Broadwoodside Part 2: South Garden and the House Field

Following the path around the ochre tower one enters the South Garden. What I like about this garden is how domestic it feels, and yet it looks so stylish with excellent use of color, witty art installations, and simple but repeated plantings that form a rhythm along the path. It doesn't hurt that it faces a bucolic pasture that housed, on that day, two stunning white horses that were kicking up their heels as if on command to frolic.

I'm not usually fond of purple smokebush (Cotinus coggygria). I suspect it's because for the five years I lived near Washington, D.C. I had to walk past a solitary, unhealthy, and pathetically maintained specimen going in and out of my flat each day. I itched to put it out of its misery, but lacking that agency I just let it sour me on the whole genus. I keep trying to come around, but its slow going. This garden is probably the first in which I found myself enjoying Cotinus, most likely because it is well-maintained and so effectively used as a dark accent along the walk. The perfectly chosen and contrasting blue on the posts also goes a long way toward my enjoyment of the Cotinus. Imagine the image below without the blue posts and Lutyens bench at the far wall. Not nearly as effective, right?

Further into the South Garden is a very inviting patio and a few pieces of art that I really enjoyed. I always like a big tree trunk repurposed as landscape art (a la David Nash), and this elm with its golden sphere hits the spot. Once again notice the color work here--that sphere picking up the tones in the ochre building. Beautiful. Cover either the sphere or the building with your finger and see what happens to the composition. 

I also loved these mirrored portholes making a feature out of what is potentially a mechanical eyesore. They looked especially nice covered in raindrops. 

From the South Garden one passes through this gate on the way to the House Field. The stone plinths beneath the urns read "Going to" on the left and "the Dogs" on the right--a joke that didn't reveal itself until I found the pet cemetery in the far corner of the field. 

Looking back toward the house I failed to see the point of the House Field. I suspect it may have been a timing issue, as I've seen photos of the bed by the wall filled with bright red blooming Crocosmia. Again it's not a favorite plant but it makes a strong statement when flowering. I really couldn't tell what was going on with that bed between the two mown areas. It had a few little blooms but mostly just looked like a weed patch.

Another view of the South Garden shows a hint of its borrowed landscape. This spot was one of my favorites at Broadwoodside, possibly because I feel most at home in places with long countryside views. What can I say other than I'm a typical Homo sapiens with an evolutionary bias toward the savanna--just like Capability Brown! 

I'll leave you to follow that link for some fascinating reading and when I return we'll head into the courtyards for Broadwoodside: Part 3.  

Broadwoodside Part 1: Entrance and Walled Garden

On June 4 Broadwoodside, a private garden in the small village of Gifford, opened for the National Garden Scheme Open Gardens. For one day a year the public is invited to see the the garden that Anna and Robert Dalrymple and their gardener have created over the past 17 years from a derelict farmstead. 

Broadwoodside has received lots of positive attention from horticultural publications far greater than mine, which you can read about here, so I'm loathe to repeat those stories here. Instead I'd rather write about what Broadwoodside actually looked like on this particular day, and how it felt to be within it. 

The garden is entered up a simple mown grass path through a meadow interplanted with trees and roses. After having worked so hard at my own farm to maintain mulch circles around trees that were essentially planted in a hayfield, I would like to embrace the relative ease of this cultivation technique. I like the casualness of this approach as it feels like the beginning of an adventure into a private space, which of course it is. If you couldn't tell it from the artwork displayed around the entrance meadow, it becomes clear when one passes through this garden gate that what lies ahead will be a creative and whimsical space. 

Through the gate one immediately enters a small vegetable garden. It's not really enough space to grow anything on a scale I'd like, and not as lush as the surrounding borders, but I appreciate the nod to the walled garden's practical origins.

The rest of the garden is an unusual mix of formal and casual as a rectangular pond edged with willow (Salix) provides the structural core around loose mixed borders backed by espaliered fruit trees growing on the walls. The willow pond was very much a "look at me" feature in this garden, and it felt like a space to pass through instead of a space to be lived in or even one that would invite much pause. I suppose the interest lies in the ever-changing Salix, which is cut each year and then allowed to grow up to nine feet tall over summer, effectively creating a room within a room and an area that felt a bit disconnected from the lush herbaceous borders around it. 

I enjoyed the view from a little bench tucked into the corner, below.

So often herbacious borders are viewed from one direction--outside looking in--and this perch provided the unique vantage point of being within the border. 

Next, we'll travel deeper into the garden and see some of my favorite bits. 

More than just topiary at Levens Hall, Cumbria

Though topiary is the main draw at Levens Hall, the rest of the garden contains a mix of well-done features and some questionable bits. First up is one of the nicest double herbaceous borders I've ever seen, all in shades of blue, yellow, white and purple, capped off by a Lutyens bench at one end. I liked the weathered wood tuteurs in that they looked sturdy but naturally pretty and blended well in the border. I also appreciated how the color and texture of the Nepeta reflected the very worn stone walls and urns. Despite being a bit weather-beaten, the Delphinium were doing their magic trick of injecting the ever-elusive true blue into the composition, and Cephalaria gigantea sprinkled its pale yellow stars just above head height. 

The purple, blue and white theme continues near the house with a small foundation planting of HostaNepeta, and climbing vines, including Clematis. The white giant Himalayan lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum, was looking very fine. 

There is a willow (Salix) maze, which looks better in this photo than it did in real life. It was pretty overgrown with grass and weeds, and I think being able to see through the maze "walls" defeats the point of a maze. It was, perhaps, just young and may grow into something more substantial. I could see it being popular with children. 

A large beech (Betula) hedge encircles part of the garden, and one may walk underneath its canopy for great views reminiscent of looking at the sun from under water. The cripples supporting the branches made for some beautiful natural sculpture.  

One of my favorite areas was the old orchard, which in spring is planted with red tulips in square patterns under each tree. That must look great, but I enjoyed the pattern left over once the tulips have been mown off, and I think this is an attractive way to deal with the inevitable messiness that follows a spring-flowering bulb display. Making a feature out of "disorder," or manipulating ephemeral spaces through periods of transition so they still contribute to the overall design, is something I'd like to try in my own garden. 

A pretty substantial network of pleached lime (Tilia)  tunnel arbors impressed me with its horticultural skill. Attempting to get this many living trees to grow at almost 90 degree angles is a challenge, and these were just about perfect. I think the secret lies in the strong timber framework just barely seen in this photo. I imagine that without it in place it would be hard to achieve this precise effect. 

The pleaching and extensive topiary at Levens bring to mind another garden that I really enjoy in pictures, having not yet visited in person: Arne Maynard's Allt-y- bela: 

Image from Town and Country Magazine, with more here. Gardens Illustrated just ran a really great series written by Arne about his garden, which can be read here. Check it out and I think you'll see Levens was a source of inspiration for this newer garden. 

Emerging from one exit of the pleached lime arbor one sees this water feature, which didn't do much for me. Maybe in a sunny, warmer day it would feel refreshingly welcoming, but on a cool, stormy day it left me, well, cold. 

The bowling green/croquet lawn is bordered by masses of Lychnis coronaria with some tall yellow spikes of Verbascum. This combination didn't work for me, and the border's position right next to the beautiful double blue border made it look like Cinderella's ugly stepsister. 

Finally, the herb garden showed off the very flashy golden hops (Humulus lupulus 'Aureus'), one of my favorite climbers. More red Tropaeolum speciosum can be seen climbing through the yew on the left side of the photo. 

That's it from Levens Hall, a fantastic historic garden that is well-worth your time, rain or shine. Up next, the journey continues south to pay homage to one of my horticultural heroes, Joseph Paxton, at Chatsworth.