Three weeks ago, I traveled home from England with a million and one ideas swirling through my head and an eagerness to tell everyone, or at least those who read this blog, about the remarkable gardens I had visited. Life intervened, however, and after I attended to work, family, garden, and the new porch, exhaustion set in and the idea of sitting at the computer trying to articulate even a single thought was overwhelming.
Happily, after a much need week of R & R, the brain fog has begun to lift and my enthusiasm for blogging has returned. So here, finally, is an effort to share my impressions of one of the most pleasurable gardens visited—Wollerton Old Hall in Shropshire.
The word “pleasurable” is not used lightly; the garden provides both satisfaction and surprise through artful use of color, familiar elements invigorated with fresh perspective, and the highest standard of horticulture, all within carefully arranged and varied spaces that evoke gardens near and far.
The Hall itself, including the surviving wing of a sixteenth century home, gives a timeless feeling to an essentially Arts and Crafts style garden—enclosed geometric spaces formed by walls and evergreens such as yew, contrasted with a naturalistic “wild garden” at its far reaches.
The garden’s website provides an interactive map which highlights each space, but here are a few areas I particularly enjoyed.
The Rill Garden joins upper and lower spaces which have individual character but merge into a long view that gives a greater sense of spaciousness. The Lower Garden brings Lutyens to mind, with its narrow Hestercombe-like rill emptying into a small pond with stone surround and mixed plantings, similar to the Sunk Garden at Great Dixter.
Steps away in the Upper Rill, however, the linear arrangement of hydrangea-filled terracotta pots flanked by fastigiated hornbeam and box balls in a gravel court, combined with a larger pool reflecting sky and garden, evokes a Mediterranean garden.
The Font Garden, too, with its cloistered loggia, could easy be mistaken for an ancient Italian or French landscape. Massive box balls give the space a modern twist, but the garden’s sweet repose made it a favorite of visitors who took a moment to soak in its ambience.
I also found the Yew Walk to be particularly striking and spent a good deal of time photographing the towering pyramids in the changing light, which were even more dramatic when the sun popped from behind clouds. Between the evergreens, bays of perennials softened the otherwise angular arrangement and led the eye towards the arched door of the Courtyard Garden.
Though my preference is typically for formal and restrained gardens such as these, the gardens at Wollerton Old Hall are perennial driven and the spaces given over to these blooming plants are simply amazing.
Kudos to Leslie and John Jenkins, who arrived in 1983 and have worked assiduously to bring the 4-acre garden to perfection, and to Head Gardener Andrew Humphris, who came to Wollerton via Biddulph Grange. There’s much more to see than can be highlighted here, of course, but the garden’s art, drama, and barely controlled exuberance can, I hope, be found in every photograph.
My decisive test for a garden is if I would want to see it again, especially in another season, and the answer in this case is yes, yes, and yes. What a continual joy this garden must be for those who can partake throughout the year. Fingers crossed I’ll get to visit again too.