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Garden Blog - Spring

We recently completed the replanting of the north-facing slope west of the Tower Wing accommodation and this has contributed, through guests’ feedback from Late Rooms bookings, to the awarding to Madingley Hall of Simply The Guest Award in the Best Budget Hotel category

The Tower Wing was designed by Cowper Griffith architects and built in 1992-1993, followed by the refurbishment of the existing Courtyard accommodation and the reopening of the Gallery on the first floor of the Hall. In 2007, the practice won a European-wide architectural competition to design a new visitor facility at Stowe Gardens for the National Trust which on completion won both National & Regional RIBA Awards and the RIBA National Conservation Award

Stowe just north of Buckingham is probably the most influential Landscape Garden of the 18th Century where ‘Capability’ Brown was Head Gardener from 1741 to 1751. Cowper Griffith’s success is a tremendous accolade and richly deserved. it would be heartening to think their earlier work in a ‘Capability’ Brown landscape at Madingley stood them in good stead for this project!  We have been reacquainted with Cowper Griffith recently with a commission to look at some internal reordering within the Hall. After twenty years, the landscaping surrounding the Tower Wing had become tired, partly due to the north-facing steep slope, the heavy clay soil and the presence of hedge bindweed Calystegia sepium, the most pernicious of weeds which required the use of a herbicide containing Glyphosate followed by the area being thoroughly dug  The soil for this area came from the site of the Crescent development of 1993 which is opposite the entrance to Churchill College. The College which recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary was built on the former St John’s College Kitchen Garden.

The newly planted bank includes Astrantia major Gill Richardson Group which coincidentally reminds us of the late wife of our former Director Michael Richardson (1991-2003), who oversaw the building of the Tower Wing during his Directorship. The plant itself is named after the Lincolnshire Plantswoman Gill Richardson, an admirer and grower of Astrantia or masterwort, for which she gave seed from her collection to the Norfolk Nurseryman John Metcalf of Four Seasons Nursery. He selected a dark red form which he introduced at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2004. Alongside the Astrantia, the planting aims to convey a natural woodland atmosphere in a tapestry using native and introduced plants, evergreen and deciduous in informal drifts using plants tolerant of the heavy clay soil and a north aspect which can be viewed from the rooms above.

Deciduous herbaceous perennials drift between the evergreens, snowdrop anemony, Anemone sylvestris, a compact form of meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmari, white wood cranesbill Geranium sylvaticum ‘Album’ and common bistort Persicaria bistorta. Semi and evergreen plants include the king of the male fern, Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’ (‘Cristata The King’) and a new introduction to Madingley, a Japanese sedge Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ its arching leaves display a central yellow stripe, the evergreen Christmas box, Sarcoccoca ruscifolia and  the native spurge laurel Daphne laureola. Three Mahonia x media ‘Lionel Fortescue’ flower in December and January with their yellow racemes, fluorescent and glowing like candles, lighting up the dark skies. This was bred by Fortescue himself, a retired Eton schoolmaster after the 2nd World War, at the Garden House, Devon.  The parents of these hybrids were, M. lomarifolia (not reliably hardy) introduced from China in 1931 and M. japonica also gave rise to M.x media ‘Charity’ which grows immediately adjacent to the Bar Terrace. It was selected by Sir Eric Savill, former director of forestry to the crown estate, Windsor from seedlings originating from the Slieve Donard Nursery in Northern Ireland in the early 1950’s. Mahonia is named after the Irish-American Horticulturalist Bernard MacMahon, who settled in Pennsylvania and was steward of the plant collections from the Lewis Clark expedition from 1804 to 1806 which was the first expedition to venture into the western part of the United States . 

Our open garden under the auspices of the National Gardens Scheme Charity will be on Sunday 10th June 2018, 2.30 to 5.30pm supports several care charities including Marie Curie, Macmillan Cancer Support and Hospice UK. The scheme awards grants to leading charities in the gardening and horticultural sector which this year includes WFGA (Work and Retrain as a Gardener Scheme).. On 10th June, the congregation of St Mary Magdalene Church at the bottom of the Hall drive will be serving their delicious homemade teas. Admission to the garden is £5 with children free.  We hope to see you there!

Mahonia By Howard Rice
Mahonia (c) Howard Rice
Tower Wing By Colm Sheppard
Tower Wing (c) Colm Sheppard