On this first day of spring, with a gusty southerly wind blowing along the Thames, an opportunity to call into Ham House & Gardens.
We’ve been neighbours since moving to Teddington in 2000 and the gardens are a familiar haunt – but it was only last year that the interiors were explored. They are a furnished and decorated treasure trove – something of a time capsule for the 17th Century. Originally built in 1610 with a history intertwined through the next eight decades, closely following the Stuart monarchy, through civil war and the restoration of the monarchy and Charles II. Then surviving war, fashion and neglect, virtually untouched for three centuries!
The gardens are formal, with open symmetrical grass parterres and wide terraces, enclosed diamond pattern planted parterres bounded by yew and pleached tree, then a wilderness, productive garden and wisteria clad orangery.
Fashionable in the 17th Century, many elements of the garden design remain current (or timeless) – formal symmetry; rhythm and repetition; vistas and focal points; enclosure; the use of ornament, furniture, containers and garden buildings; an over-arching iron clad structure coupled with equally clipped, cropped and defined planting – and elsewhere a relaxed informality. And roses too. And of course there was tulip mania…
Even a garden as grand as this can give you ideas for your own garden. Deconstruct the design, see how the plants are used and how they grow. Make notes and take photographs.
Grand ideas there may be, but you might just come home with a simple plan for a terracotta pot filled with prostrate rosemary, though it would have been better if they had chosen a more attractive pot than this modern Yorkshire Long Tom. Surely there was something with a bit more character lying about. They should have gone to Petersham Nurseries.
Follow these links for more information from The National Trust and from History Today