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Monday, July 13, 2015

The Ugly Garden–Over the Hedge

Welcome to a new series – The Ugly Garden. The Mr. and I have been spending a huge amount of time working on the front, back and side yards of Storybook Cottage. Despite our time consuming and heroic efforts it still feels very much like an ugly garden. I know, I know, Rome wasn’t built in a day and sadly, this space has been neglected by the previous owners for many years.

Today’s post is when we finally admitted we were “Over the hedge.”

As well as caring for the hundreds of bushes and trees within Levens Hall grounds, the team works to restore sculptures, some of which are over 300 years old

So let’s talk about hedges. I have been blessed over the years to have seen many stupendous examples of lovely hedges and gardens.

The Versailles gardens took 40 years to complete; Louis XIV valued them as much as the palace.

Currently at the top of my list is the Garden of Versailles which boasts some of the worlds loveliest specimens of topiary and hedge.

a grand promenade   ( a versailles)

The extensive acreage is done in the classic French garden style. Some areas date back to the time of King Louis XIV who ruled from 1643 until 1715.

Versailles – France  Probably the world's most famous garden, it was built for Louis XIV and designed by Andre Le Notre. The laying out of the gardens required enormous work. Vast amounts of earth had to be shifted to lay out the flower beds, the Orangerie, the fountains and the Canal, where previously only woods, grasslands and marshes were. The earth was transported in wheelbarrows, the trees were conveyed by cart from all the provinces of France and thousands of men, sometimes whole regiments

On my bucket list is a visit to the oldest and most extensive topiary garden in the world. It can be found at Levens Hall in Cumbria, the Lake District, United Kingdom.

Levens Hall and topiary gardens, Cumbria, England (Photo: H. Travis)

In the gardens some of the topiary and bushes are over three hundred years old. The overall layout of the garden has changed little since the initial planting and training in the 1690’s. They were created by Monsieur Guillaume Beaumont, one time gardener to James II. At the time it was quite fashionable to have a garden in the Dutch style with clipped greens set in a pattern of formal box edged flower beds. The gardens of Levens Hall are unique in that they retained their original layout. Other gardens were ripped out in the 1730’s to make way for the new trend of natural landscaping. (A good example of a naturally landscaped garden is Monet’s Garden which I toured last year. The post can be seen HERE.)

Here is a photo of the Levens Hall gardens during the Victorian Era. Little has changed other than the height of some of the trees.

An archive picture shows the gardens in all their glory during the Victorian age

The tallest tree in the garden is known as “The Great Umbrella” which has a span of over 30 feet. It requires a hydraulic lift to reach the highest point.

The gardens span over 10 acres, and have been maintained in the more or less the same way since their creation in 1690

The shapes themselves are created from plants of tight-growing, small leaved evergreens such as Golden Yew 'Aurea' (Taxus baccata) 'Aurea',  Yew (Taxus baccata), and various forms of Box (Buxus sempervirens). The low-edging around the beds is now  Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata). It had to be replaced due to disease.

Gardens at Levens Hall in Kendal, UK

So here’s the thing about hedges. In order to grow in a lush and full manner they require care. The ten acre garden at Leven Hall is tended by a staff of five as well as a group of willing volunteers. Each bed in the parterre is dug and manured in the Autumn to insure a good growing soil. Trimming starts in late August and takes up to six months to complete as some of the pieces require clipping done by hand.

Quick off the mark: Head gardener, Chris Crowder, is eager to get started on the task ahead at Levens Hall, where the gardens are unchanged since 1697

Ok, so we get it. A lovely hedge requires a dedicated caretaker. Oh the poor hedges of Storybook Cottage… they were like neglected children. We tried our best to trim them back in the hopes they would regrow in a lush and full state.

No dice.

Over the hedge 112

We had a variety of hedges: holly, yew, boxwood and others. While some hedges grew back somewhat bald others tried to regrow themselves only to result in sparse “leggy” stems.

Over the hedge 102-001
It was time to face the hard facts. The hedges needed to be ripped out to make way for a fresh start.

Over the hedge 094

I started with hedge clippers.

Over the hedge 099

Growing amongst the hedge was a wicked vine. Any idea what it is? Those thorns were mean.

Update: A big thanks to dear Katie of Let’s Add Sprinkles. She correctly identified this pesky plant as Briar Vine.

Over the hedge 107

Of course I had two supervisors insuring the work was done correctly.

(You can see new boxwood growing in the background.)

Over the hedge 098

I do like the look of boxwoods enclosing a flowerbed.

Or lining a walkway.

Brick walkway under arbor, fruit tree, short hedge lines walkway, focus point beyond arbor

There is an excellent article on how to transplant boxwood cuttings to create new hedges that you can read HERE.

Phillipe Perdereau -Focus on garden. (=^.^=) Thanks, Pinterest Pinners, for stopping by, viewing, re-pinning, & following my boards. Have a beautiful day! and “Feel free to share on Pinterest..^..^ #nature #organicgardenandhomes

Now to working on the beds.



GSGreatEscaper said...

Laura, your home is going to be a showplace outside in a year or two as it already is inside. (Dieing to see the new built ins by the fireplace BTW!)

My new house has a couple of boxwoods in front and a large fenced area in back with no plants at all - I checked Kevin's blog and now I know how to propogate! Thanks.

Jan Tanis said...

Laura, I love the gardens you've pictured! Undertaking a garden re-do is nothing short of back-breaking and time-consuming...I know, because I've just taken on one, too! {Just posted about it this morning} I know your garden will be just beautiful...whatever you end up doing to it. Everything you've touched has turned out beautiful!!


marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

Oh wow, that is a lot of work. Can't wait to see the new plantings.

Prettypracticalhome said...

Hi, Laura! We share a love of English gardens. Boxwoods in Dallas are much more expensive than in Georgia--I was rather shocked when I went to buy some for my back porch urns. The yew I selected as a substitute isn't doing well, so I'm going to have to replant. Best of luck with the yard--I'm sure it will turn out lovely!

pbrenner said...

If you came down to the Texas hill country, you could have the 9 boxwoods growing in front of my house :-) I plan to remove them and replace with raised planters. I've chopped them back (as well as 4 Buford holly bushes) so many times, and they just regrow, lol. I'm sure yours will look much better! I have (quite literally, as I have 7.5 acres) thousands of those thorny vines, I know them as catbrier. It is nasty stuff, ugh. I started spraying it with a triclopyr solution (which I also use on the poison ivy on my property). It kills it down to the roots (just don't spray it on other trees or bushes, as it will kill them. Grass can tolerate it a little bit).

Katie Mansfield said...

We were in the same boat but we were the ones who let our boxwoods get out of hand. That looks like briar vine. Ouch! Have fun planting something new.

Auntie Em said...

As a child, when I read a series of British stories about a little bear. They were always going through hedges to some magical place or finding a mystery.
I am sure your hedges will enclose your magical Storybook cottage soon and create a lovely garden.
And if you see a little white bear with a red shirt and yellow pants, his name is Rupert! lol

Lorrie said...

Hedges are a challenge. My husband cut our cedar hedge back drastically and it's taken several years to recover. (not quite there yet). Love, love, that photo with the delphiniums. Good luck on your hedge growing. You've got some cute supervisors.

lynn cockrell said...

Laura, the pictures of all the gardens you posted are so beautiful. It is no fun getting established shrubbery out of the ground. It is back-breaking work, so I definitely do not envy you that job, especially during the hot summer months. I am excited about seeing your new hedges evolve!