5 September 2011

Glyndebourne gardens

It is the quality of the opera that makes Glyndebourne so special but the glorious gardens add greatly to the day through their beauty and diversity.

The further you go from the main building the more that the purpose of the garden changes from simple pleasure to the production of food and flowers for the house.

This is soon apparent if you enter the garden via the path next to the marquee where you are greeted on the left by a wild field, a disordered gaggle of trees, a functioning greenhouse and, if you look closely, some beehives.

The long lake lies quietly behind the trees with a lawn packed with picnickers beyond that but you do not know that yet and can only assume that you have taken a wrong turn and entered a farm by mistake.

Turning to the right reinforces the farmyard view with a busy kitchen garden delivering vegetables and flowers.

This is the only ordered part of the garden. Nowhere else will you find plants neatly arranged in lines or groups.

Moving slowly towards the main house soon brings you to one of the characteristic features of the garden, a high hedge with a jumbled border in front.

I am sure that these borders are planted with great care and attention, it takes great knowledge and skill to grow a garden that looks as though it has grown all by itself.

Behind this hedge is the croquet lawn which boats one of my favourite signs ever that politely asks visitors not to picnic there. Glyndebourne is not the place for a simple "keep of the grass" notice.

On the other side of the main lawn is another hedge and another border, both of which have come under the gardeners' spell in recent year as part of the continual change in the garden.

I like the way that the tops of the hedges are cut in sections to slightly different heights and angles. I suspect that this is done for artistic effect but I like to think that there is a touch of laziness in there too as it would be a lot more work to keep them all level with each other.

Finally we turn our gaze to the right away from the border and towards the house to reassure ourselves that we are indeed in Glyndebourne.

The house has its own charm, thanks to its fluid shape and subtle colour, and the modern roof of the opera house somehow adds to it.

This is also one the garden's finest moments.

A terrace runs along the house with thickly planted borders on either side.

Here the plants are encouraged to grow as tall and wide as they like as if trying to hide the house completely but all that does is make the visage even more attractive.

There is even more to the Glyndebourne garden than I have shown here with even more diversity which is why any visit has to allow plenty of time for a leisurely stroll through it.

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