Rousham reviewed by Tristan Gregory

March 19, 2014

in Garden Reviews, Reviews

I have said before, in the introduction to Alison Levey’s piece about Rousham, that I have taken far too many trips to Rousham in a vain attempt to discover why it is so very highly regarded. Now it seems Tristan also has been disappointed.

Why two pieces about the garden then? – because they make such very different points.

Apologies if the pictures are not as illustrative as we would have liked – Tristan’s camera broke, so they are mine, and from three years ago.

Anne Wareham, editor

PS. I just added this in the comments, but it seems so pertinent, once again, that I am also including the link here, in the hope that you may read it before commenting on Tristan’s review – Sara Maitland on garden criticism. And see also my editorial on this subject here.

Rousham 2 copyright Anne Wareham. Thinkingardens

Tristan Gregory

I will not burden you with my reasons for visiting Rousham. Suffice to say it was not under the influence of rave reviews but professional curiosity, and the visit starts rather well with a “help yourself” welcome. There is no infrastructure of financial extraction to be seen, just a self service ticket machine. But true: positive reviews don’t usually need to descend to admiring the ticketing arrangements.

Before continuing it must be pointed out that this is no wreck, the problem is more complicated than that.  Around the house the outbuildings are in good order and the house itself, while dour to my eye and lacking both the romance and classical appearance that would seem a better fit for this type of landscape project, is no Gormenghast.

Rousham 1 copyright Anne Wareham. thinkingardens

And it’s sort of falling over..(that might just be the photographer’s fallibility)

Then there is the clutch of walled gardens in the immediate vicinity of the pile containing vegetable plot, superbly kept fruit trees, good roses and a longish herbaceous border of unremarkable arrangement – but it was February so not a good time to see them.  There is a glorious dovecote complete with feathered occupants which was delightful to see but in this little area garden greatness, I would venture, was never achievable and at its best homely and pleasant would have been its limit. Of its current condition, I would have to call it retrenched and yet it is clearly the focus of the garden resources: why?

Rousham 19 copyright Anne Wareham. thinkingardens

Walled garden – not sure about good roses… (AW)

Why, when the “tea plantation” laurel swathes die in the heavy shade of un-thinned forestry, would you waste time digging the vegetable garden?  Why, when the sweeping paths have been in-filled by weeds so that they resemble nothing more than thin yellow sheep trails, would you fiddle about with innumerable espalier apple trees?  And why would you waste time on silly circles of winter aconites in the lawns when the plantings and vista’s of one of the most significant examples of landscape gardening in the country degenerate into something resembling the council car park shrubbery behind the recycling bins?

Rousham copyright Anne Wareham. thinkingardens

Vegetable garden

There are elements of picturesque spirit here and there: a tree slowly growing and falling into a mossy stone wall

 Rousham 7 copyright Anne Wareham. Thinkingardens

Tree. Stone wall…..

and in the process becoming one with it, and of course the patination of lichens on the stonework of the various structures, but these are shining examples. They shine out of a dulled canvass but shine they do.  The classical structures and the rough grottoes are still testaments to what was and could be still, even if I find it slightly discomfiting to sit under a ceiling as it bulges like the bottom of a plaster bubble over me.

Rousham copyright Anne Wareham. thinkingardens

Nor am I a great fan of the bits of architectural tat that adorn the place, not so much reminiscent of the greatness of a lost classical age, as of Roman skip diving.

Rousham copyright Anne Wareham. thinkingardens

A bit of ‘tea plantation’ clipped laurel

The statuary, original or not I can’t say, is of fairly modest quality but from a distance it does enough to justify its place in the picture.

Rousham 3 copyright Anne Wareham. thinkingardens

Lion eating a horse. Lovely.

Rousham copyright Anne Wareham thinkingardens

hmm

Then there is the rill and in particular the view down to it from the path from the front lawn. It annoys me that this scene is insufficient to inspire appropriate effort elsewhere in the garden; it is very special indeed.

 Rousham copyright Anne Wareham. thinkingardens

The Rill. Not perhaps Tristan’s preferred view but I haven’t got a picture of that. This is good.

Well, if the rill is the best thing, what is the worst?

Of all the things, big and small, which distract and irritate is there one which threatens to destroy?  Yes there is – the trees.  I like yew trees but I was ready to reconsider after this visit.  There are some decent specimens and some interesting wrecks but there are dozens and dozens of the bloody things, both self sown and recently planted clogging up vistas and viewpoints like takeaway fat in a London sewer.

Deep dark shade has a place but only when it interacts as a counterpoint to light and air. Without this association you just have gloom and when you add in horrible, messy thickets of holly, overgrown box and a blanket of ivy  –  well, if I want to experience this again I’ll have myself buried alive and save the five pounds.

Rousham C copyright Anne Wareham. Thinkingardens

I don’t have gloom. But I do think the nude looks awfully silly on top of that bridge.

Rousham copyright Anne Wareham. thinkingardens

Longer view of nymph, with random companion.

A similar feat is achieved with two of my other favourite trees, the lime and the beech, too thick and too unkempt and while there is an ongoing need to replace parkland specimens that have died off, it should be one for one replacement and no more.  One particularly stupid bit of planting involved some straggling larches which might work from one perspective, a little autumn colour behind the pools, but they obscure a view over the river and meadows from another.  On the subject of the river, its banks would benefit from clearing or coppicing the trees on the bank: a view of yet another thicket is hardly worth borrowing.

Rousham copyright Anne Wareham, thinkingardens

The riverbank

Rousham is an example of a garden that was once gardened for art’s sake but has become an example of gardening as burden.  I have given more thought than normal to this place and the particular question that has played across my mind is whether the physical decline of the plantings and structures, and the blurring of the design is in some way appropriate to its spirit.  It is with regret that I cannot bring myself to believe this to be the case. I would rather have come across this place ruined and throttled by nature and imagined the acts of artistry that inspired what remained than witnessed the artless, destructive sloth that has set about obscuring its quality.

Drive on by and find a photograph of the rill in some flattering horti rag instead.

Tristan Gregory

Tristan is Head Gardener at Kentchurch Court

(yes, that's him!)

(yes, that’s him!)

See also Alison Levey’s thoughts about Rousham

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Robin White May 24, 2014 at 4:32 pm

If anyone is qualified to criticize Rousham, it seems like Tristan was the right person for the job. As a gardener for a similar sort of place he, of all of us should be able to say, “Come on! You should be doing better.”

I personally tend to follow the old adage if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, but I will admit that when I walked around Rousham a few years ago, knowing that it was supposed to be a big deal in English landscape gardens, I was slightly gob-smacked. “You gotta be kidding!” about sums up my response. I concentrated on enjoying the espaliers and the vegetable garden, which looked just fine to me – and of course the dove cote, which of itself makes the visit worthwhile. It is a beautiful building and that is what I remember.

There is a wider lens through which to look at a place like Rousham, which is the issue of economic unsustainability, such a fundamental for big gardens and likely the main reason why a once great garden is gradually disappearing into the weeds (although Tristan is clearly implying that there is also possibly no one competent at the steering wheel). I would love to see Thinkingardens do more analysis in this area. Criticism of gardens is one thing, but a piece on Rousham could have also been more investigative – asking the question why Rousham is failing. That would have involved phone calls to the owners, discussions with the gardeners and so on and would have probably yielded a more constructive kind of criticism and a more three dimensional view of the problem. As Beth pointed out it there are living people involved here and I don’t think Tristan’s piece could have been the same had he actually talked to a few of them. The bigger issue is not is Rousham good or bad, (criticism) but rather what to do about Rousham and places like it (analysis).

Finally, Anne, you know I love you to death and totally support what you are doing with Thinkingardens but ferchrissakes you have to do something about the photographs. It’s kind of a running joke that they are so dreadful. Funny – but also embarrassing. You have a big vision. If you want to be taken seriously you can’t keep doing a bad job with the photographs and apologizing for it. Why can’t you beg some up and coming garden photographers to go out and illustrate the pieces you are accepting? It seems like it would be a good way to build a resume for a would be garden photographer. There has to be a better way. It’s a bit like Rousham, isn’t it? Bold vision, lack of resources.

annewareham May 24, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Ah, Robin, you must follow your own advice – analysis.

I am married to a professional garden photographer. (he writes on this site,- Charles Hawes – and you will find his pictures on here: – see Chelsea.) He is unable to illustrate the points critics make, as his job and that of every other professional garden photographer is to create beautiful pictures that magazines and books will wish to buy.

So you get mine, often taken at the same time, instead. Charles has tried on occasions to take pictures for me but unless I stand over him he doesn’t ‘see’ them – he is hunting other prey.

And, inescapably, perhaps, good pictures of poor aspects of gardens may never look pleasing? (this might be worth a post in itself as a question?)

Or I use those the writers send, which they choose themselves, to illustrate their points. And that is fair enough.

And – funny seems great to me! Xxxx

annewareham May 24, 2014 at 5:44 pm

O – and I would welcome such pieces of analysis as you describe.

skr April 10, 2014 at 12:13 am

Keep up the good work Tristan.

Helen Gazeley March 25, 2014 at 11:19 am

Coincidentally there’s an article on Rousham in last Saturday’s Financial Times. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/0333f618-adc3-11e3-9ddc-00144feab7de.html#axzz2wyL8ImEX

annewareham March 25, 2014 at 11:29 am

See what we mean?

Helen Gazeley March 25, 2014 at 11:35 am

I think it points up the way the history of a garden tends to be written about, rather than articles looking afresh at a garden itself. I guess you could argue that it’s the same as talking about a Constable painting. Something that’s so old and established tends to be written about, rather than critiqued, and is generally accepted as having earned its place. But of course, the difference is that gardens constantly change, whereas, apart from paint darkening (which is pretty much unavoidable), paintings don’t.

Holly Allen (gardenbirdblog) March 25, 2014 at 12:42 pm

So true. And also many of the cultural references get lost, or change, and need revisiting. The FT review is very much summarising the accepted history, which has just been repotted. Information, rather than critique

skr April 9, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Classic paintings get critiqued but only by artists and for artists and usually through the lens of comtemporary aesthetic theory. The average layperson would never encounter such critiques because, if they even make it to print, they occur in obscure periodicals and classrooms.

Holly Allen (gardenbirdblog) March 25, 2014 at 10:42 am

In no other area are reviewers ever asked to temper or moderate their opinions in order to ‘spare the feelings’ of the people whose work is being reviewed. The idea of telling A.A. Gill or Brian Sewell to be tactful the next time they annihilate a subject is hilarious (although I’d quite like to witness it for my own personal entertainment.)The work of artists, chefs, architects, writers and designers are all grist to the mill, and rightly so.

Comment is free, and everyone is entitled to an opinion – which is all it is. The only difference is that a reviewer is given a platform by an editor. The role of a reviewer is not, and should never be, to provide careers guidance or suggestions on how to improve something. It’s to provide a critique, in the manner in which a writer chooses.

All reviewers will accept that if they say something controversial (not very hard in the gardening world) that they will themselves incur criticism, in the same way that they have provided a criticism in their review – if you put work out there for people to see, it should be expected. Welcomed, even.

However I have seen emotive, immoderate language like ‘crass’ and ‘rude’ used to describe Tristram’s review – which in itself I don’t have a problem with, after all it’s just an opinion. But the argument that he should be more tactful while at the same time using these words to describe the review? Contradictory. It undermines the argument for moderation completely. (In my opinion)! More free expression, please.

To quote Sara Maitland (on garden reviews): “can we have lots more on the site, both positive and negative, so that gardening can grow up, rejoin the other arts in both “seriousness” and Arts Council funding and we can all have more fun.”

Victoria Summerley March 23, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I’m ashamed to say I’ve never visited Rousham, despite the fact that it is just up the road from me. From a purely selfish point of view, I quite like critical reviews – it’s a relief to think that you won’t feel compelled to like something that is generally considered worthy of admiration. I think it enables you to visit a garden with a more open mind.
As to the question of “offensiveness”, I think it is the job of the critic to be entertaining as well as constructive, or you’d never get to the end of the article. Brian Sewell has made the perfection of the acerbic review his lifetime’s work. George Bernard Shaw pointed out that “a drama critic is a man who leaves no turn unstoned”. W H Auden remarked: “One cannot review a bad book without showing off.” So why do we feel we have to tiptoe through people’s emotional tulips when it comes to gardening? Let’s say what we think and not wrap it up in some kind of weird PC cotton wool.

John March 21, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Starting from the assumption that Tristan’s criticism is honest (and that he’s not simply trying to emulate Anne), I see nothing inherently wrong in what he’s written. If you pay to see something, then you are entitled to feel as you do when you see it, just as if you charge people to see whatever it is then you have to accept that some may like it, some may hate it whilst most will fall in between the two extremes – you take the rough with the smooth.

I will, though, pick fault with the photographs. Tristan did not take them so they do not actually illustrate his points. At least it would have been better to leave them uncaptioned.

I would suggest that Rousham is not a place to visit outside the “flowery” season unless you want to immerse yourself in tranquility which, I think, is what Kent intended for the bulk of the place. On the other hand, trees need management and here, in the absence of that (no doubt due to resource limitations), they have somewhat run amok. Apart from grubbing up the self sowings it is, arguably, now too late do really do anything without a lottery win! Purists, though, might applaud this lack of activity as having allowed Kent’s vision to mature and persevere.

We are also (unless part of a group and willing to fork out another tenner) unable to see the view from the house, for example down the avenues at front and back. (Aside – critics of Dyffryn Gardens might care to take advantage of the House there now being open to view from inside and upstairs – from which a large part was designed to be seen more often than perambulated.)

I suppose the question is whether Rousham, taken as a whole, is a “garden”, or a “little garden and a big park”. It is, after all, more properly called “Rousham Park”.This comes back to my “flowery” point above – the garden area is seasonal. Perhaps having small seasonal variations in the admission price would be appropriate. But at least those who can get to it are able to view it at all times of the year, unlike some gardens which only let us in during the “flowery” season.

Tristan Gregory March 21, 2014 at 5:54 pm

That is the key question I struggled to resolve while writing this; how should Rousham be appraised. Again from personal experience of a similar place the flowery bit and more traditional garden area are almost afterthoughts when compared to the wider scheme, and their segregated feel does feel like an attempt to hide them from the wider ambitions of the Little Park which surrounds them and which tends to boast the clearest and most interesting design elements.

Rousham’s garden then is fine but not spectacular and never could be in it’s current formation but its Little Park is an essential piece of punctuation in the narrative of British art let alone gardening/landscaping.

This is why I was so aggravated by the resource allocations and the lack of feel for the Little Park and its management – for while the later picturesque certainly reacted against too much of man’s art in a landscape Rousham is an earlier form of landscaping and from walking around it clearly has a tighter vision than, say Kentchurch, which is a far later Price/Cranston affair.

On the matter of resources more would always be nice but I believe with the right mix of staff and qualifications more could be achieved here.

On the photographs I apologise on behalf of Nikon for their failure to capture more than moss and some hens before expiring – the intent was there.

Tristan Gregory March 20, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Being a petty, rude and generally disrespectful smart-arse is the right of those that pay money for a thing. If the garden world doesn’t like these people then certain cherished institutions need to grit their teeth and get a grip of what they’re doing and stop giving the petty, the rude and the generally disrespectful such generous targets upon which to lavish their verbal excretions.

This particular example has been far happier upon leaving the Powis Castle’s, Abbotsbury’s and National Botanic Garden of Wales’ than poor old Rousham and has said so.

Adam Hodge April 28, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Is Foxley actually worth visiting as by all accounts it seems to be in a state of ruin ? Gardenvisit isnt too excited by the place http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/foxley.

annewareham April 28, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Gardenvisit says it’s closed….?

Adam Hodge April 28, 2014 at 3:25 pm

” I would advise a trip to Foxley in Herefordshire to the gardens of Uvedale Price”
Going to be a bit tricky if its closed unless TG has special privileges of access !!

annewareham April 28, 2014 at 4:50 pm

OK, well caught! Xx

Helen Gazeley March 20, 2014 at 11:15 am

Just a quick observation on keeping espalliers in good shape in the midst of chaos – I think the point may well be to have a good crop of apples in the many years to come. From Anne’s photos, it looks as if the owners are keen to have a productive fruit and veg garden. That in itself probably saves them money and, while a good veg garden design is a joy and delight, I don’t think keeping it in order is itself an aberrant waste of time in these circumstances.

Beth March 20, 2014 at 5:00 am

I too was disappointed with the overall negative tone of this review. I’m in full agreement that good garden reviews should point out areas that can be improved (and offer concrete suggestions about how to improve them), but I think it’s important that the reviewer communicate a sense of trying to be helpful, not merely scornful. The criticism should done in a kind and positive way; e.g., “if the garden were improved in X way, I think it would be even more enjoyable/beautiful/meaningful,” rather than “this area was so bad it made me long for an early death” sort of negative criticism that offends, rather than instructs.

Perhaps if, when writing reviews, the reviewer tried to picture her/himself actually speaking to the gardeners in person, it might make the criticism kinder and gentler in tone (and in the end, more helpful). When writing online, it’s easy to forget that real people’s feelings can be deeply hurt (and readers may rush to the defense of the gardeners, dismissing the entire review, even the helpful parts).

I realize that Thinkingardens is reacting to a gardening culture in which any review not 100% positive in tone is completely verboten, but overreacting by offering overly harsh criticism is not the way to show the gardening public that criticism can be helpful and beneficial.

I’m fearful that Thinkingardens may become known chiefly for negative and unconstructive ways of reviewing gardens, and may do lasting damage to the entire mission of promoting serious garden reviews. This would be a shame, because you’re absolutely right: serious (and well-meaning) garden criticism promises to be greatly beneficial for the quality of gardens overall. Thank you for your efforts toward this important goal.

annewareham March 20, 2014 at 9:58 am
Beth March 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Again, the issue is not that the review is critical of the garden or that the reviewer did not like the garden and made that clear. Perhaps some people have a problem with that, but that is not what I’m referring to.

It is the degree of offensiveness of the criticism that I am pointing out. Bridget Rosewell’s review made it clear that she did not think much of the garden, but her descriptiveness only included such mild phrases as “Some rather dispirited perennial clumps” and the like.

The above review had such phrases as:
“the bits of architectural tat that adorn the place, not so much reminiscent of the greatness of a lost classical age, as of Roman skip diving”
“clogging up vistas and viewpoints like takeaway fat in a London sewer”
“horrible, messy thickets”
“One particularly stupid bit of planting…”
“if I want to experience this again I’ll have myself buried alive and save the five pounds”

These witty insults may have made the reviewer feel clever, but they are off-putting to readers (as well as simply offensive to gardeners). They are not reasonable, measured or professional ways to describe the shortcomings of a garden, and readers will indeed pick up on that and discard the entire review as a biased “hack job,” which I feel certain the reviewer does not want or intend.

Again, I am not saying that reviewers shouldn’t make their disappointment with a garden absolutely clear. But using harsh, offensive phrases to describe a garden is not a way to raise the standard and quality of gardening. It only reduces the standard and quality of serious garden reviews, and will alienate readers, who look for fairness and reasonable assessments from a reviewer.

Helen Gazeley March 20, 2014 at 7:20 pm

I think that all garden reviews should be accompanied by photos. That way, you can decide whether you agree with the description. As a reader, I don’t find the robust phrases used above off-putting, but rather stimulating, and they make me look at the photos far more closely. Personally I don’t think the Roman building pictured looks like tat, but anchors the water in front of it, but I nevertheless enjoyed the description. The phrase that you’ve suggested – “if the garden were improved in X way, I think it would be even more enjoyable/beautiful/meaningful,” is certainly kinder but it actually gives the impression that the reviewer already thinks the garden is enjoyable/beautiful/meaningful, which he plainly doesn’t.

Charles Hawes March 22, 2014 at 5:16 pm

One thing that bothers me about some of these responses to Tristan’s review is the willingness of people to take offence by what he has written and not to see the rather more obvious fact that he was obviously disappointed and quite possible angry with what he found.

Rousham is a garden that appears to be very widely praised, indeed some have considered it to be one of our very finest gardens in the UK. Isn’t that cause to feel deeply let down when you find it fails to meet such inflated expectations? Tristan is not alone in finding Rousham a disappointment. I certainly did when I first went and I have been back twice and still not found that it did much for me.

To criticise the piece for the wit and creativity that Tristan employs in his writing seems poor criticism indeed. When I read any review be it about a restaurant, play or book, I would hope that the writer makes some attempt to express their views in an interesting, and even entertaining way. Surely that is what good writing should be aiming for? And for me, Tristan has certainly fulfilled that criterion.

Imagine for a second that you were the owner of Rousham, reading this review. You would be upset, no doubt. Deeply, perhaps. And what could you do in response? Tristan’s criticisms of the garden are clear and specific. That at least gives you something to address. Perhaps if those that reply here were to comment more on the validity of the criticisms and less on the way they are expressed the owner might have more sense of how seriously to take this piece.

Beth March 22, 2014 at 8:25 pm

If you’re insisting that the age-old saying “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” is no longer valid, I and the vast majority of other people believe you are wrong. It does indeed matter a great deal how you choose to deliver criticism. If I say mean, personally insulting things to my employees when trying to correct their mistakes, I will soon have no employees. And any married person knows that this is truth: that how you phrase criticism or suggestions is of the utmost importance, not just to avoid offense, but to successfully effect the changes you suggest.

My understanding of the situation is this: Right now, there is very little genuine criticism of gardens; only nice things are allowed to be said or printed, and this has the effect of reducing the quality of gardens themselves. Thinkingardens is trying to make serious critical reviews of gardens more acceptable in the gardening world, by writing serious critical reviews of gardens and not avoiding pointing out things that could be improved or areas that disappoint — in order to improve the quality of gardens, not just to make it more acceptable to publicly insult gardens.

My point is, if these reviews are harshly-worded hatchet jobs, the reviews are not only unprofessional and ineffective in spurring positive changes, but also undermine the entire goal of making serious reviews more common, because they will turn off a large portion of readers to the entire idea, when more positive-worded suggestions would be acceptable to far more readers. Most people, when faced with the choice of a garden culture where only nice things are said about gardens or a culture where it is common to totally trash people’s gardens publicly (gardening as a full contact sport — if you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen!), will choose the former. But if the choice is between “only nice allowed” and reasonable and kind-spirited advice, it’s a different story. You can rail against this bourgeois attitude and write nasty things about gardens, but it will not accomplish what you claim to be trying to accomplish.

Of course reviewers are free to write whatever clever insults they can come up with. But if Thinkingardens truly wants to promote a culture in which real criticism can be written — and not just react against the “only nice allowed” rules — then it is a mistake to allow very much offensive trashing of gardens on this site. The end result will be a public rejection of serious criticism, and reduced opportunities for improvements in gardens.

A good example of well written and professional criticism, in my opinion, is the description of gardens in The New English Garden by Tim Richardson. He doesn’t descend to clever insults, but gently points out what could be improved in a garden, and phrases the suggestions in a positive way. While it is still somewhat shocking to read a less-than-100% positive writeup of a garden, it is not offensive and therefore is acceptable. This is the sort of serious criticism that will become publicly acceptable, not mean-spirited insults.

I do appreciate the opportunity to engage in reasoned debate on this and other topics on Thinkingardens — and I want the site to be even more successful than it is. Thanks, Beth

J Fogg March 19, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Ghastly photos taken by someone who marched with the Philistines. Text not much better. Thinking Gardens move on – very dull

annewareham March 19, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Julia, Tristan’s text may be many things, but it is not dull. Though you’re right about my photography, of course. Bit disappointed – it should be possible to put a case, to counter criticism if it is inaccurate.

Tristan Gregory March 19, 2014 at 7:11 pm

I agree that it is a cracking scheme and I would go further and say it is genuinely important. The place where I work is, I see now, heavily influenced by this very garden to the point of stretching its qualities way beyond an appropriate context.

I also agree that money in a place like this will only go so far and as the gardener in a place of similar size and complexity which was in a state that makes Rousham look like Kew I have been in the position where that which would be nice to do has had to be set aside in favour of what needed to be done. It is because I know this situation intimately, have shed the blood and carry the scars, that I know Rousham is underperforming.

Regarding poor planning and decision making; well that is not a question of money is it?

A garden is the most testing art form to keep right because it is under relentless assault from every element and every mistake made takes a minimum of a year to rectify, only passion keeps them going, even when there is money to spend. When the passion goes then the “that’ll do” follows and in this case it doesn’t, not even close and this garden fails.

Adam Hodge March 19, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Good grief ! I’m sorry to take issue with you Tristram but I , as a local to Rousham am spluttering at the tenor of your review. Might one suggest you treat the place as a family inheritance which with limited income from the garden/Park and for the park is available and spent on the place. We are fortunate that the owners are gracious enough to share a landscape gem with the public and have protected it from any form of commercialism.

You pick up on assorted maintenance issues, which on the face of it one could agree with but in the context of the uncommmercial spirit of the place is just something one has to live with. I can recall a time when the teaplantation laurels were poorly groomed ..a mess. Not long ago the owners spent substantial sums on the renovation of the ha ha. Within their means they spend. The owner has made wise use of his local staff, often horticulturally untrained but hugely willing and has tried to ensure it remains reasonably tidy within the resources available. it might be that at the moment he is short staffed, but, on balance I think he does well.
Yes, the rose beds in the walled garden are wonky and in dire need of a lot of things, but for the budget the owner has available to spend on upkeep including the house etc it is delighfully quirky. Enjoy !!

It is quintessentially individual and eccentric as, in my opinion, are the owners. For a fiver, or what ever the ticket machine exhorts you to part with, it’s fair to excellent value and a most delightful place to spend a summers’ day with a picnic, a ground sheet and a ripping good book ! It’s also a cracking good example of its genre of landscaping !

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