A view from the Clandon Park garden team

The parterre garden at Clandon Park

Senior Gardener Dan Bennett reflects on the past few months caring for the garden at Clandon Park. Much has changed in the garden, as has the role of gardener since the fire in April. In recent weeks the garden team have begun to return to everyday tasks, including replanting the parterre, right next to the shell of the house.

With so much exciting work going on you sometimes forget about the backdrop until you stop for a break and take in the view. You look around at the garden moving into Autumn, but then you focus on the house and it all seems quite surreal.
" You focus on the house and it all seems quite surreal."
- Dan Bennet

In the weeks immediately after the fire, our team had a very different role from usual. We all pulled together, helping to move larger objects that had been salvaged from the house, supplying the salvage village with generator fuel, helping to man the car park and generally making ourselves available to pitch in with whatever was required.
 
The garden had been on hold for almost a month and for our team, and the group of experienced volunteers that work with us, there was no question about what to do next: we were eager to get back to it. As you can imagine, a month of not attending a garden like Clandon can leave you with a massive task on your hands.
 
I think perhaps our toughest day was the removal of greenery from around the house to allow the necessary space for the scaffolding, which is essential to save the building and what remains inside. In some ways it looks like the house has been freed but it’s always sad to lose plants.
 
At this stage we decided it was a good opportunity to carry out some of the larger jobs that we’d normally do when Clandon is closed to the public through the winter months. We’ve been taking down unwanted fence lines and gates to open the garden up so that it feels like a unified space again. We’ve removed Portuguese laurel from around the Dutch garden so that this area can once again be seen from the house.
Removing fence lines at Clandon Park
Removing fence lines at Clandon Park

Our next task was to prepare the garden to receive visitors for the autumn open days, which felt a little like a return to normality. This mostly required simple day-to-day work, such as weeding and pruning, to ensure that the high standards people have come to expect from Clandon are maintained in this brave new way of opening.
 
This winter we’ll be lowering a yew hedge to open up vistas of the house from our Dutch garden. That’ll provide this sunken, partitioned space with more light, enabling us to improve the planting plan and restore the garden to its glory days of the early 20th century. We’ve also decided to move the main path across the meadow so it runs back along historical lines. This autumn we’ll replant the existing path with daffodil bulbs, integrating it back into the meadow.
 
We don’t know exactly what Clandon’s future holds right now, but there will always be a garden and a gardener looking on.
 

Timeline

2016

Time flies in the garden

It’s been a year since I first wrote this article and it’s been a busy one. As I write this the garden is open again so it feels like business as usual, welcoming people through the gates again albeit for a very different experience to that in early 2015. We’ve been improving the garden where we can; changing paths to suit the new visitor offer, taking down hedges, planting bulbs and removing yew trees from the grotto. This essential the work around the Grotto took place so that it will be more visible and to stop roots from undermining the stonework. The garden team has been called on to help tame weeds and keep the grass down under the scaffold, but mainly our role has been to keep the garden up to the standards expected. With different ideas still being considered for the future of the house and garden our role has been one of maintenance rather than the dramatic changes seen in the house. I’ve been organising replacement coping stones for the Dutch garden as this feature will stay in place whatever changes may come to other areas. The stone has been sourced and is being cut from the quarry; it should be installed in the next few months.