Friday, May 24, 2013

The Gardens of Downton Abbey -- How To Create an English Garden of Your Own

The Countess of Grantham's roses are the envy of the village.  Lady Mary and Mathew Crawley fell in love strolling in the garden.   Mr. Carson served tea on white linen under the trees.  The stately formal gardens of Downton Abbey play a starring role in the British drama that's captured global attention.

The obsession with Downton Abbey doesn't end at the drawing room. Those breathtaking gardens harken back to a time when elegance extended to the courtyard.  After all, the Dowager Countess' birth name is Violet isn't it?  Just don't expect her to toss on a pair of gardening gloves. 

After Lady Edith is jilted at the altar, the young woman has this exchange with her grandmother (best read with an accent)--

Violet:  There must be something you can put your mind to?

Edith:  Like what?   Gardening?

Violet:  Well no, you can't be as desperate as that?
How to duplicate a bit of the elegant English estate gardens in your own yard?  It's not as difficult as one might expect.  The Downton gardens are maintained by a team of groundskeepers.  Without a workforce in residence, here's a few tips to achieve the look and feel of those sophisticated courtyards:

1.   Simple, clean entryways:  Perhaps it's so nothing detracts from the servants lined up outside the
front entrance each time a nobleman comes to tea.  Notably the front of the grand home does not contain the traditional foundation plantings found across the pond. Instead the pebbled drive ends at the front steps.

2.  Crushed natural stone pathways:   Meandering trails are a must. Crushed gravel is less expensive than pavers and far more eco-friendly.  Drainage is superior as the rocks do not become spongy like wood chips, yet allows less run off than bricks or pavers.  Curved trails and pathways are a staple in the estate garden.  As practical as they are lovely, pathways allow easy access to deeper parts of the yard.

3.  Roses:  Lady Grantham's roses win the prize nearly every year.  Except the year she gratiously
deferred to Mr. Mosely, Sr. of course.  English estate roses are grown in isolation.  A rose bed contains no other intruders.  Roses are planted a respectable distance apart in full sun and atop a mound of well drained soil.  Despite the thorns, the beauty of a rose is unmatched. 

4.  Boxwood hedges:  Carefully clipped as there's no room for an unkept shrub in a formal garden.  Sharpen those clippers.  It's important to know how to property trim a hedge to avoid the look of a bad haircut. 

5.  Natural Edging-- No rubber borders.  Sharply cut botanical edges are a bit of work, but inexpensive and terribly crisp. 

6.  Statuary/benches:  Every proper British gardener requires an occasional cuppa tea.  Where better than the garden after a rigorous afternoon of planting?  A focal point is absolutely necessary., whether a birdbath, metal sculpture or stone statue.

The rolling hills and quirky Downton humor make my English husband long for home.  Perhaps our little garden plot will help. 


More Articles of Interest:

How to Trim Shrubs -- No More Bad Haircuts

Green Fences -- Boxwood Hedges to Hydrangea Hedgerows

White Flowers -- White Garden -- Purely Neutral