Monday, 17 June 2013

バートンハウスのトピアリー〜ビフォーアフター Bourton House Topiary - before and after

April 2013

This special issue is a thank you to our Japanese readers. It is a translation of part of an earlier post  about Bourton House which I hope will be an easier  read for you if you are Japanese. There is also the English  text for those who might want to recap the March issue.   I apologise for the gaps  and misalignments . I have been fiddling around trying to tidy them up  but for each one I fixed two more problems popped up so in a very  unprofessional way  I thought  blow it, I will publish and be damned.  

Bourton House Topiary - before and after
Right, here we go..........

I worked as head gardener at Bourton House for eighteen years. As head gardeners will know get the right team and the job can be the best job ever.  At Bourton we had various gardeners come and go but for a period I had what I have always thought of as my dream team, a golden era! They were two people who had, in different ways, a huge enthusiasm and energy for the garden. There was an eagerness to learn and a genuine excitement when say something new would flower for the first time - they were a real pleasure to work with. They were Heather Balhatchet and Will Gould. Will has contributed below to this blog with a piece on his trip to Yucatan.

One criteria for the professional garden photographers who came to the garden regularly was that they had to take a picture of the garden team for our records. The best picture of them all was the one below taken by Marie O'Hara. I worked with Marie on several occasions and she had imagination, patience, great technical skill and always a great sympathy for the subject.


I am proud to present my dream team

It is all too often the case that designers create a garden and then leave it in the 'safe' hands of the client and either never see it again or see it again a few years later only to find that the no doubt well meaning meddling of an inexperienced gardener or the client themselves has diluted their intention to the point where they want to disclaim ownership of the design. It is usually the planting that has been messed with or been badly maintained rather than changes to the basic structure of the garden.


At Bourton I had been in the fortunate position of being able to originate a project from a very elemental start - rooting the cuttings - then nurture it for a number of years and then leave it only to come back many years later to a mature planting that except for minor changes has turned out exactly as I hoped it would. The project had been to create an architectural feature of box and yew with an ironwork centre piece in front of the house.


We raised several hundred box cuttings in cold frames. Plans were drawn and work began. The topiary garden was developed in front of the house. We dug up the large expanse of gravel covering the space where originally carriages would have drawn up to the main entrance. A year or two earlier we had created a much smaller box garden which you can see was left in place to be cannibalised once the larger area of ground was prepared.


First of all the pattern was marked out with small flower pots to see if it was going to work before planting began. It all looked so skinny back then. The short sections of box were waiting to grow into a chunkier green version of the terracotta rope edging much loved by the Victorians. The thin wedges were box, the flanking columns - very small here- were yew and the lollipops were Portugal laurel. If I remember correctly the diagonals on the wall were Pyracantha. The picture was taken in spring with the Tulipa kaufmanniana waiting for some sunshine before they open their faces to the sky. 

Cuddly serpents.

Is it real?  

We had made a rod for our own backs when it came to clipping time. The box has been expertly and lovingly clipped by subsequent garden teams to superb effect. The topiary was established before Box Blight reared its ugly head in 1994 which has been an advantage and scrupulous attention to hygiene and continual vigilance has so far kept box blight at bay.


An earlier 'box' project meant tackling the old rose garden. These images are from old slides and lack a bit of sharpness. Those with a nostalgic hankering for the slightly fuzzier life of times gone by might feel more comfortable with them.   

Hundreds of cuttings struck in the cold frames were grown on in the reshaped rose garden. 

Early days and still some gaps but it is starting to shape up. The impressive lattice basket is cast Victorian concrete and was made for the Great Exhibition of 1851.


Getting there, and the old Indian swastika pattern is becoming obvious. If you visit the garden and you are a keen observer you will notice all the swastikas swirl in one direction except one. I did not notice the mistake I had made when setting out the pattern until several years after planting. 

Whoa! Greens are good for you! 
Hair cut Sir?