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

White Knights

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White Knights, - Cholmeley, Esq. - This place has lately been recovered by the family of the original possessors, after an occupation, for seventy years, on an imperfect title, by the Duke of Marlborough and Sir Charles Coekerill. Mr. Jones, who planted the place, and who remained here from the time we first saw it, in 1804, to 1830, is gone to be gardener to the duke at Blenheim; and the present gardener is Mr. Ward, from Downton Castle. We first went over the house-garden; the alterations made in which are, the removal of some of the hot-houses, particularly the exotic aquariums; the turfing of a number of the groups of flowers, leaving only the shrubs and trees that were in them; and the removal of all the plants in pots. All these, the hot-houses, and all the removable articles in the grounds, were sold by auction, for the benefit of the mortgagee, Sir Charles Cockerill, who had advanced 85,000l. to the duke upon the estate. The walks remain as they were, as do a few of the flowerbeds which are left unturfed, and the whole of the beds in the botanic garden. The interest excited by the garden, notwithstanding all these changes, is still almost as great as ever; because the rare trees and shrubs, which were at all times the only objects of permanent value, still remain. We have not time to particularise these in detail; the list, even in this garden, would be too long; but, were we to include, at the same time, the garden in "the wood," and to note the number and dimensions of each fine plant, it would fill a magazine. It must be recollected, that almost all of these plants were planted during the latter ten years of the last century and the first ten years of the present, when the prices of many articles now to be purchased for 2s, or 3s. were 5, 10, 15, and 20 guineas each. The greater number of these costly plants were furnished from the Hammersmith nursery; and, in 1804, the late Mr. Lee informed us, that the Marquess of Blandford's bill with him exceeded 15,000l. ! Before we proceed to "the wood." we shall notice a few of the trees in the house-garden. There is a group of variegated trees, in which one of the varieties of variegated oak is remarkably fine, presenting, at a distance, the appearance of a tree of shining silver. It deserves to be extensively propagated as an ornamental plant; and we strongly recommend it to the attention both of Mr. Priest and Mr. Wakerill, not forgetting Mr. Donald. Clethra paniculata, now coming into flower, has attained, in some places, the height of 15 ft. Cunninghamia, 10 ft. high, has stood without the slightest protection, for fifteen years. Six trees of Ailantus glandulosa flower every year, producing only male blossoms. There are fine specimens of Laurus Sassafras and L. Benzoin, and of Nyssa aquatica. A standard Photinia serrulata is 15 ft. high, the branches extending over a circle of 15 ft. in diameter. When we first saw this plant, in 1804, and also, we believe, in 1818, it was covered with a glass case; but it has now received no protection for many years. Cratï¾µgus salicifolia is large, and is assuming a very remarkable cedar-like character. Arbutus Andrachne is 10 ft. or 12 ft. high, and is believed to be the largest in England. The separate specimens of azaleas, on the lawn, are remarkably fine; and many of them are above 6 ft. high, forming hills of blossom in May and June. The banks of rhododendrons are higher than the boundary wall. The compartments of the garden are, in some places, formed into panels, sunk about 18 in. deeper than the surrounding walks; this has an exceedingly good effect, by giving a terraced and elevated character to the walks, and to the spectator a more commanding view of the beds in the panel. In all formal flower-gardens, bordered by right lines, where turf edgings, or edgings of stone, are employed, great effect is produced by attending to this style of disposition. Flower-beds, in such a garden, should be always below the level of the walks, or else considerably above them on a raised panel. To have them on a level with the walks is too simple for a style avowedly artificial. [Editor's Note: the White Knights Estate is now (2005) occupied by the University of Reading]