By Francoise Murat
Francoise talks us through the second part of her blog on restoring and or renovating period gardens, and how to take on larger projects.
Old, original materials are not always easy to find, but architectural salvage and reclamation yards are a great place to start looking. From bricks to statuary, these can be the best source of reclaimed materials. Try MASCo Architectural Salvage http://www.mascosalvage.com/ based in Stroud and Bath, or consult the Salvo website http://www.salvo.co.uk/ which is the directory for all reclamation companies in the UK. If using new materials is the only option aim to source material which has the best likeness to the original in terms of colour, texture and how it will weather over the years (if you have that information to hand). If in doubt consult your research and primary and secondary drawings, or pictures of materials of the time.
Things do not get easier when it comes to planting. A restoration implies that the original planting plans will be used and that the plants used will be the varieties stated on those plans. If your garden is older than the 1940s it may be difficult at times to source these old varieties as many have been replaced. If your garden dates back to the 18th Century it will be near impossible to find such plants. Most plants grown were from seeds passed on from generation to generation or locally traded at the time. The commercial seed trade did not take off until the 19th century and many of these were from the New World. Such a boom created some rather fanciful planting designs and did not take into account the often arduous maintenance regimes required. People with gardens in past centuries were often well off and thus had the means to hire an army of gardeners to ensure everything looked pristine at all times.
The best course of action for sourcing heritage varieties of plants is to consult heirloom plant and seed nurseries. A Google search should yield some results but not all your planting will be available, and compromises will have to be made. A close match to the variety you are looking for, or close to in characteristics are the next best thing.
If you garden is a re-construction and you want adapt it for the 21st century then you have a rather freer rein. New varieties are often disease resistant and adapted to a changing climate. This means that you can choose the best plants for your soil, for your garden and for the way you live in your garden. Again, a garden designer can design a planting plan which will look like the original, or of the period, but plant it with very 21st century plants that will require as little or as much maintenance as you want.
If your garden is listed, you will need to work with English Heritage and they will advise on the best course of action in regards to the hard landscaping as well as the planting.
If you are interested in the history of the house and the garden at Townhill Park, Rosaleen Wilkinson, a volunteer who helped restore the gardens, has written a book - ‘Townhill Park, The life and Times of a Gertrude Jekyll Garden'. Available from the author on 023-8078 1012 she charts the history of the Montagu family and the long process of restoring and re-building a period garden.
Whether you have found a Gertrude Jekyll under your lawn or just want to re-create a period garden, remember to do all the research at the beginning as this will help you in scheduling the works. A garden historian or archaeologist is recommended if you believe you have a significant historical gem under that lawn. Lastly, period garden restoration and re-construction is not for the faint hearted but can be a most rewarding project. Just make sure the budget and your patience goes beyond installing a lawn!
ProjectBook members articles are published on the Country Life website each week.
“Perils and Pleasures of a period garden part II" was originally published on 7th April 2010 in Country Life’s online Property Blog.
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