The race is on to crown the 2020 Historic Houses Garden of the Year, sponsored by Christie's.
Since 1984 Historic Houses has asked its members and supporters to vote for their favourite garden. Last year, for the first time, we introduced a shortlist decided by our gardening committee. The rule changes enabled Newby Hall in Yorkshire to become the first garden to win the title a second time, securing almost a third of the thousands of votes cast.
This year the award is evolving further. The main prize remains the same – gardens must be open to the public, and the public will decide the winner. But there in 2020 we will also announce a ‘Judges’ Choice’, decided by our panel of experts, from amongst all member gardens in our association (with no strict requirement to be open for visitors).
You can vote for your nomination for this year's Garden of the Year here, but first see if you can visit all eight gardens to make the best decision. Make sure to spread the word and thanks again for voting!
The Grove is Lord Ashbrook’s proudest contribution to the evolution of the garden his family have tended for five hundred years. Inspired by an unimplemented plan of his mother’s from the 1970s, he says, ‘I suddenly became smitten with the idea of ornamental trees, shrubs and rhododendrons growing in this area and developing an interesting woodland walk.’ He has since travelled to the Himalayas and China to learn from rhododendrons in their natural habitat.
The traditional double herbaceous border has been meticulously mapped out by gardener Dave Groom and Lady Ashbrook to give a deceptively unplanned look. Elsewhere visitors can enjoy the geometry of the Flag Garden, the aromas of the Scented Garden and Herb Garden and the symmetry of the Fish Garden. The Kitchen Garden, redesigned by Lady Ashbrook in 1993, includes a delicate wirework arbour from Castle Durrow, the former Irish seat of the Viscounts Ashbrook. ‘Lord Ashbrook’s family created “garden rooms” before the phrase was even coined, says Head Gardener Gordon Baillie.
Extensive beech and yew hedges provide protection and structure to series of garden rooms, while the oval walled garden boasts ancient and historic roses; in 2012 Carolside was named the UK’s only National Collection of pre-1900 specimens of R. gallica.
Herbaceous borders contain rare perennials. New delphinium beds, pergolas and arbours have been built around a central arbour clothed in wisteria. Victorian greenhouses reconstructed and filled with pelargoniums, a wall of old espaliered apple trees filled out with pears, damsons and medlars, and a laburnum arch constructed.
Alongside new herd and winter gardens, a new a secret garden is planted with roses and rock plants. In 2020 an even smaller, more secret, ‘hidden garden’ will be created on the other side of an enticing Gothic door.
Hergest Croft has been famous for decaces as a plantsman’s garden with dazzling rhododendrons and azaleas collected by Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson. Now a new labelling system and mobile app provides visitors with cutting-edge horticultural, scientific and conservation information from the recent re-opening of China to collectors.
Now fifth-generation custodian and leading landscape architect Elizabeth Banks reins in the enthusiasm of her husband Lawrence to impose a structure on exuberant plantings.
A vastly expanded magnolia range has extended the flowering season into March and new hybrids of Rhododendron viscosum bring the azalea season into June. A wide range of ancient Japanese plants, rarely grown in Britain, join National Collections of acers, betulas and zelkovas, and more than eighty ‘Champion’ trees. Betula ‘Hergest’ is widely available in nurseries.
This ancient site, centred on a fully moated Tudor manor, has been lovingly added to by its current owners for almost thirty years. Never planning to open to the public, they’ve retained the feel of a private garden to a private house. Alongside a parkland of mature trees and a Victorian ‘nut walk’, originally used by the ladies of the house to exercise whilst keeping out of the sun, the orchard has been replanted and the vegetable garden, which has been grassed over, has been restored. Box-edged beds grow herbs, vegetables, apples, and soft fruit for the house for sale.
Hellebore and primula line restored paths through water garden alongside the steams that feed the moat and medieval fishponds, in an adjoining three-acre patch recently reunited with the grounds; sluice gates have turned the area into a marshy wildlife haven while Hebridean sheep act as lawnmowers.
Taking the up the challenge of reinventing these renowned gardens for a new generation, John and Caroline have changed them beyond recognition in the last thirty years, while respecting historic elements such as the spirit of the Arts and Crafts garden in the Fountain Court. An avenue shown on an 1840s map but lost later in the nineteenth century has been recreated, lined with chestnuts and planted with daffodils the length of each side, and leads to a new woodland garden, home to slow worms, newts, snakes, dragon- and damsel-flies, moths, butterflies, beetles, dormice, occasional otters, and a visiting kingfisher.
Double- and triple-width beds give the garden a depth and luxuriousness that was missing before, while trim topiary contrasts with the bursting beds. The Orangery houses the white Victorian ‘wedding’ rose, Rosa niphetos, begonias grown for their extraordinary leaves, and Iochroma australe, an Australian shrub with blue or white bell-shaped flowers.
This recently restored house and estate, now an event venue and attraction, includes the largest Sequoiadendron giganteum in Northern Ireland, and a formal garden designed around a bronze sculpture of ‘Diana the Huntress’. Four symmetrical beds each contain a standard Portuguese edged in box hedging with an inner planting of Nepeta grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’.
A new kitchen garden boats a lean-to Victorian-style glasshouse; espaliered pear, plum and cherry trees, and herbaceous borders ranging from cold blues to hot yellows and reds, line the perimeter.
7km of trails pass a summer house, boat house and thatched witch’s cottage. In 2015 an alpine garden was created on a natural large outcrop of rock in recognition previous owner Lady Clanwilliam’s important role in founding first Alpine Garden Society of Ulster.
Designed in the eighteenth century by Charles Hamilton and internationally celebrated at the time, Painshill had fallen into ruins when it was saved by the local authority, and the trust that still cares for it today, in the 1980s. Hamilton designed the garden as a walk through a work of art, taking the viewer past theatrically placed follies, which are concealed and then dramatically revealed and a series of stunning views.
The Ruined Abbey, reflected in the Serpentine Lake, was restored in 1987 along with the waterwheel that feeds it from the River Mole. The Grotto, a sparkling cave of crystals, once again amazes visitors with its coral pools. A replanted vineyard produces Painshill sparkling wine grown according to eighteenth-century methods, while hidden in forest lies a secluded hermitage – chopped up for firewood in the 1940s and rebuilt in 2004. Hamilton’s favourite view, and the end of the walk for eighteenth-century visitors, is from the fantastical Turkish Tent, recreated in durable fibreglass but still exotic and evocative. The most recent restoration, the Temple of Bacchus, was nominated for the Historic Houses Restoration Award in 2019.
Lesley Jenkins and her husband John bought back Lesley’s childhood home in 1983. The grounds of her youth had disappeared entirely. She has since devoted herself to creating a new garden in keeping with the history and ethos of the house. A formal, linear design comprises several small, visually separate gardens, each with its own character. Significant collections of clematis, phlox, salvias, and roses hide behind the walls and hedges of each garden, ready to surprise visitors. Existing yews have been allowed to grow and have been shaped into topiary forms, while the Georgian perimeter wall forms the backdrop for south-facing borders.
An extensive range of plants provide continuous seasonal interest; from carpets of white snowdrops in early spring to the pastel perennial borders of midsummer and the exuberance of the Hot Garden in early autumn. In 2011, the late David Austin named a new rose for the garden: Rosa ‘Wollerton Old Hall’.