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…
Boston Manor is a knot garden – the origins of which go back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
There’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.
However, 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.
Quite a domestic way of getting the same result is to add a pergola. Comfy pots of hydrangeas flank the sides at 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.
However, The Manor just might edge them out. Simply wonderful, complete with exquisite Folly.