31 May 2010

Petersham Open Gardens 2010

Petersham Village (exact location open to dispute) had an open gardens day recently that allowed me to pry into and enjoy several private gardens. The morning was rushed, due to an appointment at Glyndebourne later the same day, but I managed to get to all the important gardens in the two short hours that I had.

A much anticipated newcomer to the open gardens scheme was Montrose House famous locally as the former home of Tommy Steele.

A large part of the garden can be seen from the top deck of the 65 bus so the large lawn, terrace area, ruined castle and tennis courts were not a surprise.

What was unexpected was the large wild area in the far corner well away from the road and hidden from the rest of the garden by a line of trees.

It is a wonderful contrast to the formality of the rest of the garden which is strewn with a large number of statues of children, geese, sheep, a monkey, a heron and a man on a donkey. There may have been more that I missed. These fake signs of life brought action to the garden where there was none.

I had been to Elm Lodge, once the residence of Charles Dickens, before and had not intended to go back to it this time but it was on the way to another garden and my recollection of it was that it was worth a quick revisit.

And it was.

The lodge sits in the middle of the garden and there is something to see on every side, including from chickens and pigs that are grown for home use.

My favourite section is the shady north side where a tiered water feature adds interest, coolness and a steady trickling sound to detract from the hum of the cars on the nearby road.

I also love the fact that it is black, accepting that it is in a dark area and choosing to make the most of that rather than trying to deny the fact with brash colour.

Watching over the top level of the pond are two motionless herons.

One stands out in the open on the edge of the pool relying on its dark metallic finish to keep it hidden.

The other is painted brightly and so chooses the long grass for its cover.

The keen observer can just make out the steady head patiently pointed at the pond for the fish that are never to come to satisfy a hunger that will never be there.

The appropriate stillness of the herons helps to seal the tranquillity of this corner of the garden.

My clear favourite of the gardens is a complete contrast to the established mature gardens of the old lodges and manors.

The Glass House is a relatively new building and it has the garden to match.

The main part, that sits between two wings of the house, is a formal courtyard with an unbelievably pristine lawn in the centre surrounded by white walls on all four sides.

Planted against these is a wonderful collection of architectural plants with deep green leaves that use the white to show off their shapes proudly.

Benches on each side allow you to rest and look across the garden from different perspectives and to keep away from the bleaching sun as it parades around the Summer sky.

I will be back to enjoy these, and the other gardens great and small, next time the kind people of Petersham thrown open their gates. This really is a treat worth waiting two years for.

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