The Formal Garden at Anglesey Abbey

The Formal Garden is a story of two parts. During the spring, brightly coloured orange and white tulips adorn the straight, geometric beds. In late summer, and early autumn, the garden is then transformed into a sea of red and orange dwarf dahlias, true to Lord Fairhaven's own design. 

Situated on what was once a hard-surfaced tennis court, the Formal Garden was one of the first creations that Lord Fairhaven had installed into the garden, along with the Rose Garden. Cleverly concealed within its own bubble by tall thuya hedge and installed just before the war, it was through a developing love of gardening that saw the tennis court replaced with a garden completely formal in it's conception. 

Dramatic by design

It has an extremely dramatic design, and the tall thuya hedging around the external boundaries offer a protection from the informal planting beyond it's walls. It was seamlessly integrated into the wider gardens, and offers a glimpse into the 1st Lord Fairhaven's structured personality. 

As you enter the garden, the eye is drawn to the geometric arrangement of the flower beds, arranged around an unusual 18th century sundial with a figure of Father Time in the centre. This is said to have come from Stowe, in Buckinghamshire, purchased by the 1st Lord Fairhaven. The beds are based entirely on straight lines with sharp edges with no room for curves, and the proportion of grass to flowerbeds is cleverly worked out in favour of the grass. It's also completely symmetrical, seen in both the flower beds, and the wall-like hedging. 

The planting schemes are very simple, and by design, give two blooms each year. 


Dazzling Dahlias

Planted shortly after the tulips have been removed, around 4000 dahlia tubers are painstakingly put in to give a wonderful display during September and October. Lasting until the first frost arrives, Dahlia 'Madame Stapper' and 'Ellen Britton' provide a sea of red and orange. These are the same bronze-leafed varieties planted by Lord Fairhaven - it's said that when he couldn't guarentee that he would have a generous supply for this garden, he purchased all of the tubers that the supplier had! 

Step inside the Dahlia Garden this season
Father and children in the dahlia garden
Step inside the Dahlia Garden this season

Springtime blooms

In the spring, Lord Fairhaven's choice fluctuated between hyacinths, blue and white in colour, and tulips, which is what we currently have in there. Planted in uniform rows Tulipa 'Tres Chic' and 'Ballerina' offer a sriking white and orange display during the months of April into May. These colours also offer a link to one Lord Fairhaven's other hobbies, horse racing, as they are very similar to his racing colours. 

Once these displays are over, they are then removed to make way for a second wave of colour during the late summer and early autumn. 

Vibrant orange tulips in the formal garden at Anglesey Abbey with blurred statue in the background.

There are, inevitably, periods of time when this garden is resting, and appears to be empty. Lord Fairhaven had designed the gardens to have areas of peak beauty, offering a year-long display, and the gardens remain like this today. Whilst this garden looks empty, others are flourishing.

Lanning Roper, an american landscape architect and contemporary of Lord Fairhaven once noted that 'the drifts of snowdrops, the Daffodil walk, the Hyacinth and the Herbaceous and the Dahlia Gardens all have their long moments of promise and brief perfection. No attempt is made to have prolonged displays as in smaller gardens'.