Interestingly I am now of an age where my work is usurped by younger gardeners – I find this quite interesting. I have done the same for other designers from previous generations (in particular I remodelled a Rosemary Verey garden in Scotland and one by Lanning Roper in London). The advantage is that I can see how it turns out as, at the time of writing, I am still alive!
This border has just been remodelled (after a few years of neglect) by Jenny Barnes who is the very talented and energetic new head gardener at Cottesbrooke. My border is now part of history but it was good while it lasted.
The borders, pathways and, of course, the house were there long before I rocked up and started messing around. When I first saw them these borders were fine: they had a good variety of plants and there were Yuccas at the path junctions. We just thought that the time had come for a different look – it is one of the dilemmas that gardens open to the public have to grapple. You need people to keep coming back which means that you have to give them new things.
We started by tweaking it a bit and then it dawned on us that really it would be best to strip it all back to nothing and start again. The yuccas went (spiky plants are never ideal too close to paths) and we piled tons of manure into the borders before replanting them. We still have a good smattering of tender perennials (dahlias, salvias etc) as Cottesbrooke has always been well known for that.
The first year that they were planted lots of people came up to me: I was hoping that they would congratulate me on my excellent taste and interesting planting but my vanity was left unstroked as almost all of them asked the same question. “What is that lovely white flower running through the borders?”. It was a white Agrostemmon (corncockle) that was planted by the then head gardener, Phylip Statner. Nothing to do with me!
Go and visit and see what Jenny has done with it – and follow her on Instagram where you can see her doing extraordinary things to roses.
Cottesbrooke Hall, Northampton.