtherias, and the close-growing vacciniums, are all so treated, and with great effect. Indeed, small low shrubs, like the humbler rhododendrons, andromedas, vacciniums, and ericas, planted in large shrubberies, produce no effect compared with what they do when indulged with a space to themselves, where they are free to show their natural habits. Spirï¾µa trilobata is very handsome, when so treated; as are S. bella and S. ariï¾µfolia. Ribes sanguineum grows rapidly at Highclere, but dies suddenly in the middle of summer, when three or four years old, in whatever soil or exposure it has hitherto been placed. Of Cratï¾µgus grandiflora and tanacetifolia there are fine specimens, near the house: the yellow fruit of the latter is eatable, resembling an apple, but more insipid. Nymphï¾µa advena thrives exceedingly in Milford Lake, and is very hardy. Among the rarer aquatics is Nuphar minima. A double-flowering American sagittaria has increased rapidly. Pinus Douglasii appears to be of very rapid growth, and extremely suitable to the climate. Tilia heterophylla is a tree of very fine foliage, and apparently of rapid growth. The progress of A'cer macrophyllum has been very rapid; and it seems probable that most of the trees from northwestern America, near the regions of the Columbia River and north of it, will find in England a very congenial climate. Virgilia lutea flowered profusely at Highclere last spring, in racemes of moderate length, inodorous and not showy, being hidden in the exuberant foliage. A specimen of Magnolia conspicua, in the pleasure-ground, grafted upon a stock of Magnolia acuminata, is in all respects more vigorous than one raised in the usual manner upon a stock of Magnolia obovata; its foliage is deeper in colour and thicker in substance, and its flowers much more numerous. "A fine weeping ash, also in the pleasure-ground, which had remained for several years stationary in height, suddenly made a strong perpendicular shoot nearly 10 ft. in length, which now forms the head of the tree; its luxuriant branches having quite overwhelmed the original tree. Quercus fastigiata, on the banks of Milford Water, is interesting, from its perpendicular habit, resembling that of the Lombardy poplar."