The Gardens of Holme Lacy
PUBLISHED: 11:35 08 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:49 20 February 2013
Many renowned landscape designers are thought to have influenced the layout of the grounds around Holme Lacy House since the mansion was completed in 1674 by the 3rd Viscount Scudamore on land which had been in his family since 1354
Many renowned landscape designers are thought to have influenced the layout of the grounds around Holme Lacy House since the mansion was completed in 1674 by the 3rd Viscount Scudamore on land which had been in his family since 1354.
Now it falls to head gardener Mike West, who has worked at Holme Lacy for the past 16 years, to maintain the important historic features while at the same time carefully stamping his own mark in ways that are in keeping with a garden conceived on a very grand scale to complement a magnificent building. He and two colleagues also face the daily challenge of keeping on top of 20 acres of grounds which in their heyday would have provided employment for 15 gardeners.
The present gardens were probably laid out at the same time as the house was built and they are very formal and symmetrical in layout, says Mike. However, the Scudamores were a prominent Herefordshire family and they entertained many eminent landscape designers here who are thought to have influenced the gardens with the ideas of their time.
The Whos Who of names associated with the gardens are the 17th and early 18th century designers John Evelyn, Charles Bridgeman, George London and Alexander Pope. It is possible that Evelyn was associated with the design of an area known as the quarter deck bank, which may have been used as a viewing area. London is thought to have had a hand in Holme Lacys notable battlement-style garden, which, with its terracing and ramparts and yew trees either side is one of only a very few left in the country.
The restored formal gardens and the landscaped parkland around the Grade One listed mansion (now a hotel) are so important that they have a Grade Two listing in their own right. The house has many historical associations as do the gardens. William Pitt the Elder conducted cabinet meetings in the grounds and Queen Victorias daughter Princess Beatrice planted a horse chestnut tree on the estate (on land which has since been sold off).
The bold layout includes topiary, bedding and ancient yew hedges set out with geometric precision. The walled garden contains some old varieties of apple trees and an important collection of pear trees. Says Mike: There are 250 pear trees, mostly growing on a cordon system against the walls, and I think its the biggest collection of old pear trees in Herefordshire. He has taken propagation wood to grow new trees to fill in any gaps and has also taken propagation wood from old apple tree varieties at Berrington Hall to grow new apple trees. A new feature in the walled garden is a formal, square area planted with hornbeam hedge with parterre beds in the centre. In a former rose garden, Mike has recreated a topiary garden, with shaped conifers and privet. Roses can be a problem, needing a lot of spraying to prevent pests and disease and the topiary garden creates year-round interest and structure, he says.
In the formal gardens he has recreated a parterre, based on a layout which used to exist in the Edwardian period. It is one of his favourite features in the gardens and was established in 1997 with a grand total of 2,500 common box trees.
The gardens also include two Edwardian ponds, full of lilies in season. Alongside the formal garden there is an area of woodland where Mike and his colleagues have planted Japanese maples to give autumn colour.
There is summer colour with seasonal bedding, including geraniums, marigolds and petunias. Dahlias are a particular favourite as they make good use of the small budget. They flower over a long period and are lifted in November and over-wintered ready for replanting the following May.
The gardens at Holme Lacy have been opened this year, and for the past two years, as part of the National Gardens Scheme. The last chance to see them this year is on September 11 from 10am-4pm. Light refreshments and teas are available. Admission: 3. Children not permitted. Details: 01432 870870.