Lowther Castle: growing in the ruins

You may be surprised to hear that us gardeners are very busy at this time of year. The lawns and weeds may have slowed down, but there is a lot to do in preparation for spring/summer 2019. As the nights draw in, time is precious and we are constantly busy with orders, deliveries, setting out, digging, planting, mulching, pruning and staking.

I therefore took the opportunity last month to get in a mini break to The Lakes before the chaos of autumn planting began. An early Friday morning visit to Lowther Castle in Penrith, Cumbria was undoubtedly the highlight.

A dramatic sky sets off the gothic silhouette of Lowther Castle’s remains.

Having heard great things about Dan Pearson’s 21st century design amongst the ruins I am pleased to say my expectations of ‘The Parterre’ and ‘The Courtyard’ were exceeded. The ruins themselves are breathtaking, the views are stunning, the scale is immense and the planting design ties it all together to enhance the overall sense of place.

Stunning views across ‘The Lawn’ from ‘The Parterre’

Spectacular planting including Hakonechloa, Actea, Cornus, Acer, Hosta, Hydrangea, Heuchera and various climbers within the walls of the ruins creates a feeling of a place lost to nature.

In late October there was lots of autumn interest in the garden

The best thing about Lowther is that it is not a restoration project. Instead it is more of an interpretation project: many of the the semi-forgotten parts of the garden including a rockery and Japanese Garden from the Victorian era are still in tact, as is an ancient Yew Walk, but the new parts of the garden are exactly that, new.

View of the Bampton Valley from the Western Terrace

I am already looking forward to returning to Lowther once the new Rose Garden is complete, I’m sure it will be a sight to behold (and inhale)!

You can follow progress on the Rose Garden at Lowther here

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Thinking outside the box…

Earlier this year, to our dismay, we discovered an outbreak of the dreaded ‘box blight’ at one of our regular clients gardens. Sadly the symptoms of the fungal infection were abundant in a parterre; designed and planted over 25 years ago!

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Before the blight…

After long deliberations it was decided that one half of the mirror-image parterre (the badly affected side) would have to be dug up and destroyed to prevent spread of the disease to the rest of the garden. The other half however (exhibiting only minor patches of dieback) could potentially be saved through a careful treatment and feeding programme.

This provided us with a unique design opportunity; instead of replicating the existing arrangement with a box alternative and waiting another 25 years for it to look “as good”, we decided to literally ‘think outside the box’.

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The plan: existing box parterre to the right, new oregano planting to the left.

A new planting design was based on the negative imprint of the original plan, whereby the hedges became paths and the gaps became planting. The design was planted with Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ (100 plants exactly) to create both height and colour contrast.

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Before…

 

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Marking out…

 

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Planting calculations turned out perfect!

 

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The finished product- can’t wait for the oregano to fill out the design!

From design table to coffee table

Spring is always our fun time of year,  completing gardens that were on the design table last year.

This courtyard garden was a lovely task. Set within a magnificent old coach house built when Cromwell was around! The shape of the area lent itself to a formal concept, with some ebullient planting to add colour and height, giving the impression of greater space.

 

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This was our first project together which was great fun. Emmy’s skills with surveying and mine with planting were already proving a great combination. Once all the measurements were finished, Emmy transcribed them onto CAD. Vectorworks CAD is proving invaluable with its efficiency and precision – (mind you, this does depend on the operator!).

Master Plan Detail

With no access for small machinery, the project was labour intensive. First the beds were marked out to show which cobbles needed removing and which frost damaged bricks needed replacing.

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New soil was brought in and the beds were left to settle for a couple of months

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The fun part…. Martin placing the Obelisks and Emmy weeding and reorganising the existing beds which already had a great colour scheme and plenty of choice plants.

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All hands on deck …..
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And finally …

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