Yesterday I visited a truly delightful garden which is right on my doorstep, near Stroud in Gloucestershire. Painswick Rococo is a 6 acre hidden haven, tucked away in a Cotswold valley. It is the sole complete survivor from the brief early 18th century period of English Rococo Garden design, which is best known in France and Italy.
First view of the garden
This style of garden combines formality and informality in a flamboyant package, filled with pavilions, fountains and staircases as a place for owners to show off their wealth and entertain guests. It is not about plant collections but more a place where plants become part of the furnishings of an outdoor theatrical room in which to entertain.
This somewhat bizarre and extravagant form of garden design was a fleeting craze in England. Most people are more familiar with vast herbaceous borders, vivid planting schemes and arboreta which shaped gardens created in the 19th and 20th century.
The garden at Painswick was abandoned when it became over planted by trees, however a painting dated 1748 by a local artist which showed the original garden design proved invaluable in guiding the ambitious restoration programme that began in 1984. The garden was transformed from an overgrown wilderness to its former 18th century glory, it is now managed by a charitable trust.
It was refreshing to visit Painswick as I had never seen the unusual style of a Rococo garden before. The entrance to the garden is via a doorway which leads out onto a viewing platform, suddenly revealing the whole garden spread out below you. It’s a magical first impression, I had my usual “omg!” moment!
The Exedra garden and Plunge Pool were the most colourful areas at this time of year. Huge clumps of Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Geranium endressii and Thalictrum delavayi gave the most colour, a massive hydrangea stole the show for me though. There was no label that I could see to determine its name, however it looked very similar to Hydrangea aspera ‘Anthony Bullivant’ and Hydrangea aspera subsp. sargentiana. If anyone can identify it more accurately from the photos then please let me know! 🙂
The Kitchen garden had mouth-watering vegetables, the mammoth courgettes and brassicas got me in the mood for lunch! The fences to keep rabbits out were constructed with military precision, an idea I’ll take away to re-create in my own veg plot. . .
The Kitchen garden
Painswick is most famous for its display of snowdrops, even though it was the wrong time of year the walk around the woodland areas were still enjoyable, the shade giving pleasant relief on such a hot day.
A maze was opened in 1999 to mark the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the garden. A viewpoint enables you to watch from above and see people trying to find its three centres, which I managed successfully! There’s something mysterious and intriguing about a maze or labyrinth, they never fail to mesmerize me.
The beech walk
Vistas drew the eye in various directions from the surrounding landscape to follies, statuary and water features. I liked the little red chapel in particular, it was tiny! A wedding was about to take place as I was leaving, I couldn’t imagine anywhere more charming to have a ceremony than at Painswick.