Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Box hedges and cottage gardens

click photo to enlarge
The English cottage garden is a thing of beauty. It features a large variety of traditional flowers planted in beds and borders, against walls and next to fences and hedges: varieties such as hollyhocks, delphinium, rudbeckia, geranium, dianthus, euphorbia, yarrow and rambling roses. Tall species at the back of the border peep over lower plants at the front. Paths of brick, stone, gravel and grass meander through the garden, past the lawns, greenhouse, cold-frames and vegetable plot. Apple and plum trees, together with gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes provide the fruit for pies, bottling and jam. The appearance of this kind of garden is one of control being imposed on gentle disorder.

However, there is a regular addition to the cottage garden that sometimes seems at odds with the overall feel of this kind of planting, and that is the formal box hedge. It has its origins, I suppose, in the disciplined parterres and symmetry of the formal gardens of the sixteenth century, but how and why it found its way into the cottage garden is a mystery to me. Its straight, closely clipped lines and sharp shadows contrast strongly with the riotous drifts of pastel flowers and the anarchic growth of climbing roses. Perhaps that is the point of it in this context - to lend a little formality to the pleasing patchwork and to demonstrate that the gardener can and does exercise control, even though, in some areas it may not look like it!

Today's photograph was taken at Barnsdale Gardens in Rutland, and features in their cottage garden, one of thirty seven small garden layouts that inspire the many visitors who go there each year.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/640
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On