Sunday, 30 January 2011

Waterperry Gardens

After yesterday's bitterly cold and gloomy day, today dawned fair of face. Cold yes, a heavy frost, yes, but blue skies and sunshine. Lovely. I had a choice for entertainment this morning. Install a built in oven (well replace a like for like) or go out. Given the weather we went out.

First of all to get the blood circulating we went for a perambulation around the field at the back of the house. This is the first real walk I've been able to do since being ill over Christmas, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However it may have been sunny, but that wind whipping off the fields nearly cut us in two. I took this photo to remind myself, and any of you who remember, the last time I walked up this treeline, back in December, when it was way way below zero and all what white with hoar frost. A link to that blog posting here:

Blood now pumping with abandon, we set off for Waterperry Gardens just outside Oxford. Now I have to admit, this garden had passed me by. I had stumbled across it reading the English Garden magazine last week. Julie knew of it, and said it had a good reputation, but had never been. So armed with a 2 for 1 Gardener's World voucher and some breadsticks as emergency rations (we know how to party) I pointed the car east and headed through Hungerford, up the A34 and bypassing Oxford (Red kite flying over the by-pass) breezed into the carpark just over an hour later. Time for a coffee and a cheese scone.

I knew going this weekend we'd be really early for the snowdrops, as they have snowdrop weekends in a fortnight, but there's something lovely about mooching around a garden in winter. It's quiet for one thing, and the bare bones of the garden are laid out for all to see. If a garden is worth visiting in the depths of winter, it will be a cracker later in the season. On this my first visit, I was impressed. I have to say, and Julie said the same, this is a lovely garden, and well worth a visit. It was laid out in the 1930s by a Beatrix Havergall as a school of horticulture for ladies, but apart from that I'll not waffle on about the background as the website can do this better than I ever can.

No; I shall let the photos below (oh dear quite a few) do the talking with a caption or two as they unfurl the wonderful few hours we spent in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside. It fair put a spring in our step, so much so Julie bought me 2 pots of snowdrops grown from the garden. These can be added to snowdrops she bought me last year from a visit to Lacock in Wiltshire.

In the garden centre this strange looking chap is as good a place as any to begin the visit (I mean the one below)

Still a week or so from opening properly, but lovely to see.

These "snowflakes" Leucojum vernum were just coming into flower too. These are quite difficult to establish (almost impossible if not in the green) but I have foolishly given myself a task to grow some at home. To that end I've ordered 3 bulbs for a princely sum from a specialist in Somerset. They're due to arrive any day soon. I can't wait.

Winter aconites were a welcome splash of yellow

But I still love my snowdrops. Nothing in my mind speaks of a positive year ahead as the emergence of these hardy bulbs.

One side of the garden is bordered by the River Thame

But let's return to snowdrops for a final time.....

But the garden is so much more. This is the entrance to the yew henge. Mind you that obelisk looks as though it had a good night last night.

It contained a friend too, sunning itself in the now warm (for January) sunshine

Inside the "henge" it is quite structured and formal. I love these obelisks against the clipped yew. In a few months they'll be obliterated by verdant foliage, but now they stand proud in the watery sun.

Viewed from a distance it is hard to believe this was January 30th. The strong structure of the garden made every nook and cranny worth a second look ....

... such as through this yew window

And being a quiet time of year with no one else around, wildlife came and played, like this chaffinch foraging in and out of this conifer.

Just a short walk from the yew henge is this, well in my mind anyway, a wonderful mix of formal topiary and unkempt. I love it.

I wonder what is through the gate?

The most glorious and tranquil garden room. This is, as its composition may suggest, the Formal Garden. I was bowled over by it. The clipped box, a central parterre, the statue, and at the end 2 heavily clipped beech trees. Fabulous.

I couldn't find out anything about this column. I wonder if it is a very recent addition. On the opposite side is Arabic script. But the sentiments match the garden, peace and tranquility to all.

This view just encapsulated to the two of us, symmetry of garden design, the curve of the heather, the perpendicular of the conifers, and beyond the linear of the hedge.

Just a flight of fancy at the Waterlily Canal

This photo was taken from the Alpine Garden but I loved the presumably accidental reference to the skeletal tree in winter by the skeletal espalier trained fruit trees in winter.

Oops sorry more snowdrops I'm afraid, this time in amongst Cornus spp

Just perfect on a winter's day: bold structures to enhance the passage of the winter months

Last photo, of the Classical Herbaceous Border. I took this because of something Julie said. What she loves about gardening, and after all it's her profession, is that the border above is pretty much empty of any activity. Just the odd shoot poking through. But as Julie said, below the surface of the soil, there is activity, and soon that activity will bust through and give yet another dazzling display in the warmer months. Gardening is about cycles, the yearly and seasonal cycle and that's what makes it so exciting at this time of the year, it's like being at the start of a big adventure. Roll on the spring.

Anyway just to finish the day off, we got home and it was still light. Wonderful. One job I had to do was decant half of the industrial-sized quantity of peanuts I'd bought off the Internet. We'll have birds who can't fly at this rate. Anyway Molly is preparing herself by the looks of it for these non flying birds. But best of all Julie did some gardening for the first time this year at home and at 5.20pm the evening sky was still light enough to see. February next week.


  1. Excellent tour, Andrew. I love to visit gardens in winter too (as you know).

    Much caught my eye here but the view through the gate to the garden room won me over. I loved the box/yew Pyramids through squares and the mushroom shaped clipped trees (beech?) at the end. Of course getting previews of snowdrops is always a treat.

    Good luck with your snowflakes. I bought mine loose (in the green) direct from Cambo two years ago. They do mail order too. I've seen the packing area with them being prepared for posting. Yours will be challenge perhaps to grow, but I too like gardening challenges. Great to see you getting out and about :-D

  2. I did enjoy a virtual walk around this lovely garden. Thank you.
    There is so much promise in those winter shapes and structures. I love the snowdrops amongst the red stems of the dogwood.

  3. With my Nurses hat on I diagnose severe wind looking at that face........the one on the wall, not the one leaning on the gate!

  4. What a fun tour. It doesn't matter when you tour a garden you learn something and see beauty. THank you for the tour. I see that I need to plant some snowdrops under the cornus here. What a great idea. I am always amazed at those big yew hedges. There aren't many places around here that have them. I love the window through the yew. I have tried to replicate this in my tiny garden. Not with yews but with vines that I have clipped and trained around a frame. Reading this makes me itchy to get outside and do some work. I could always pick up sticks. That doesn't sound too glamorous but it would be helpful. I could rake the duff back into the flower beds. The robins have tossed so much into the pathways. The poor things are desperate for something to eat. It has been a long hard winter here. More bad weather predicted for today. Sigh~~

  5. Pete: definitely worth a visit, maybe in a month or two it'll be cracking

    Shirl: you have me worried now with my snowflakes. Given my heavy sticky and cold cley I may try and grow them in a large pot, with the snowdrops I have.

    Dartford Warbler : it was a stunning sight seeing the white and cornus stems together.

    Goosey : I think the chap below is a bit windswept too... too many cheese scones!

    Lisa: I'd not seen snowdrops in cornus before and it was wonderful. stay indoors if the weather is bad and read through the seed catalogues ready for warmer days

  6. Marvellous tour Andrew and thank you. A new venue for me so now on my "to visit" list :D

  7. Tricia: you will enjoy it I'm sure. I will look forward to your tour in the coming months hopefully.

  8. So nice to see the Snowdrops and a lovely place to visit Andrew and your photos illustrate it beautifully. I have been and really should go again. I loved the photo of the Waterlily Canal and also the skeletal tree with the skeletal espalier trained fruit trees, it has a sculptural look about it and I find sculpture exciting. It almost looks like an art installation or 'land art' which I think is the more correct term as it is outside. Talking of art if you get the chance I urge you to go to Art in Action which is held annually in the grounds of Waterperry. I have been twice and loved it. It is held in July and features artists from many disciplines and from all over the world demonstrating and selling their work and really is well worth a visit.

  9. Shysongbird: I saw in the events brochure Art in Action it looked pretty good, so will make a date to pop along and have a look at it in July. Good for inspiration if nothing else. I like your phrase 'land art' btw.

  10. Hola
    Qué bonitos lugares. Estoy mirando sus fotos, soy de Costa Rica. Saludos.