Carol Heather’s garden guide for the Oxford College of Garden Design
Well I have just returned from a really enjoyable visit to Waterperry Gardens! near Oxford
I won’t bore you with its history, because you can read about it in the free guide or on the website, but it is interesting to note that unlike many such places, it has had a horticultural and educational bent, dating back to the1930s when a rather indomitable lady named Beatrix Havergal took up residence with an ambition to educate women in all branches of horticulture!
Personally I wouldn’t describe Waterperry as a designed space . To me, it feels more like an evolution, influenced by those managing it and also to suit its current purpose. Somehow this lends it an air of innocence which on a wonderful bright Autumn day was very disarming!
There are many elements to the garden, but I suspect most people are immediately drawn to herbaceous borders and I was no exception.
To reach these you enter the garden via the quaintly named Virgin’s Walk (I felt something of an imposter!) Here the planting is unexciting at this time of year, but turn a couple of corners and WOWEEE!!!!!….. the “Classical Herbaceous Border” comes into view and it looks absolutely stunning!
Stretching for 200 feet in front of you is an amazing display of Asters of every height, shape and colour interspersed with other Autumn favourites including Rudbeckias in variety and towering old style “Golden Rod” which looked far from “naff” despite it’s ongoing reputation!
At this stage you think to yourself oh this must be very dull for the rest of the year, but on closer inspection you can see that this border is planted for longevity in the interest stakes with neatly cut down lupins geraniums ,achillea and phlox patiently awaiting their next moment of glory.
Along similar lines but none the poorer for it is The Long Walk with another fantastic display of the same types of plants but with more shrubs interspersed to provide height and structure. Personally (shock horror!) I think these borders surpass the ubiquitous Great Dixter border, certainly at this time of year at least!
The other area that I enjoyed was the Formal Garden – I know this has all been done before, but it has a really nice feel about it and I loved the swaying Stipa tenuissima around the base of the sculpture.
If you judge a garden on “ideas to take home” this may not be the best, but nevertheless there are planting combos here that you could utilise in much smaller spaces and the garden really does remind you that there is absolutely no excuse for a boring garden just because summer is over! Oh and they serve fantastic cake in the café!!!! Enjoy!