Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Rare jewel - a Gertude Jekyll garden

Monday was Open Day at the Gregg School in Southampton, a fundraiser by the Friends of Townhill Park Gardens to help support the ongoing maintenance of the school's heritage. As the local bonsai society having a long association with the school, we support their Open Days by putting up a small display. A bonus is that it's a great venue with coffee and cakes to be had. (Of course I have ulterior motives.)

But I digress. The schools gardens are more than noteworthy. Alas, my history of the place is sketchy, but here goes with what little I can remember. So don't jump on me for any inaccuracies, OK?

Lord Louis Swaythling engaged Gertrude Jekyll to design the gardens in 1912. The estate was sold in 1948, with eventual degredation to the premises resulting over time, before the school took over what was left of the property. The restoration to the garden started in 1977. The house is a Grade II listed building, so any changes are strictly controlled.

At what would have been the old house's main entrance and courtyard (now a parking lot), stands this magnificent cedar. Imagine this big guy as a bonsai:

Or even this horse chestnut situated along the drive, which is so old (and so very ginormous), the bottom branches have to be propped up. But what a magnificent sight in spring with all that blossom:

Very few of the 400 gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll are still in existence today. Here is a view of the main path, with the apple orchards to your left. At the bottom are the Herb Garden and the Italian Garden.
In spite of the cold, these students were gracious enough to play us a couple of blues and jazz tunes. The 7-man band hasn't been playing together long, and over time a musician or two leaves on graduation.

The bonsai display was just behind the jazz band, but as the school's gardens are not easily accessible to all, I think we can have a break from the trees now and again, right?

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