Rosemary Verey was one of Britain’s most revered gardeners and garden designers, and although she died ten years ago, her legacy still lives on in the gardens of Barnsley House in Gloucestershire. The house, built in 1697 and surrounded by 11 acres of grounds, of which 4 are formal, is now a very smart 18 bedroomed hotel. Yet it is to the gardens that many people return to, year after year, for the spirit of Barnsley’s redoubtable, former chatelaine lies still in the timeless beauty of their structure and composition.
I love Barnsley particularly for its knot garden, its very famous laburnum walk, its potager and its terraces. The meadows in the distance are wild and fluid, in contrast to the structure and discipline of the rest of the garden rooms, where the planting is so rich, dense and mature you can barely see soil.
Rosemary went to live at Barnsley House in 1951, and she gardened there for half a century. During that time she was also a prodigious designer of other people’s gardens, and three of her most famous clients were The Prince of Wales, Elton John and the New York Botanic Gardens.
The head gardener at Barnsley House is Richard Gatenby and he is carrying on in the tradition that Rosemary laid down, with his own input, interpretation and energy. At its height, the garden had 30 000 visitors per annum, many of whom came from overseas just to see it. Some garden historians believe that the secret draw of this garden is that Rosemary Verey took grand and imposing ideas from public gardens but made them look accessible and achievable in smaller, private spaces. The peace, quiet and harmony around you will take away all your worldly cares. Above all, as far as foodies are concerned, the kitchen garden will instantly make you want to go and plant your own fruit and vegetables and herbs, so immediate is its reach and influence on the senses.
If you love abundant, beautiful, painterly kitchen gardens, and would like to learn how to achieve this level of beauty, then I am very pleased to report that this late spring and summer the management are arranging a number of talks. Organic farmer Charles Dowding is going to tell us all about his “no dig” approach to vegetable gardening on Thursday 12th May and on Thursday 14th July there is going to be a very interesting historical talk about the impact of lady gardeners in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, when kitchen gardens were, of course, in their heyday. If the herb garden is of greater interest to you, then Rosemary Verey’s daughter is going to talk all about the healing power of herbs from her garden next door to Barnsley House, on 30th June 2011.
To get further information, the website details are: www.barnsleyhouse.com