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

Stourhead rhododendron planting

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Of late years, a number of rhododendrons have been distributed over the grounds; but they are dotted in too equidistant a manner, and in a few years, if they are not removed, will destroy all breadth of effect in the lawn. It would have been better to have substituted them for part of the common laurels, which, as we have before observed, are much too abundant for scenery of so limited an extent, and which give a sameness to the woods unworthy of a place presenting in other respects so much beauty. Two thirds at least of these laurels ought to be removed, and their place supplied by rhododendrons and other American shrubs; and by box, holly, and yew. This would be nothing more than acting in the spirit of the original planter, laurels being, about the middle of the last century, as choice as rhododendrons are now. These points attended to, and the ornamental buildings put into thorough repair, the valley of lakes at Stourhead would form a scene of great and unique beauty. Nothing can be finer than the first impression made by the water a few paces within the entrance from the inn. The guide-book informs us that we ought to enter from the lawn front of the house; but this we found impracticable. The church and churchyard are pleasingly situated on a sloping bank, and the churchyard is one of the best kept which are to be seen in England. Roses and other flowering shrubs are planted against the church; cypresses and other trees are sprinkled among the graves, and the grass is kept as smooth as any lawn. The tombs of the Hoare family are in an open chapel at one end of the church, and the tombs of their stewards at the other, the latter containing the remains of three generations of the same family. The fence is a sunk wall with its perpendicular side towards the church, so that at a short distance there appears to be no fence at all, and he whole seems a component part of the pleasure-ground. We have seldom seen any thing so well managed. There is a handsome circular stone seat in the churchyard, which the guide informed us the present baronet built to enable the country people, while waiting till the service began, to sit down in the open air, rather than to go into the damp church. To prevent this dampness, a hint might be taken from the practice at Ringwood (p. 330.)