2020 has been the strangest of years, and as we near its end I’ve been reflecting on the personal highs and lows of the year. I realise with hindsight how lucky I was to get a few days away in the summer, the highlight of which was a visit to Scampston Walled Garden. So, on a dark December day, I thought I’d share with you some summer garden loveliness!
Scampston Hall in North Yorkshire is a 17th century country house set in extensive parkland designed by Capability Brown. While Brown’s landscape is undoubtedly worth a visit, the jewel for me is the walled garden, located within what was originally the kitchen garden. In 1999 the current owners of Scampston commissioned world-renowned plantsman Piet Oudolf to design the garden, and it opened to the public in 2005.
Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf is considered to be a leading figure in the “New Perennial” Movement of landscape design. His designs include drifts of grasses and herbaceous perennials which are selected for their structural rather than flower interest. Oudolf believes in the use of plants that look good in decay as well as in flower – seedheads and stems should provide interest throughout Autumn and Winter. The result is dynamic, rhythmic planting that changes in waves through the seasons.
At Scampston beech hedges divide the walled garden into “rooms” allowing each space to take on its own mood with distinctive planting. Some rooms contain light, airy planting – “Drifts of Grass” for example contains swathes of Molinia grass running through the lawn, which by late summer gives quite a dramatic sense of movement as the flower spikes wave in the breeze. “Perennial Meadow” is a large room in front of a Victorian conservatory and contains informal blocks of perennials, each selected for their leaves, flowers and stems to create an ever-changing scene throughout the year.
In other rooms the planting is more formal – “Silent Garden” contains 24 clipped columns of yew, all 3m tall, symmetrically arranged around a rectangular reflective pool. The restricted planting palette and orderly layout gives this space an incredibly calming atmosphere.
Other rooms contain a mix of the flowing perennials and clipped structural shrubs, which provides a striking juxtaposition. In the long, narrow “Spring and Summer Box Borders”, orderly cubes of box running down the middle of each space are flanked by borders of dynamic seasonal perennials. Finally, in “The Mount” a closely mown pyramid rises up out of a wildflower meadow and provides a superb vantage point from which to appreciate the intricate layout and structure of the whole Walled Garden.
Whilst my photos were taken during the Summer, the garden is stunning all through the seasons and is well worth a visit at any time during its open season from April to October. Fingers crossed that 2021 will allow us all to enjoy more of the UK’s garden gems like Scampston!