Monday, 4 March 2013

Heale House - one of Wiltshire's secrets - a garden for all seasons

Heale House has had a Japanese garden since the beginning of the 20th century
It's not often you find a garden famous for snowdrops and spring flowers that also boasts a Japanese garden and Harold Peto features, but Heale House near Salisbury has all this and more. I've visited on several occasions throughout the seasons, but it won my heart when I went in search of snowdrops in February, with its perfect waterside location on a tributary of the River Avon. Although wet underground after all the rain, the owners had the foresight to erect boardwalks, which added a certain panache to viewing the bobbing white heads on a chilly, but bracing walk through the grounds.
View of Heale House, acquired by the present family at the end of the 19th century
This is just the beginning of the open season for this garden - next come the swathes of daffodils and tulips which herald the arrival of warmer weather, and in summer the garden is filled with colour and is noted for its musk roses. But it has not always been such a harmonious story here because the handsome 17th century house had a turbulent history in the 19th century, with several changes of ownership and a fire that destroyed much of the building. But stability was restored when Louis Greville bought the property in 1894 and since then Heale has been occupied by successive generations of the same family, who have all nurtured the garden.
Part of Harold Peto's garden design at Heale House - the Knaps terrace
It was the Hon Louis Greville who first realised the potential of this riverside plot. He had lived and worked in Tokyo and installed the Japanese garden, complete with its replica Nikko bridge and tea house at the beginning of the 20th century. He also employed Harold Peto, who lived at Iford Manor, to redesign the garden areas near the house. Not all Peto's plans were used, but his hallmarks are obvious in the Italianate terrace overlooking the river at the Eastern edge of the property and the formal garden adjacent to the house. 
The open pergola at the lower side of the tunnel garden in mid summer
When the Rasch family arrived at Heale, Lady Anne - who gardened here for 40 years - put her stamp on the grounds by adding the Tunnel garden with its long pergola and the apple tree tunnels leading to the immaculately trimmed box balls and dipping pond. It's this well-designed kitchen garden, south of the house, that takes centre stage in the summer months.
Enclosed on three sides by walls of brick and cob, the remaining side features the open pergola, which bursts into bloom in May with spectacular yellow laburnum and purple wisteria displays, followed by clematis in the later summer months. There's a wide tunnel of espaliered fruit trees at the centre, producing apples and pears and the productive kitchen garden is divided into four quarters, with with the dipping pond (left) at the centre. 
Three of the four sections provide fruit and vegetables for the house. The fruit tunnels are underplanted with cool colours and look really spectacular when the tulips are in flower. But careful planning ensures that there's also plenty of colour and interest throughout the summer months.
Today the garden at Heale is masterminded by Frances Rasch, who married Guy Rasch in 1996 and has worked hard ever since maintaining and nurturing the eight acres that her mother-in-law put so much heart into with the help of two gardeners. She's carrying on a long family gardening tradition here at the property and each year the garden improves further, as she replaces old plants, introduces new colour schemes and puts her own stamp on the landscape.
The garden at Heale House retains interest and colour throughout the seasons
Heale House opens its doors in February for the snowdrops and remains open until the end of September. Open Wednesday-Saturday, 10.00-17.00 and Sundays from eleven until four. Free admission to members of Historic Houses Association. There is a well-stocked nursery and cafe. Other gardens nearby include Houghton Lodge, just a stone's throw away and also spectacular in springtime and Mottisfont Abbey, famous for its roses.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for yet another wonderful garden tour.

    FlowerLady

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  2. Charlotte, Great tour and history today. I so enjoy these types of postings, always learn something. Plus with all the snow that is still here along the shores of Lake Michigan in USA, I need a "lift" of the beautiful gardens in your posting. Thanks for lifting my spirits today. Jack

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  3. Thanks for the garden tour. It's so nice to see the gardens maintained all these years. Beautiful!

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  4. What a gorgeous garden..and so much inspiration!

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