Gardens through the letterbox…

A brightly coloured old postcard on a market stall caught my eye the other day , and it turned out to be one of a series of “Famous Old Gardens” produced sometime in the very early 20thc by the firm of Raphael Tuck.

detail from a card of Drummond Castle

This series of cards are all in a very distinctive style, so I decided to track down Mr Tuck and more of his garden postcards to see if  they’d make some light reading for the Saturday morning breakfast table, and indeed they do!

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Anglesey Abbey

Anglesey Abbey Gardens with a Lady in White on a Grass Path holding a Parasol, by Edward Seago, 1949. National Trust

Just under a century ago two wealthy Anglo-American brothers, fanatical about horse racing bought a stud farm near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. They also  wanted to enjoy the life of the huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’ set in the English countryside, and so looked for a suitable country house within relatively easy travel of Newmarket racecourse. In 1926 they ended up buying Anglesey Abbey a few miles north east of Cambridge for use during the summer months. They also agreed that whoever married first should sell his share in the estate to the other.

The brothers, Huttleston and Henry Broughton began an immediate and very sympathetic restoration of the house, and later extending it further. By 1966 when Huttleston died Anglesey Abbey also had a garden that was inspirational. Graham Thomas, then the Garden Adviser to the National Trust which had just been bequeathed the estate wrote:      “In these islands I have not seen any garden which resembles this huge layout. Its conception owes much to the gentle magnificence of the English landscape school of the 18thc but with its numerous formal vistas, often terminated or enhanced by valuable and ancient statuary, vases, urns and the like, it strikes an earlier note. At the same time the more intimate gardens around the house are modern in treatment [Gardeners Chronicle 23rd August 1967].  John Sales, Thomas’s successor at the Trust says it is the only post-modern garden he knows.”

The South Front, DM 2013

Read on to find out why…

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The Winter Garden

The Birch Grove at Anglesey Abbey, photo by Edward Moss

An after-dark trip to see the winter light show at Anglesey Abbey just before Christmas made me think about the origins of gardens especially designed and planted for the more inhospitable months of the year.  There are plenty of them these days – presumably to keep the visitor numbers up – as was certainly the case at Anglesey, where timed  tickets for the evening were quickly sold out and there were even queues going round the narrower parts of the garden –  but I had no idea when this idea started.

Anglesey Abbey, photo by Edward Moss

It’s not that there aren’t lots of references and even books about gardening in winter – there are –  but most searches for “winter gardens”  give results about  giant Victorian conservatory gardens or just list nice places to go for a winter stroll rather than those  have been specifically created to make the most of  the season.

Back home I began checking, looking I suppose for a  potted history of the Winter Garden phenomenon. Interestingly there is no entry for them in Patrick Taylor’s Oxford Companion to the Garden, which is always a good source of basic information, so where next?

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2018 on the blog


Did you realise we’re walking through a Repton landscape?

This is a bonus post to celebrate the fact that it’s now 5 years to the day that I started this blog,  to let you know how its been doing in 2018, and to give you the chance to test your memory with the annual quiz.

Readership  has continued to rise: about 73,000 hits in 2018 compared with 46,000 hits last year,  37,000 in 2016,   25,000 in 2015 and about 7000 in 2014.

How did the National Trust get away with building a toboggan runs through that Grade 2* listed Gothic garden lodge?

There are now 377 signed up subscribers, and this is the 256th post which means I’ve probably written about half a million words of wisdom.  [And with apologies for the terrible captions today].

They’ll never miss just one from their pinetum…

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Goodbye Mr Repton


2018 has been a pretty extraordinary year for Humphry. He has surprised many – if not most of us – by his skill and understanding not just of landscapes and gardens but also by his ability to sell his ideas to clients.  Thanks to the amazing amount of research that has gone on in County Gardens Trusts all round the country during the year  I’ve gone – like most of us I suspect –  from considerable ignorance of his work to  a real appreciation of his significance.   You can read more about these latest discoveries in the range of new publications our local researchers  have produced and which listed on our website.

But all good things come to an end and although I’ve got about another dozen posts on Repton in various stages of completion I think this will be the last for a while to give us all a chance to recover and mitigate the risk of being Humphed out.

This final post seems particularly appropriate because although it’s about a great piece of design, even theatre, it reminds us that  despite his own very high opinion of his ability Humphry didn’t always get his own way.


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