Hidcote Yew Topiary Birds

Yew Topiary Birds at Hidcote After 110 Years of Clipping

The gardens at Hidcote Manor are now open over the weekends during the winter. I’m so pleased the National Trust has decided to do this as it gives the opportunity to appreciate the bare bones of the garden without the distraction of the beautiful flowering borders and leafy trees. Lawrence Johnston was the man responsible for the creation of the garden. In 1907 he began building a series of ‘garden rooms’, divided mainly by yew hedging. The Arts and Crafts philosophy was a major influence in Johnston’s designs, of which topiary plays an important part. Between 1907 and 1914 the…

Wibbly Wobbly Yew Hedges at Montacute House

I took the opportunity to visit Montacute House gardens when travelling home through Somerset the other day because I wanted to see in person their beautiful yew hedges. Montacute House is magnificent – a fine example of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture. The gardens would have been a formal design, with yew hedges clipped to perfect straight lines, flat tops and precise right angle corners. Although the formal layout of the gardens remain, the yew hedges are now over 4 metres high, free-form, organic shapes and affectionally called the wibbly wobbly by the Montacute House gardeners. This style of yew hedge is…

Linking a Garden with Doorways in Hedges

Recently I have become mildly obsessed with doorways cut into hedges. I think they are a wonderful way for large gardens to link different areas. Too often hedges are seen as static features, acting as a barrier to divide one area from another. By cutting a doorway the hedge’s purpose changes and becomes an integral part of the garden design, linking rather than preventing access. And there is also something ‘Alice in Wonderland’ about them, appealing to our human nature to explore. I am lucky by living in the Cotswolds to have two gardens nearby that utilise hedge doorways with…

The Fashion for Cloud Pruned Yew Hedges

If you follow this blog or my social media profiles you may have noticed I am building a small collection of vintage gardening books. This is not intentional. I find it difficult to resist when I see an interesting antique gardening book on an online auction site and my low bids seem to be winning. One lucky acquisition was this 1904 First Edition ‘Some English Gardens’ with beautiful prints of watercolours by George S. Elgood and commentary by Gertrude Jekyll. One print that caught my eye was a watercolour titled ‘Yew Alley at Rockingham’ and painted about 1900. The yew…

Westbury Court Parterres

Appreciating the Dutch Style Features at Westbury Court Garden

I’ve always been interested in the Dutch style gardens that became fashionable between the late 17th and early 18th century when Britain and Holland shared the same king, William III. Typically rectangular in shape, classical Dutch style gardens relied on a strong use of symmetry and geometrical form. They were designed to highlight the art and craft of horticulture, and were an expression of wealth for the owner. But the Dutch style had a short life in Britain. The gardens were incredibly expensive and labour intensive to maintain. Many notable examples were destroyed less than 50 years after being built…