Four celebratory talks: Where the wildness pleases – the English garden celebrated

Great Dixter by Bennet Smith

Caroline Holmes Where the Wildness PleasesThe legendary woodland of the High Weald conceals and reveals an array of architecture, settings and horticultural feasts which is why Caroline Holmes chose it for her book Where the wildness pleases – the English garden celebrated. Published in July 2021, it has been well received worldwide. Watch and listen to Caroline via Zoom in a series of four celebratory talks that will not only delve into thirty gardens to reveal their pleasing details but raise funds for the Kent and Sussex Garden Trusts as well as the National Garden Scheme.

Amongst the settings there are castles such as Hever, Penshurst and Scotney; rambling English country houses like Batemans, Borde Hill, Gravetye Manor, Great Dixter, Hole Park, Leonardslee, Nymans, Stonewall and Wakehurst Place; Wealden homes like Balmoral Cottage, Falconhurst, Hammerwood Park, High Beeches, Smallhythe Place and Standen. The list goes on with more properties offering contrasting inspirations in their dramatic landscapes and glorious plantings.

You can leaf through the book by following this link

Friday 22nd October 2021. 7pm
Woodlands and parks – green is not the only colour

Curiously the High Weald is one region where those celebrated English earthmovers, Lancelot Brown and Humphry Repton, are notably absent. Fear not the undulating and craggy ancient Wealden landscapes create a range of microclimates, from the nineteenth century this canvas became host to an array of trees and shrubs rich in colour and texture from the four corners of the earth. This lecture explores and analyses eight sites which illustrate both plantsman’s paradise and artist’s palette on a landscape scale. Explore the notable collectors as patrons, hunters and gardeners, their history and current status. The area is also home to global seed collections, ecological and botanical research notably within the Millennium Seed Bank.

Featured landscapes and gardens: Ashdown Park, Bedgebury Pinetum, Borde Hill, High Beeches, Scotney Castle, Sheffield Park, Stonewall Park, Wakehurst Place

Friday 19th November 2021. 7pm
Beauty and utility – art, craft and recycling

Beauty and utility were the watchwords of the Arts and Crafts Movement, as seemingly is the name William – William Morris tireless designer, poet and craftsman and William Robinson indefatiguable writer and gardener. The two finest exemplars in the High Weald being Standen and Gravetye Manor. Ellen Terry’s Smallhythe Place and two Priest Houses fulfil the principle of growing from their own sites. The Arts and Crafts philosophy continues enhanced by the popularity of letting the wildness please as well as being productive and visually pleasing as can be appreciated at Hole Park and Luctons. Recycling and upcycling also play their architectural part at Colwood House whilst Merriments whets your floral appetite.

Featured landscapes and gardens: Colwood House, Gravetye Manor, Hole Park, Luctons, Merriments, Smallhythe Place, Standen, ‘The Priests House’ at Smallhythe and West Hoathly

Friday 21st January 2022. 7pm

Shaking off the historical shackles – make or break

The wealth and patronage of the nineteenth century provided a rich horticultural canvas that was undermined by the wars and then weather catastrophes such as the 1987 great storm. However, rather than look back here we rejoice in seven that display a contemporary verve that sets the scene for the future. The most colourful and yet contrasting are Great Dixter and the newly restored Leonardslee, both hugely popular inspirational sites. Often inspiration flourishes in the hands of keen private gardeners as can be admired at Fairlight End on the maritime edges of the High Weald, and, tucked in across this unique region, Falconhurst, Goddards Green, Upper Pryors and Wych Warren await discovery.

Featured landscapes and gardens: Fairlight End, Falconhurst, Goddards Green, Great Dixter, Leonardslee, Upper Pryors, Wych Warren

Friday 25th February 2022. 7pm

Shear genius and ripping yarns

This mini-series closes in a brisk trot with a horticultural mind reviewing seven contrasting gardens, great and small, linked by clipped masterpieces and fascinating narratives. The colourful highlights in these plots stem from across the globe, engaging in eighteenth century symbolism and operatic references whilst delving amongst religious roots and into royal romps. Kipling’s Batemans and the family creativity at Nymans add further dimensions. Topiary is viewed as quintessentially English, to be admired, smiled at, and an essential device for bringing wildness into focus. Balmoral Cottage and Penshurst are linked by the same glorious Scissorhands genius, the latter with ancient lineage. Hever has developed a Disney factor whilst the rhythm of Twyford exudes a private passion for operatic music.

Featured landscapes and gardens: Balmoral Cottage, Batemans, Hammerwood Park, Hever Castle, Nymans, Penshurst, Twyford


Booking details: The Gardens Trust have kindly offered to host this series using Eventbrite. Caroline Holmes will give each one-hour talk live from 7pm with the opportunity for questions afterwards. A recording will be available for a further week.

The ticket costs £16 for all four sessions or you can purchase a ticket for individual sessions, costing £5 each.



Lead image: Great Dixter copyright Bennet Smith – above, Borde Hill Gardens



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