Coton Manor Garden reviewed by Anne Wareham

August 20, 2009

in Garden Reviews, Reviews

Post image for Coton Manor Garden reviewed by Anne Wareham

“…the finest garden in the East Midlands.” Good Gardens Guide

A large claim to live up to. My heart sank a bit when I read the flowery breathless description which follows: “Blessed with a south facing slope”, “waterfowl which now greet and entertain you”, “surreal Alice in Wonderland flamingoes” “quintessential bluebell wood whose perfume permeates the air in May …”.

However, on a sunny day in late summer what’s not to love about a beautiful building, with sculptural topiary and wonderful pots? A promise of tea in the shade of a wonderful huge tree and a plant stall if that is your fix: what more could you ask? I imagine the average visitor is well pleased. Despite numerous forbidding notices:

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 2

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 3my feeling is optimistic. And first sight is heartlifting:

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 4A border still flowering generously in August and a good topiary holly lump to anchor it and provide solid contrast to the flowery bittiness. This followed by a multitude of superior pots:

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 5I think superior because the planting is simple and telling – the strong red here stops this collection descending into pastel prettiness, and there is none of that depressing business of stuffing the pots with half a dozen different plants shouting at each other.

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 6This kind of gardening works well next to the walls of an old manor.

It’s when it escapes the constraint and flattery of the walls and terracing that trouble begins.

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 7

"In memoery of Henry and Haroldine Pasley-Tyler who devoted themselves to this garden 1950-1990."

And perhaps this bench tells the tale – the gardens’ origins were in the 1950’s. Not our best garden making period: wiggly borders created with hosepipes, sentimentality, randomly mixed borders.

We begin with a ‘woodland walk’, which as ever with such things resembles no wood and not much of a walk. The plants are carefully tended and separated so as to eliminate any possibility of a natural appearance: it is a miracle that hart’s tongue fern can be generously planted by a natural stream and manage to look totally arranged and artificial:

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 8It perhaps doesn’t help that the stream has been canalized and the path paved. Plant labels kill any remaining possibility of an appropriate atmosphere and everywhere the garden is overgardened – in those places where relaxation is required there never any let up of manicuring and faffing about:

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 9And the statuary?

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 10You’ll have recognized the territory…

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 11The rill is nice:

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 12But a little odd in an orchard. The orchard does nothing for the rill or the rill for the orchard, they simply co-exist.

And a notice as a focal point rather detracts:

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 13After this it all rather runs out of steam. The Good Gardens Guide entry applauds the lack of colour consciousness in the borders: “nowhere is there a slavish adherence to themed colours”. We would all applaud an independent mind bringing fresh perspectives, but the result in this case is no more than a feeling of repetition and a fading of energy. It has to be a loss to ignore the possibilities of dynamic colour schemes or simple plant arrangements, but fuss and mix continue throughout:

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 14

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 15Together with that awful hard line, keeping plant and path rigidly in their place. Bare soil. (I hate it) Plant labels everywhere and duck labels:

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 16A wiggled stream with random plants dotted about:

Coton Manor Garden by Anne Wareham - Image 17This garden is the horticultural equivalent of a Vettriano picture. If you think those are lovely you may well think Coton Manor garden is too.

Nice teas. There’s a parrot that will say ‘bye bye’ to you.

The Good Gardens Guide gives it two stars. (!) (Has the Good Gardens Guide had its day, now the web can do a better job?)

Anne Wareham

You can visit hers and demolish it in revenge: Veddw House Garden website

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