20th century additions to Clandon Park gardens

The parterre at Clandon Park

Much of the work that shaped the seven acres of grade II listed gardens that now surround Clandon Park, was undertaken by William Hillier Onslow in the late 19th century. However, small changes continued throughout the 20th century to produce the surroundings that you see today.

The Hinemihi border

In 1888 William Hillier, the 4th Earl Onslow, accepted the post of Governor General of New Zealand. He spent three years in the post between 1888 and 1891. On his return to England the 4th Earl brought home a souvenir of his stay, a Maori meeting house named Hinemihi. She was originally placed at the edge of an ornamental lake. Later, in the early part of the twentieth century, Hinemihi was moved to the east lawn underneath an English oak.
Hinemihi at Clandon Park
Hinemihi at Clandon Park

The borders surrounding Hinemihi now contain a collection of plants native to New Zealand and include the tree fern Dicksonia fibrosa, named after the nurseryman James Dickson. Also known as golden tree fern or woolly tree fern because of the fibrous nature of its trunk, it has Maori names of Wheki Ponga and Kuripaka. The fern can grow up to six metres high and form a canopy two metres wide. When the fronds are young they are coiled into a spiral. The Maori name for this shape is a koru and can be seen in many Maori designs, including the carvings on Hinemihi.

The parterre garden

A parterre is a type of formal garden. Typically they consist of planting beds containing floral displays within clipped hedges, symmetrically divided by gravel pathways. Parterres evolved from knot gardens which were popular in the Tudor period. Throughout the 17th century Baroque parterres became ever more elaborate, the peak of which is considered to be Versailles. 
Garden designers George London and Henry Wise developed an English style of parterre influenced by European baroque gardens. Their work could be seen in Knyff’s landscape painting of 1708. At that time the area of the garden that now houses the parterre was a bowling lawn. The rest of the garden consisted of a formal layout. Over the years the bowling lawn became a lawn and then a formal bed.
The parterre from above at Clandon Park
The parterre at Clandon Park

In 1968 renowned interior designer John Fowler was offered an opportunity to refurbish Clandon Park. Later, in 1976, with the horticultural help of Graham Stuart Thomas and Paul Miles, he created the parterre. They introduced stilt hedges of hornbeam planted in a rectangle shape with a central space to allow in light and air, but also provide shade on a hot day. There are eight planting beds each surrounded by an outer and inner box hedge, the outer clipped to knee height and the inner to ankle height.
In May and October the beds are replanted to provide a seasonal display. The summer display for 2014 reflected the colours of a nurse’s badge as a nod to the anniversary of the First World War when Clandon Park was used as a hospital. The winter bedding display has been based on plants historically associated with Clandon. The number of plants used in the parterre at any one time totals over a thousand.