Westbury Court Garden is a National Trust site twenty minutes drive from Gloucester, and a rare surviving Dutch Water garden. The garden was originally created between 1696 and 1705 by Maynard Colchester, and the long canal, tall pavilion and circular pond are just a few of its wow features. It's most distinguishable feature however, has always been its immaculate hedges and topiary, which is best seen from above (see at the bottom of this post). When entering the garden, the first thing you see is the long canal that stretches from the front of the garden right to the back; the scale of the canal and the striking period style of the garden is absolutely breathtaking. Rufus and I even took a moment to sit and admire the view!
In 1960, the garden was threatened when developers planned to demolish the site and replace it with affordable housing. Fortunately, the National Trust bought the site using an anonymous donation, and began restoring the struggling garden to its former glory. The garden is an absolute must-see, and a testament to the dedication of the National Trust to maintain the historical essence of its original design, which to this day closely resembles the way it would have looked in 1720. More information about the garden and planning your visit can be found on the National Trust website, here.
Nothing is quite the same as the feeling you get when you discover an old photograph. Most of the time, the memory is something that you had completely forgotten about; the memory was not lost, but filed away for safe-keeping. Photographs, like memories, evoke such a strong sense of nostalgia for a number of reasons. Both of my parents took millions of photographs of me and my siblings when we were children, but it was only recently that I started to see a common factor; so many photographs that I am in as a child are in beautiful gardens and parks. At first glance, they make me smile because I can see myself so much younger and smaller (and much cuter!) in clothes that I remember having a particular fondness for.
My Mum regularly writes about gardens in articles and in her books. In her talks about her books, she explores the power of nostalgia in gardening, and why gardeners seem to gravitate towards elements from their childhoods when designing their own spaces. I was lucky enough to have parents and step-parents who were passionate about the outdoors in more ways than one, so I wanted to ask my Mum her thoughts about her own garden and her relationship with her childhood memories.
Me: What memories do you have of gardening/gardens from your childhood?
Mum: When I was little, our garden had a wisteria at one end that had grown into a sort of heap (it wasn't on a wall or any sort of support). It made a little den, where I used to go and play house.
We had self-seeded Shirley poppies in the garden, and someone showed me how to fold back the petals and tie them with a piece of grass around the stalk, so that the poppy seed head became like a little doll's face, and the petals looked like a little dress.
Me: Why do you think our memories of gardens are so powerful when it comes to to our own likes and dislikes?
Mum: Smell and memory are very strongly linked in mammals because it's how we distinguish our mothers from other females. Humans are just like any other animals: they can be conditioned, or trained, by personal experience. The smell of lavender, for example, or the scent of new-mown grass can evoke happy memories of childhood summers. Some people dislike the smell of particular plants because they associate that smell with an unhappy experience.
Me: Is it possible to take elements from the past and keep them current?
Mum: I think some elements are such classics that they never go out of date, such as roses, or yew topiary. However, I'm a bit allergic to the idea that all gardens have to look professional, and I think we are seeing a real flowering (if you'll excuse the pun) of contemporary garden design in Britain and the rest of the world, and have done for the past 30 years. I think that part of the secret is to use things in a different way, to keep things unexpected and not clichéd. I love conifers, for example, which were hugely popular in the Seventies, but I don't grow them in the way people grew them then.
2017 marked the 90th Anniversary of the National Garden Scheme. The unique charity is a combination of hardworking gardeners and volunteers, beautiful gardens and delicious cake; all of which come together to raise money for nursing charities across the UK. Supporting nursing charities has always been the aim of the NGS, and today they are the largest charitable funder of nursing in the country, raising over £50 million so far. Marie Curie and Macmillan Cancer Support are just two of the charities supported by the NGS. When my stepfather died after a battle with cancer ten years ago, it was the scheme's involvement with these charities in particular that continued to inspire my Mother and I to open the garden each year.
The little yellow book (consider it the A-Z of all NGS gardens) describes my Mother's garden as a country Cotswold work in progress, with 'plenty of places to sit and relax'. Visitors always seem to be pleasantly surprised by the number of different seating areas in the garden, they are often particularly relieved, considering the steep hill you have to climb in order to reach our house in the first place (it isn't called Awkward Hill for nothing!) The garden is definitely designed with comfort in mind. You can socialise by the barbecue at the dining table to entertain guests, or perch on the patio with a cup of tea and breakfast. Then, you can sit on the dock by the pond and dip your feet in the water, or perhaps cosy up by the fire pit with a glass of wine and a bag of marshmallows; the possibilities are endless!
This is not the case at all, as we are currently in an age where gardening and home decor is quickly becoming very fashionable for the younger generation, and this is reflected in the variety of guests that visit. A lot of this can be contributed to sites like Instagram and Pinterest, which feed the creativity of budding bloggers and homemakers all over the world. In many cases, the only thing stopping younger people from getting into gardening is the fact that it's almost impossible to find an affordable property with it's own green space, particularly in the major cities. This is where the little yellow book becomes a bit of a treasure trove... gardens listed in London often showcase the incredible ways in which you can manipulate small spaces into something National Garden Scheme worthy.
There are also those who shamelessly admit to us that they are mainly visiting for the cake and cups of tea... which is absolutely fine as well! All money raised goes towards the charities listed by the NGS, and all leftover cake goes towards my own personal stash of treats for the next week, so everybody wins. To find out more information about the NGS, click here.
Hi there, my name is Nevada and I'm a twenty-five year old music teacher. The Little Green blog centres around wildlife, gardening and lifestyle photography. All photos are my own and represent the portfolio of an amateur photographer!