It is in the nature of gardens to change. From day to day and from season to season nothing in the garden remains the same. Every year the gardens at Glyndebourne are improved and areas replanted. Sometimes an important part of the garden is past its best and no amount of tinkering will bring back the freshness and vigour it once had. The only choice is to remove everything and start again.
Last winter we decided that the crescent border (next to the croquet lawn) needed a complete overhaul and so set about clearing the plants that were growing there. With a heavy heart we removed a hebe, planted 20 years ago and now four-feet tall but with few flowers. Some herbaceous plants were relocated to a nursery bed for future use elsewhere in the garden. Pieces of bamboo and other plants found new homes in the gardens of Glyndebourne staff.
In clearing the area we uncovered part of the wall of the old Ha-ha and incorporated it into the new beds. We also introduced a path to cut across the beds in order to open up the views toward the Downs. The beds were prepared in the autumn of last year but planting was delayed until this spring due to bad weather and snow.
Sir George Christie remembers that his mother, Audrey Mildmay, had planted up these borders with predominately white flowers. With the help of Glyndebourne’s archivist, Gus Christie and the gardeners found old photographs of the garden from that time, which provided the inspiration for the new planting scheme.
Our aim was to evoke the romantic Edwardian garden of Audrey Mildmay, combining it with a contemporary planting style and with modern plant cultivars.
The local blacksmith at Glynde constructed 2.5m tall rose supports which form the backbone of the garden. These are planted with Rosa ‘Snow Goose’, Rosa ‘Penny Lane’ and Clematis ‘Fond Memories’. Spires of white foxgloves, white foxtail lilies and the white burnet, Sanguisorba canadensis , stand out against the dark green of the yew hedge. A froth of silver-leaved anthemis, anemones, marguerites and white-flowered peonies fill the main beds. The air is sweetened in early summer by Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’ and in midsummer by the white lily, Lilium regale.
As a foil to the white flowers we have planted pools of dark-red hardy geraniums and the red clover, Trifolium rubens . Dotted through the border are mahogany-coloured aquilegias and the beetroot-red flowers of Dianthus cruentus .
Rows of lavender have been interplanted with several varieties of white-flowered agapanthus. The planting is softened by the delicate white cow parsley, Orlays grandiflora , and by two grasses, Deschampsia ‘Goldtau’ and Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ . Until the new planting is well established we are using several annual plants to fill out the beds.
Despite ravenous rabbits, a spring drought and the legion other problems with which every gardener is familiar, the new beds are beginning to feel comfortable and settled. Over the coming years they will mature and develop and become an important part of the Glyndebourne gardens, just as the old beds were.