Being inspired by Barnsley House Gardens

Way, way back in the day, I went to visit Barnsley House with a gardening chum who was particularly interested in potagers at the time.  My memory is a little hazy so I cannot remember if this was as a part of one of our garden-bothering weekends away or if it was a trip there and back in a day, but I remember the visit fondly and we loved exploring the gardens together.  I think this is probably getting on for twenty years ago (yes, I know, I don't look old enough to have visited anywhere that long ago.........)  Fast forward a few years and I visited again, I reckon around 2008 ish.  This time it was a day organised by a gardening magazine and we had a tour by the head gardener and a nice lunch.   So when the Garden Media Guild said they were organising a day at Barnsley House I thought I was due a return visit. 
From the moment I arrived I knew it was going to be a special day.  Our base for the morning was the Temple Garden, which was the perfect setting for us to gather as a group, have our catch-up chats, meet members of the group I had not met before and also have our talks from the Head Gardener, Richard Gatenby and Davina Wynn-Jones, Rosemary Verey's daughter.

The gardens were designed and developed by Rosemary Verey from the 1950s until her death in 2001.  Rosemary was an internationally reknowned garden designer and writer and her gardens remain important.
As ever I am not going to give a detailed tour of the gardens but give a flavour of what there is to see.  Barnsley House is now a hotel and spa; the gardens are possible to visit if you are not a guest as they offer private garden tours (see their website for details).
A key feature of the gardens, I think, is the use of topiary.  It gives structure throughout the garden.
These structural aspects of the garden are very important, I loved this corridor of pleached trees.
They frame one of the many vistas of the garden.  The sight lines in the garden work well, you are drawn along paths and tempted to explore this way and that.  This vista leads into the laburnum walk, a famous part of the garden where the yellow laburnum flowers are offset perfectly by an underplanting of alliums.  Laburnums are shortlived trees and in 2015 the original arch was showing its age.  It was decided it was time to replace it and so the trees were removed and new ones replanted.  This means that the arch is still work in progress at the moment, but good things are worth waiting for and soon it will look return to its former glory.
The planting in the borders is soft and romantic.  We wandered this way and that,
we got fascinated by the details, such as this climber that covers the side wall that was covered in bees.  I have forgotten the name of it (sorry), I was too busy looking at the bees.
We spent some time looking at the pottager, I love the pottager, it is to me what a vegetable plot should look like and even as I write this I know I have never tried to emulate this and wonder why.  It really is something I need to think about more.
The devil is in the detail and I am obsessing a little with woven willow fences; look at this one, isn't it a small thing of beauty and wonder?  Again it goes onto that list of what I want to do.  
and when everyone else was looking at the veg beds that provide food for the hotel kitchen, I got distracted by poppies.

As mentioned above we were joined on the day by Rosemary Verey's daughter, Davina.  Davina lives just along the lane from Barnsley House and has a herb garden/nursery Herbs for Healing.  Davina invited us to go and see her garden if we had the time, so we made time, it was an invitation not to be missed.
I was so glad I did make the time.
The garden is a joy of herbs, there is no other way of putting it.
This feature at the end of the garden,
made with the most fantastic fence of big chunks of tree (technical term).  This again I found totally inspirational.  I spent a lot of time looking at it and thinking this could be achieved in a smaller space.  I had fence-love.
I loved the nursery generally,
it was a relaxed and beautiful space.

We then went back to the hotel where we were treated to a very nice lunch and a talk from Davina about her mother and her mother's work.

Then we moved on up the road to The Little House, which is one of Rosemary Verey's first complete garden designs.
There was the structure we had seen at Barnsley House, look at this simple but so effective use of box balls in a narrow space.
This shady area makes a superb parterre.
and as ever the Cotswold stone walls set off planting perfectly.
I loved this use of pleached trees.  Apparently the shade they cast makes underplanting a challenge, and Bergenia Jack Frost has met this challenge well.
Simple is often best- this row of perfumed peonies against a wall stopped us all in our tracks.  So easy to do, so effective.
and then there is the pottager,
possibly one of the most beautiful spaces I have ever seen.
every nook and cranny used to great effect.

My overwhelming thoughts from the day were around the inspiration I had gained.  There are few greater ways to spend a day of garden-bothering than the ones that make you go home and re-evaluate your approach to your own garden.  Every day is a learning day.
I finish with my l'idee fixe for the day: ligustrum ovalifolium (golden privet) lollipops, simple and effective and just begging to be copied.

I have to give my thanks to the Garden Media Guild for organising the day, to the Head Gardener and staff at Barnsley House and to the owners of The Little House.


  1. Amazing photos and a pleasure to read this blog. Thanks for bringing Barnsley House to my attention. Beautiful.

  2. What a fabulous and inspirational garden to visit: so many books to explore and ideas to think about. I totally see why you had fence envy and what about that arch? Just charming. Thanks for the tour.

  3. So nice you were able to visit Barnsley House and The Little House Gardens. I enjoyed the tour in the gardens very much, the more because I admired Rosemary Verey very much and have all her book in my library. Thank you for your comments on this garden.
    Regards, Janneke

  4. Loved to see the garden again! I also visited barnsley house about 20 years ago. A beautiful inspiring garden. Thanks for sharing Hetty

    1. Thanks, they are both wonderful gardens, I did feel lucky to be able to visit them both.


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