Saturday, 11 May 2013

Rosemary Verey's Cotswold garden - Barnsley House

Barnsley House, former home of Rosemary Verey, is now an exclusive hotel
There are some gardens that you have to see, and Barnsley House - former home of Rosemary Verey - is one of them. The property now operates as an exclusive hotel, where the gardens are maintained primarily for guests, but there are a series of open days on the horizon, and if you can find the time to visit you should, because it's an iconic garden, and you'll soon see why this grand dame of English horticulture so appealed to aspiring gardeners in Britain in the last part of the 20th century.
Although the garden is quite small, there are wonderful vistas throughout, giving the illusion of a larger space
Rosemary's husband David Verey, inherited the 17th century manor house from his family in 1951 and together they set about creating the garden that is there today. David was a distinguished architectural historian, and did much of the heavy work in the Barnsley garden, including construction of all the buildings, like the neo-classical temple below, which presides over a pond filled with lilies in the summer. But it was Rosemary, who created the garden that came to be so celebrated in the last quarter of the 20th century, with her unusual ideas and clever planting.
The Temple Garden at Barnsley, featuring a neo-classical building reconstructed by David Verey
It's the clever use of space, garden ornament and grand features borrowed from other larger gardens, but scaled down for a smaller space, that makes Barnsley House so unique. The much-photographed laburnum arch is based on a larger version at Bodnant in North Wales and her potager is modelled on Villandry in France. Combine this with her planting skills, which favoured herbaceous plants, bulbs and clipped topiary and you've got a garden that's not just pleasing to the eye, but also extremely memorable. 
The site of the famous laburnum arch at Barnsley - planted with tulips in April
I don't have wonderful pictures of the laburnum arch in flower because when I first went to Barnsley, it was past its peak (below), but visit on one of the open days in the next few weeks and you'll be able to catch this for yourself. When I visited last week, it was planted with tulips (above) and you could see the structure of the arch, but the best is yet to come.
The famous laburnum arch at Barnsley, modelled on a larger one at Bodnant
When you visit Barnsley you'll also be able to see why Rosemary Verey had so much influence on British garden design right up until her death in 2001, with her various books - "The Englishwoman's Garden", "The Classic Garden", and "The Garden in Winter". Today the garden is tended by head gardener, Richard Gatenby, who worked alongside Verey in her latter years. He has continued to nurture the garden and made many changes during the last couple of seasons, giving the garden a cleaner, fresher and less cluttered look.
The potager is filled with spring bulbs in April and May
If you visit, don't forget to cross the lane at the far side of the garden to take in the potager, which is a delight throughout the seasons  (even in the rain). It makes its debut in springtime as a canvas of bulbs, with produce interspersed, and moves on to become a charming, scented lavender haven in summer. Espaliered fruit trees are underplanted with flowers and low, shaped box gives structure and form to this mini Villandry. 
Rosemary Verey favoured yellow and purple plants in her potager in high summer
Barnsley House first opened to the public in the 1970's for the National Gardens Scheme and by the time Rosemary Verey died, the number of visitors exceeded 40,000 a year. But that has all changed since the house became a hotel. Now it opens for just a few days each year - with three open days later this year - on the 18th May (10.30-17.00) for the annual Barnsley Village Festival, and the 4th June and 13th August for charity, but check website for details.
Clever use of space makes the garden at Barnsley seem much larger than it is
When David Verey died in 1984, Rosemary turned her hand to garden design, writing books and lecturing around the world. She was entirely self taught, but her skills became so celebrated that she was asked by both Prince Charles and Elton John for advice on their gardens. Go and visit Barnsley House for yourself and you will soon see why this English woman gained such a formidable reputation in gardening circles. There are many wonderful gardens nearby, including Cerney House and Misarden Manor if you fancy more than one garden visit in a day.

13 comments:

  1. Amazing feeling! I love the informal touch of it.

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  2. Thanks again for another lovely garden tour.

    FlowerLady

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  3. Every time I visit your blog, I get the feeling of "have to go and visit, now!" But I am too far away to follow my desires as often as I would like to. Hope you are ok, thank you for such an inspiring post, again!

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  4. I visited Barnsley House several years ago before it was turned into a hotel and it left a lasting impression, particularly the much photographed potager. It is beautiful, but on just the right scale. She was a wonderful designer.

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  5. One of my favorite gardens, though I have only visited through her books. I think her style is my favorite as well- formal lines with informal planting. Beautiful photos!

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  6. Thanks for the visit. I won't be going this year but hope to in the future. We did toy with staying there but it was really over the top pricey.

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  7. Wow! It's a stunning garden. Lucky hotel guests!

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  8. That's a great write up! Such an influential gardener and gardens

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  9. It's a really lovely garden, surprisingly small! Lovely photographs (as usual!)!!!!

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  10. Thanks for sharing your visit with us, looks like a magical place. It always amazes me how garden design can set the tone, and mood of a place.

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  11. Wonderful garden views! I have long admired Rosemary Verey's gardening style. That is one hotel I wish I could stay in!

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