A century of changes blend old and new outside at Holker Hall, a stately English home.
One day I hope to find a tour that will permit me to more fully explore my passion for topiary gardens. The idea of imposing geometric forms on and hedges and trees is at both fascinating and mysterious though perhaps only because it is so far outside my own experience. Such a garden is to be found, in part, at Holker Hall, described by one pundit as “an all-consuming house and garden in England’s lake district.” In its heyday before World War I, the estate’s 25 acres were tended by a staff of 13 which, today, is reduced to five. Public tours support maintenance of the stately home to the Baron Cavendish of Furness and his wife Grania, a photographer. The couple authored “A time to Plant: Life and Gardening at Holker” (Frances Lincoln). While a stunning tunnel of laurel covers the central walkway of the estate’s summer garden [top] and immediately pulls the eye down the path, it is interesting to also note the neat hedged borders and the outlying rows of trees with curved and squared-off foliage.
An elliptical entry to the garden features wedge-shaped beds with hedges curved into living walls, complete with newel posts in all directions at the center point and mood-changer informal plantings in the areas all around the border. This is intended to be the “front hall” of the garden.
Clipped hedges in the summer garden are the backdrop for flowering trees, spiral-cut shrubs and a living niche that provides shelter for a Luytens bench. Another level has additional bench seating sheltered by elegantly clipped and sculptured green walls that make me long for a white dress and umbrella.