|The topiary garden at Levens Hall, Cumbria|
Levens Hall in Cumbria is billed as "the best topiary garden in the world" and, having visited just this week, I have no doubt it's true. The original gardens were designed in the 17th century by King James II's gardener, Guillaume Beaumont, and have been maintained ever since by the owners of the Hall. Today they're certainly the oldest topiary gardens in the world, and I suspect that having visited, few of us would be brave enough to dispute their claim to be "the best"!
|Glances of the topiary at Levens Hall - where huge, immaculately clipped hedges dominate the garden|
Located in the heart of Cumbria, which has more than its fair share of beautiful gardens, parts of Levens Hall date back to the 13th century. The gardens came later, and the first records date back to 1694 when Guillaume Beaumont became involved in their design at the behest of the owner, Colonel James Grahme. Well-known English garden writer, Patrick Taylor, says he "laid out a feast of topiary" and describes it as "phantasmagoric" in his book about the great gardens of Britain and Ireland.
But whilst the topiary at Levens Hall is amazing, credit must also be given to the striking underplanting, enclosed by low lying box hedges - at this time of year, there's a dazzling display of yellow and purple pansies. Later in the season these are replaced by equally spectacular bedding plants. The result is a stunning display that stops you in your tracks. I have rarely seen a garden that makes such a startling first impression!
|Amazing topiary with impressive underplanting at Levens Hall|
|You'll find glorious borders, a herb garden, fountain garden and nuttery, in addition to the topiary at Levens Hall|
Credit must go to the owners of this remarkable garden, because they are not relying on the topiary to keep them in the list of "Must See British Gardens". Once you've finished gasping over the ancient, immaculately trimmed trees and the underplanting, you move on to the fountain garden, herb garden and nuttery. There are also spectacular herbaceous borders and a pleached lime tunnel. This really is a spectacular garden, unlike any other I've seen. Open Sunday to Thursday from April to mid-October, 10.00 am - 5.00 pm. Free to Historic Houses Association members.