I love Bryans Ground in Herefordshire. It’s just one of those places that always delights me and which oozes with the spirit of the owners, so much character and personality. I have visited probably four times over recent years but haven’t managed a visit for the last couple of years so it was interesting to see the changes. The house is typical Arts and Crafts style having been built in 1913. The current owners, David Wheeler and Simon Dorrell (who publish Hortus) moved here in 1993 and started to develop the garden. I haven’t visited this early in the season before so it was fascinating to see the almost bare bones of the garden. In the past when I have visited in high summer the area above has been a wonderful froth of fennel but with these currently less than a foot tall you can appreciate the strength and size of the topiary. From the house the canal is one of the first garden rooms you encounter. Cool and elegant on a sunny day and I think very reflective of the classical Italian gardens but with an English twist.
I realised today that Bryans Ground is all about vistas, journeys and viewpoints – the classic elements of garden design. With the July haze of flowers still waiting to come alive you start to realise how strong the structure and design of the garden is. But it isn’t all serious the garden is full of jokes and humour and has the best use of objet trouves I have come across even better than the wonderful displays I saw in San Francisco a few years back. I loved the flying bikes (top photo) which made me laugh out loud when I came round a corner and the rusty lawnmower in a sea of variegated ground elder also made me chuckle.
Simon Dorrell is an artist and designer and has contributed to the design, particularly of garden buildings, in a number of gardens in the area including the rose garden at Hampton Court Gardens in Herefordshire. His talent has manifested itself at Bryans Ground not only in the placement of found objects but also in the quirky garden buildings and more recently in the wonderful new sculpture in the formal garden – which I thought was beautiful but also amusing.
There are probably 12 or 15 of these rabbits, although I think they might be hares, on plinths forming a square in the middle of a square lawn. It is as though the owners are saying “if you can’t beat them you might as well join them”. And they are such wonderful sculptures.
Whilst I enjoy the garden the arboretum, Cricket Wood, is becoming more and more of a greater attraction to me. I do have a growing interest in trees and shrubs and I have enjoyed seeing how the wood has developed. Since my last visit a number of hydrangeas, azaleas and I think tree peonies have been added. It is so nice to encounter a young arboretum. The interest in views and vistas is continued here. This is no a wood with rambling paths but is designed very much along the 17th century garden style with strong straight paths which split to give you two or three choices. I also noticed that there were a number of small areas enclosed with hedges with a specimen plant in the centre, just like the bosquets in 17th century ‘wilderness’ gardens.
Whilst the visitor’s eye is drawn along avenues into the garden into enclosed areas there is conversely an appreciation of the surrounding landscape with many paths finishing with a view out to the surrounding farmland. There were numerous places with seats and benches placed with their backs to the garden looking out but I was particularly intrigued with the seating area below.
I think this takes framing the view to a new level and quite simply sums up everything I have said above – classic design and humour all with a slight twist.