I have met Anne Wareham and her photographer husband Charles Hawes on a couple of occasions previously.
Anne Wareham & Charles Hawes at The Veddw House Garden
Usually on a garden visit somewhere or at a Flower Show. Anne is quite forthright with her views on gardens (and gardening) whilst Charles is more relaxed. To have the opportunity of visiting the garden they created was something of a curiosity for me. Here was someone who openly declares as dislike of gardening but has taken the time and trouble to create a garden and then be bold enough to open it for public consumption. Brave!
And Anne it was lovely…
At this point I need to turn and run, fast! (Take a look at Anne’s book The Bad Tempered Gardener to realise that this is not something that will be appreciated…)
Seriously though, we had just finished a morning visit to The Laskett and were ready for some lunch.
Lunch as brought by fellow guests
I had made a point of not researching the garden before arrival so knew nothing about what to expect. The standard for the day had been set by our earlier visit… It is fair to say that as a garden designer I find the challenge of designing a garden for yourself is not always the easiest challenge, so how had Anne & Charles fared?
The site in Monmouthshire near Tintern Abbey borders the Chepstow Park Woods might be described as challenging but you can see immediately that it has potential. My first impression was how well the garden blended with its surrounding environment, drawing you from the garden to the open landscape.
View across the garden to the countryside
It is a garden in two halves – as many gardens are, front and back though in the case of The Veddw it is more left and right. The right garden or back was my starting point and although hindered by the gazebo set up for us to enjoy lunch this actually demonstrated the use for the garden as the owners intended; a place to entertain. Looking back at the house provided food for thought too as it had been painted black – a bold move that would become apparent later. Set against this was a vibrant drift planting of Alchemilla mollis dotted with blue hardy geranium.
acid green Alchemilla and blue hardy geranium
But the real treat was to follow. Guided by a prominent though rather curious cut out focal point we were encouraged to explore the gardens.
Cut out and painted focal point - simple but effective
As you rise up through the garden different vistas open up in a truly engaging way. The element of surprise always just around the next corner. Although on quite a slope the well dressed hedges prevented you from catching a glimpse of the whole garden even when seated at the highest point of the gardens. It is from here that you reflect on the history of the site and how this has been incorporated sympathetically in to the garden.
View across the garden
Looking out from the ruin
This then is a garden that works well for me and draws together simple a repetitive elements to create a garden that challenges the senses and demands inquisition. The flow around the garden is fairly consistent throughout, though occasionally you are left wondering which way to turn in order not to miss your next treat. My next treat came in the form of the fabulous reflecting pool, and the soft flowing hedges that worked their way back up to the woodlands behind. The inky black of the pool contrasting with the vibrance of the greens.
The Reflecting Pool - look carefully this is actually the reflection!
Looking back at the Reflecting Pool
Now here is the strange thing – this is not a garden full of colourful planting, bright drifts of flowers, borders bursting with the next wave of bee delighting nectar carrying blossoms. Yet there is a very colourful nature about the garden when viewed from pretty much anywhere. This variation in colour comes from the gentle flowing hedge forms as they reflect the ambient lighting and must be a garden photographers dream throughout the full calendar – no surprise then that Charles is a garden photographer!
Colour contrast and variations
What this also means is that there is less of that chore, known to all of us as gardening (apart from keeping those hedges in trim) to be concerned about. Where there are plants they are naturalistic and appear to be largely left to their own devices kept in check by copious amounts of suitable mulch.
The left garden (or front) was perhaps more confusing and experimental though I loved the planting combinations in the Grey Border.
The Grey Garden
What again is much in evidence is the working with the landscape to fashion the garden, working with what you have got. To be fair I didn’t spend as much time in this part of the garden, but perhaps it invited less. It being turned over for more functional activities such as growing of vegetables and fruit, orchards and meadows.
The Orchard and wildflower meadow
The Front Garden with strong topiary shapes and plenty of colour
So have Anne and Charles created a garden worthy of merit? Does their Borders Idyll stand up a as garden that deserves any accolade? They have managed to do a number of things very well, including making it personal, having respect for the history of the site, incorporating it in to the landscape and stamping their own very indelible mark upon it. They make no excuses for it. But don’t take my word for it and don’t look at the pictures and pass judgement. Gardens are for visiting in the flesh. Be prepared to be challenged. This is not ‘just another garden’ garden. I look forward to returning.
Tags: Bath · Chippenham · garden design · garden visit · gardening · Tim Matcham · Wiltshire