Thursday, 22 October 2020 - About Samyoud | Rss

March 2008

The drive down to Capesthorne Hall can be at times described as surreal.

As you travel along, the lake appears below you on the left with the Hall out in front. But depending on the day you will also notice to your left across the lake the dish of the Jodrell Bank telescope.

If the dish is completely tipped it gives the impression of a huge full moon looming up between the trees, giving the hall an even greater air of excitement.

The Hall itself is placed within about one hundred acres of Cheshire countryside which includes the lakes, wood and gardens. The eighteenth century Jacobean style building is the seat of the Bromley-Davenport family who have occupied the land since doomsday time. The present owners, William and Elizabeth Bromley-Davenport, are the latest of eight generations to live here.

Elizabeth, a professional artist in her own right, took me on a tour of the garden to tell me of the alterations they had made to the garden in the last few years and of the plans for the future - Elizabeth was nine when she first visited Capesthorne as a guest of the family, eventually marrying William.

Inevitably work on the house was a major part of the present Bromley-Davenports’ early work at Capesthorne which opened first to the public in 1955. It was really after that date that the garden started to be developed.

Vernon Russel-Smith, landscape gardener and designer, a friend of a family member gave advice on the garden. Elizabeth was always interested in the garden but it was about three years ago when she became serious about it.

She set about having two main borders constructed to be viewed through the great ‘Milanese gates’ and as a focal point at the end of the borders, adjacent to the lake, she added a huge wrought iron gazebo created by the local Siddington blacksmith.

This is one of her favourite parts of the garden because she said ‘it was the first of the present family’s contributions to the garden, the first project from paper to plant’.

The continuity surrounding the various garden projects is supplied by Head Gardener Peter Phillips, a very accomplished gardener who has been at Capesthorne for 20 years. He along with his garden staff continue to do a tremendous job.

Nevertheless looking around the garden you cannot fail to see Elizabeth’s artistic view coming into play.

So I asked her what influenced her in what she did in the garden. She modestly told me she reads magazines and looks at pictures. Also she said after a while she started to understand what gardens were about. I pressed her a little further to tell me about her favourite seasons in the garden which surprised me to a degree.

It would appear that although Elizabeth loves the garden in all seasons her least favourite time is probably summer. She loves the winter because she can appreciate the trunks of the trees along with their skeletons of branches against the sky.

The coloured stems of the dogwoods and similar shrubs are also something she admires.

She is particularly animated by the freshness of spring, the colours and the play of the light at that time of year.As I talk I hear again the voice of the artist coming through. To her the garden is very much the outdoor room. In view of this I asked Elizabeth what was her favourite period in garden history.

She tells me it’s now because the present is contemporary and exciting with seemingly opposing elements being brought together to form harmonious combinations that work.

I then asked about Elizabeth’s favourite plants. She tells me she loves ferns, particularly tree ferns and old English flowers such as roses and herbaceous plants.

She also likes to see mixtures of exotics giving an example of planting bananas with large leaved Hostas, it reminded me a bit of the late Christopher Lloyd’s ideas for his late mother’s rose garden at Great Dixter.

Ultimately I came to ask Elizabeth about plans for the future. At present they are planning a bluebell walk which will meander through a great deal of the woodland.

They are also trying to re-establish the ‘golden glade’, the part of the woodland walk which contains a number of golden trees planted by the aforementioned Vernon Russel-Smith to commemorate the golden wedding of the parents of the present William Bromley- Davenport.

Other plans involve the planting of more trees and another really exciting project, which is in its embryonic stage at the moment, to restore the glasshouse with an adjacent knot garden.

I suppose to an artist such as Elizabeth, projects like this in the garden are similar to a blank canvas - full of exciting possibilities.

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About Sam Youd

Sam started gardening at the age of 8. As a teenager at school he worked part time at a local market garden.  In 1962 he started as an apprentice gardener with Liverpool Parks Department working in all departments, including specialist sections of t... read more