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Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Somerset Gardens at Hestercombe

While Eric and I were visiting family and friends in England in September, we were lucky enough to be able to visit the Somerset Gardens at Hestercombe, outside of Taunton.

Hestercombe features three gardens spanning three centuries of garden design: Coplestone Warre Bampfylde's Georgian landscape garden, the Victorian terrace and shrubbery and the stunning Edwardian garden design by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll which I am going to show you in my blog post today. 

The gardens had fallen into disrepair but today, after a mammoth, ongoing restoration project, the gardens have been returned to their former glory.  The gardens were reopened to the public in 1997, for the first time in 125 years.

In my gardening endeavours in Houston, I have often read about Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens.  To finally see one of their acclaimed gardens in person was a magical experience.

The formal gardens, known as the Grand Plat, are laid out below the house with grass pathways edged in stone, leading to a central fountain. 

Even in the soft misty light of a late September day, the gardens had plenty of color, with marigolds, gladioli, sedum, and more in bloom.

Here's another view of the formal gardens.


On either side of the garden is a water feature, such as this fountain in a beautiful stone niche. The vines were just getting their fall colours which made it seem even more peaceful and magical.

The stonework in the gardens was spectacular, from walkways, to columns, to walls.  It's very easy to imagine young ladies in Edwardian dress strolling the gardens, their delicate skin shaded from the sun by dainty parasols, being entertained by their beau, under the watchful eye of a chaperone.

Narrow water channels leads down either side of the garden to small lily ponds. 

 Along the bottom of the garden is a spectacular vine-covered pergola.  Again, I could picture young Edwardian ladies being escorted by their young men.

I was pleased to see many familiar plants in the garden, like this Sedum, and even some I have in my own garden such as Gaura and Cleome, below. 

This final walled garden featured many plants with silver leaves.  After the soft greens and colours of the rest of the garden, it was quite striking to see this garden.  It included Lambs Ears, Dusty Miller, Lavender and a lot of plants I didn't recognize. Some height was added in the form of large terracotta urns filled with blooms.

The Somerset Gardens at Hestercombe have a lot more to offer than what I have shown you here.  

In addition to the formal gardens, there are 50 acres of Georgian landscape gardens with streams, waterfalls and lakes, as well as unique little garden houses, or "follies" such as this one, known as the Mausoleum.

Hestercombe is definitely on my list of places to visit again when we can.  I'm glad they went to the trouble and expense of restoring it.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.