Morville Hall

Recently a group of staff and volunteers from Hidcote visited a garden near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.  The garden concept was one of division by historic garden periods.  A garden of rooms is the essence of Hidcote so I have affection for this type of design.  It was educational to see representations of periods in garden history.  Different gardens have different histories layered through them, with different complexities and lengths.

The garden has wonderful examples of Wild cottage planting.  Charming pergolas and arched walkways entice the visitor, with plants left to die back and self seed. The Formal fruit and vegetable garden was Inspired by Gertrude Jekyll, an Edwardian gardener. Here are some of Jekyll’s plants that were used:

Rosa ‘natalie nypels’

Rosa ‘cecile brunner’

Rosa ‘gruss an aachen’

Rambling roses:

Rosa ‘felicite et perpetue’

Rosa ‘adelaide d’orleans’

Rosa ‘the garland’

One of the main features is the apple and pear tunnel planted with climbing roses.  The garden is also filled with old cottage garden flowers for example 19th century grandiflora sweet peas.

Next was the Victorian rose border.  This was Influenced by the Reverend Shirley Hibbard, and specifically his books on roses.  He  was one of the highest thought of amateur garden writers.  Catenery ropes and poles to train plants to give height at rear of border.  In the garden there is a collection of 19th century roses, a variety of Bourbons, moss roses, Portland roses, and hybrid perpetuals.  Also planted within the structures are various clematis including C. jackmanii (1863) and C. ‘`star of India’ (1867).  19th century French paeonies are also abound, specifically varieties of Paeonia lactiflora.  Crocus tommasianus and Galanthus elwesii are also used, both being introduced in the 19th century.

Another notable plant is Eryngium giganteum ‘miss Willmotts ghost’.  An interesting anecdote surrounds this plant.  It is suggested that these plants became more widespread due to Ellen Willmott, an Edwardian lady gardener, alleged to have scattered these seeds in the gardens she visited.

The next feature, the Lawn labyrinth, is a Unicursal maze.  This means one arrives at centre by following a single path.  This differs from Renaissance puzzle mazes, wherein higher hedges and clever design are used to obscure the centre from the visitor.  Unicursal mazes are associated with ritual, and evidence locates these in Prehistoric India, classical Rome, Egypt, and Celtic western Europe.  These mazes were made from turf, marble, or stone paths.  Some symbolize the medieval Christian path to salvation.  Others have been used in modern land art.

The new flower garden had its layout influenced by the Elysee garden in Nuneham Courteney, Oxford.  It is a secretive garden enclosed by tall trees and shrubs with and asymmetrical flower beds and winding walks. A temple is devoted to Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers.  The planting is naturalistic, influenced by the garden described in Julie’s garden in the novel ‘la nouvelle Heloise’ by Jean Jacques Rousseau.  Other inspiration comes from imagery associated with paradise from Greek poets, and Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden, little Sparta. The garden pays homage to the Temple of hours and the Goddesses of the seasons

Morville Hall contains many beautiful species roses. These include:

Rosa rubiginosa – lovely foliage that is apple scented

Rosa arvensis ‘splendens’ – a double flowered hybrid of the native British hedge rose

Rosa pendulina – the thornless ancestor of boursault roses, from the European alps

Rosa californica ‘plena’ – from the south western states of the United States of America

Rosa virginiana – East north America

Rosa macrophylla – Himalayas

Rosa fedtschenkoana turkestan – the ancestor of damask rose

chinese roses:

Rosa soulieana

Rosa setipoda

Rosa moyesii – a planting selection by Vita Sackville West selection

Rosa mulliganii – Chinese

Rosa dupontii

Rosa cantabrigiensis

Rosa multiflora – japan

Particularly notable are the early yellow flowered species

The old wood of the roses are thinned to base, but with the principles of coloured stems left in winter, and hips and colourful foliage in autumn

The wild garden

This commemorates Pleiades and the seven sisters and nine muses.  These were the seven daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione born on Mount Cyllene.  The Greek myth concerning the daughters of mnemosyne, the personification of memory, are also referenced.

A major influence is William Robinson, and his concepts for the creation of a wild garden.  His ideas are epitomized by the creation of decorated woodland, with exotic species naturalized in an English setting.  Recent new perennial and American prairie style at the end of 20th century can be classified in this genre.

The cloister garden is surrounded by yew rows.  These gardens were widespread from 12th to 15th century.  Their design was based around open spaces for recreation, beds of medicinal herbs, vegetables and dye plants. The herber was developed later by monks, where the beds became fundamentally utilitarian.

The pleasure garden is almost the antithesis of the herber.  Some pleasure gardens are based around idyllic notions of Courtly love, whereas more contemporary images are describe other notions of love, like those between mother and offspring, Madonna and child.

Some of the roses aim to be versions of those found before 1500.  Rosa mundi roses can be seen in the 17th century.  Of note is one of its sports: Rosa gallica officianalis.  The garden contains Albas and Gallicas, and other roses symbolic of the houses of York and Lancaster.

Thus the chronology of the garden is as follows:

Turf maze bronze age

Medieval cloister

Tudor knot garden 1560

Plat and boarder beds 1650

Canal garden 1710

New flower garden

Greek temple 1780

Victorian rose border 1870

Edwardian fruit and vegetable garden

Privy garden

Wild garden William Robinson Gertrude Jekyll

Mini turf meadows 21st century

Morville Hall is a contrast between wildness and formality, with the wild and cultivated intermingled sustainably.  Gardens can be representations of other things, or new ideas that have not yet had their histories.  I thought the garden was well conceived and had depth to its historical representations on an intimate scale.  Seeing a tapestry of history and being a living part of it, made me think that sometimes education is highest when one is physically immersed in what one is learning about.

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