Conservatively Speaking

So much living goes on at this time of year in our extended spaces, gardens, that it’s almost impossible to decide which to cover, but the clear winner this blog is the conservatory, staple of English houses for centuries. Given the fragile nature of their structures, antique ones are hard to find, but I have a fine example for you. Greenhouse, in Kent, has a conservatory which dates back to the early Victorian era. First, the exterior, in all its glory, guarded by the estate dogs:

greenhouse3The interior is no less stunning.


greenhouse2However, the most important thing about conservatories is that they are perfect for the home they are improving. They can be contemporary, like Stratford Grove, in the heart of London,

stratford groveOr modern and upmarket, such as The Grange, Hertfordshire:

the grange2



the grangeOr lavishly decorative like Rococo, London:

rococoWhere they are situated is sometimes surprising. When garden space is a luxury, you might find one such as The Terrace built upon a roof top in London, to take advantage of the views as well as the outdoors. It then becomes a prime entertaining place. Terrace also has a most unusual feature – glass floor inserts; viewing from above and skylights from below. Ingenious design.

the terraceBut lest we forget, they are also havens for true gardeners to rest while working, pot some seedlings or cultivate hothouse varieties. This one at Bromley House in Kent belongs to such a garden lover.bromley houseBromley House is cheerfully shabby chic, but the most humble in appearance and tranquil reason a conservatory was ever built has to be Seascape, in Rye, on the south coast of England. With that incredible view every sunset, it would have to be the envy of all the wonderful and glamorous additions above, hands down. I raise a Sundowner to Seascape!


Same Same

In the Middle East, if they agree with you or share a feeling, they don’t say ‘ditto’, or even ‘same here’. ‘Same Same!’ is the phrase, and it’s just one of the little oddities you get to know only by living there. Another, in approval, is stating, ‘We like it too, too much’. At first you think they imply that’s a bad thing.

So I could celebrate symmetry in formal English gardening, but I think I’m just going to call it what it is – Same Same. If you think about it, even the placing of a garden dining table is a form of symmetry most of us can manage, but when planting formally on a grand scale, decades, even centuries of planning can go into creating the stunning effects of knot gardens or avenues of trees.  So with that, I’m going to let you stroll around some of the private houses of England that the public never get to see.

Ambleside, for a modest manor house, has stunning formal gardens that have been designed with care. Not technically a knot garden, as it lacks the Tudor intertwining, a topiary design in boxwood hedge is more accurately known as a parterre. They have also cultivated the most charming turret, beyond which you can just see a giant chess set – just the kind of eccentricity I love. I own up to creating one of my own in the past…


ambleside2Boston Manor is a knot garden – the origins of which go back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

bostonmanorThere’s nothing as restful to the eye though as a fine avenue of trees, and here at Harlow Garden they have a serene and peaceful one to avail yourself of.

harlow gardensHowever, I sort of like the casual messiness that belies thoughtful planning at Norton, where the climbers are edged in a cottage way with masses of lavender. You can’t beat a walled door in stone to give the impression of secret gardens waiting to be explored beyond.

nortonSimilarly here, there is a symmetry but it’s not maintained with fanaticism, rather it frames the house and leads the eye to it:

symmetry1Quite a domestic way of getting the same result is to add a pergola. Comfy pots of hydrangeas flank the sides at Virginia Water.

virginia water

Not much could beat the grandeur of Swan Court below, which is all about pattern and design. The parterre goes back to the 19th Century and is meticulously maintained.

swan court2They also have some stunning vistas:

swan courtHowever, The Manor just might edge them out. Simply wonderful, complete with exquisite Folly.

the manor

A Cat Infested Garden

Just because I like ’em, and love these pictures of them in gardens, I’m going to indulge a whim to share some. If you have some of your own, please do send them and we’ll do this again!

Starting off with one of my favorite friends, Birdie looking regal in Leyton:

birdieMisappropriating the birdbath:drinkingbirdbathContemplationflickrEnhancing the statuary:



amnemonic.tumblr.comTwo of my friends in Fournier Street:

1stOp1And lastly, a gorgeous black cat shot. My Achilles!


Make it Magical

One of the best things about summer is that you can enjoy the garden by night as well as the day, so get those fairy lights out and get to it. Cavendish Place has it going on…

outdoor13Lighting a garden by night is a short cut to magic, but it can still be wonderful by day with a little effort and imagination. We celebrate and salute these creative gardeners! Planting on old stonework and around a gate at Sudeley Castle:

sudeleyflickrDoorways beckon to be explored and never fail to suggest something hidden and wonderful is behind them. green-home.tumblr.com2Doorway to a walled garden:magical1But if you’re pressed for space, just add an old chandelier (or more!) to a handy tree for instant wonderland as they have here:

outdoor7Finally…this may or not be real, I’ll let you decide. But you can always build your own and hope it becomes occupied…