Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Developments and challenges at Myddelton House

E.A. Bowles's alpine meadow at Myddelton House:
Leucojum vernum flowering with L. aestivum subsp. pulchellum in the foreground.

This afternoon I attended my first meeting of the Myddelton House Gardens Advisory Group, a body convened to advise the property's owners and gardeners on the management of this historic garden - and to keep a watchful eye on things too. I must say that it is rather a privilege to be asked to join the group, and be able to contribute something to the running of the garden which, through the writings of E.A. Bowles, inspired so much of my own gardening.

Free-fruiting mistletoe, Viscum album
I wrote in May last year about the reinvigoration of the garden thanks to a generous Heritage Lottery Fund grant, the backing of the Lee Valley Regional Park and particularly the dynamism of the Head Gardener, Andrew Turvey. As I hadn't been to Myddelton since last May Andrew showed me around before the meeting began, giving a chance to see a larger area of the garden than we covered in the official meeting. Daffodils are succeeding the last of the snowdrops and the alpine meadow, after several seasons of careful mowing, is now looking good once more.

Looking after a historic garden such as this, and bringing it back from a very low state is a huge challenge, which is certainly being risen to at Myddelton. Fifty or more years of entrenched weeds from Allium back to Acer are a constant problem and the more recent problem of increased pathogen load is evident in the unhealthy state of the box edging of the formal terrace beds,  probably afflicted with box blight. Managing these issues without compromising the integrity of the garden is a constant juggling act for all involved.

Unhealthy box edging on the terrace.

Fortunately, on the other side of the coin are the successes. Most notable, perhaps, is the restoration of the kitchen garden and its glasshouses. The Peach House was inaugurated last May by the Duchess of Cornwall - the peach tree she planted is now flowering - but since then a beautiful new range has been erected on the footprint of Bowles's glasshouses, incorporating the original tiled pathways. It has only recently been completed and most of the beds are still empty, though there is an impressive assemblage of succulents on the benches, but Andrew Turvey has ambitious plans for each of the three climate regimes available. Does anyone know a source for Strongylodon macrobotrys? The glasshouse will be officially opened in May, but we had a preview guided tour and were duly impressed.

Andrew Turvey (l) answers questions from members of the Gardens Advisory Group.


  1. Thanks for this exciting news John, we were too cold after the snowdrop sale to look round, but were impressed with Andrew and his plans. We must make time to go down and have a look to see how things are coming along.

  2. John - this is the only place that I've ever known to list Strongylodon................


    Hope it's of use.

  3. Malcolm Allison7 March 2012 at 20:48

    I was at Myddleton House for the first time today; it's very attractive, but surely the restoration can only be completed by re-excavating the New River ~ all those bridges on dry land & the wisteria crying out to be reflected on a watery surface.

  4. Dear Keith & John

    Thank you for the information regarding the Stronglodon, it is now on order along with some other climbers i was looking for.

    kind regards


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