A review of Hanham Court, Bristol by Anne Wareham
Hanham Court Gardens are our horticultural equivalent of Poundbury, indulging the endless British pleasure in nostalgia. The connection with the Prince of Wales is no co-incidence, and if you are in sympathy with his ideals for architecture you may find this to be your perfect early twenty first century garden
The rest of us will be less satisfied because trying to hang on to and re-create past glories when the mood, the style, the look, has passed on, inevitably turns into a kind of parody. You can’t write a Bronte novel in the 21st century – the Heights no longer Wuther in quite the right way. It’s true that if you buy an antique house you may well feel constrained to make an antique garden.
However, it is possible to recognise the historic setting of your garden and respond to it in a totally 21st century way, as George Carter has done, for example at Burghley House in Lincolnshire with the ‘Garden of Surprises’, which pays homage to the Elizabethan context stylishly.
The visitor’s tour at Hanham begins with well maintained, pleasant flowery borders flanking a large infinity (bowling) lawn. It is irresistible to go and look over the far edge: to view the compost and clippings the gardener has chucked over. The form – oversized lawn edged with borders is familiar from thousands of suburban back gardens.
The garden’s season is clearly rose time, and at the beginning of August we were between times, with dahlias just beginning. To one side of the lawn are a series of small gardens, the first a good gravel garden, the rest more flowery pleasantness.
set in what looks rather like the back of some Bristol allotments, as a focal point. I think it would be possible to do better by the stream and pools – water needs the same kind of time and effort as a lawn to take care of yet that care often just isn’t taken. But even if the duckweed is super vigorous and irreducible the setting could be improved.
The walk back to the house is by way of a ‘flower meadow’ which by August was inevitably rather past it and through an orchard with a gypsy caravan which was definitely a whimsy too far.
I sound terribly hard on all this and it may be a little unfair since the gardens round the house did offer a nice enough stroll on what was a lovely sunny day. Even some fun topiary.
Certainly a nice little earner (or it was – the gardens are no longer open to the public) with a sentimental British public – I imagine they get thousands more visitors than us,– so put it down to pique….