Friday, July 11, 2014

Hestercombe: Day 3

UK14--Day 3: Wednesday, June   HESTERCOMBE

I especially asked for this outing to one of the most fully restored of Gertrude Jekyll's gardens.

The thing that is striking me most forcefully right now is the astonishing determination, dedication, and creativity of the people we've been meeting-- each caught up in some life task of building, preserving, restoring, maintaining some special corner of life that they've claimed responsibility for. The swannery at Abbotsbury where the swans are so carefully tended; the immense labor of devotion involved in renovating and maintaining Fursdon House.

I felt the same kind of  admiration for Claire, the head gardener at Hestercombe, who I suspect of being The Patrick McMillan of that institution.  

That house and garden have been meticulously preserved in all its various temporal phases: there's a whole 17thC landscape sequence I didn't try to hike through because I was focused on the Edwardian garden built by Gertrude Jeykl and Edward Luytens.  

Map of Hestercombe Garden.  The Edwardian garden is at the bottom: the X with two Rills on either side plus a pergola at the bottom.  Immediately above it in front of the house is the Victorian Terrace (29). To the right of that (26) is the Orangery, and to the right of that (25) is the Dutch Garden.  These are the only parts planned by Lyutens and Jeykll.  Above stretches the Georgian Landscape garden.

The whole thing is quite spectacular.  To start with, the stonework has these beautiful circular and spiral patterns, incorporating mill wheels and a lovely design of concentric circles simply made by nesting terra cotta Pots and filling them up with mortar.

 The gardens are rather like Sissinghurst in that there's this intricate, geometrical hardscape filled to the bursting with floral excess.  The little chinks in the stairs are filled with tiny maiden-hair ferns and delicate vinous daisies, grey stems and flowers flushed soft pink at the edges. 

 There's a typical Jeykl "grey wall" in the background, planted with all kinds of silver and lavender flowers, including spiked, shiny sea holly and thistle which sometimes seem like wild aluminum sculptures punctuating the soft masses of old roses, heavy and drooping in all shades of blush imaginable.

I think my favorite parts might have been the rills, which run down each side of the main garden.  They are flat, rectangular gardens with a stone-paved waterway running down the center. 

At one end there is a large semi-circular grotto from which the stream emerges; planted with water loving plants like giant kamferie irises, it opens at regular intervals into small circles (currently planted with calla lilies) and then drops to a lotus pool with a wide panorama over the whole Somerset countryside.
At the top of the great square is a mediterranean garden, all soft greys and silver.
And at the bottom is a great long pergola

Perennial Border at Hestercombe

After Hestercombe, we came back to Fursdon House (via a grocery store) and had a fascinating house tour. 

 The first house was built here in 1295; the "new wings" were added in 1815.  The family has lived here continuously for 23 generations!  I can only dimly imagine the restoration work that has gone into this place.  It's divided into suites; I'm in this spacious bedroom with a king sized bed and abt 12 ft ceilings, am currently writing in the window-seat of the sitting room looking up at a stack of mossy, lichen encrusted stone walls and stairs, topped on one side with various sizes of daisies, sprouting at wild angles from behind the slightly tilted head of a young woman attractively spotted with more lichen, and on the other side with a small massed symphony of mixed pink flowers: yummy dark puce purple roses and something lacy and spiky that comes in shades from white to rose to a dark fuchsia.  

At the bottom of the wall is a small cluster of fluorescently magenta cyclamens and a big patch of those purple striped ...mallows, geraniums? Something abt crows feet? only twice the size of what grows at home.

Temps are dropping now into the sixties, rather a relief after a very hot day at Lyme Regis. I'm trying to pace myself to take more quiet time to relish.  As you can tell from the above, as always I am just slayed by the colors.  I haven't even started on the greens!

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