Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Gravetye Manor

I absolutely adore visiting gardens (as if you hadn't guessed!)

There's always so much to see, learn and admire (plus the odd cup of tea and cake!).

The English have been described as a nation of shopkeepers; I think it's more accurate to say we are a nation of gardeners.

Like Capability Brown, whose individual style was famously copied on the Continent and beyond, there existed a later Englishman whose huge contribution and influence to the evolution of English gardens has largely gone unrecognised; William Robinson. 

He lived at Gravetye Manor from 1884 and created the wonderful gardens which have been, after a period of neglect, maintained in his original concept.

He was a pioneer of the English natural garden style and influenced many of those, including Gertrude Jekyll, who followed. 

A gardener, botanist and writer, his ideas were, for that time, quite radical and innovative. 

"In this, as in other matters pertaining to fitness and beauty, each place is treated according to its own character. A garden should grow out of its own site if we are to have the best of it. One should think of the spot and what can best be done with it ..."
June 1918

Pretty much as garden design theory exits today; think genius loci, Beth Chatto "right plant, right place" and the more relaxed New Perennial movement.

The plan below shows the layout and scale of his gardens.

Map reproduced from http://www.gravetyemanor.co.uk/manor/garden

When other gardeners were attempting to subdue and control Robinson saw a different approach; a less formal and more naturalistic style.

The garden flows and ebbs beautifully on many different levels and I absolutely loved the unusual shape and design of the kitchen garden.

and the fabulous gate at the northern end: beautiful design.


Now part of the Relais & Chateaux group the garden is only accessible to hotel residents or diners. I have to own up and say I had more than a cup of tea or cake here - but the cost of a lunch is well worth it to be able to access the gardens.

It was both illuminating and enchanting. 

And the food's pretty good too!

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