The Parterre Garden at Hatchlands Park

The parterre in summer at Hatchlands Park, Surrey

Our parterre at Hatchlands has changed dramatically over the past three years. Originally created in 1914 the design had been regularly updated but, following a tough 2015 and a significant redesign, this small south-facing plot is now once again bursting with colour.

2015 brought with it one of the wettest winters on record. Sections of the garden flooded and water levels reached heights we hadn’t seen in 20 years. This meant that our parterre spent almost a month with a small stream running through it. 

The following season, as with several other gardens in the region, the parterre was badly affected by box blight. We were forced to take quite drastic measures to eradicate the disease so that we could be certain it didn’t affect other areas of the garden. All the box hedges had to be dug out, soil removed down to a depth of two feet and all waste material burned. As a result the garden was shut for over a year and was left looking very bare and in a pretty sorry state. 

A historic garden

In 1900 Lord Rendel of Hatchlands commissioned Gertrude Jekyll to design a small parterre garden. The designs weren’t followed up until 1914 when his grandson Hal, asked her to return and draw up planting schemes. She designed two schemes and Hal chose a June garden of peonies and roses inside herbaceous beds. It was planted using material from Jekyll’s own nursery at Munstead Wood. 

Gertrude Jekyll's early 20th century plan for the parterre
Gertrude Jekyll's plan for the parterre at Hatchlands Park

The garden was first restored in the late 1980s following the original planting scheme as closely as possible. It was designed to look at its best in May and June when Lord Rendel was staying in the house.  

Restoration of a classic

The combination of blight and flood left a blank canvas to work with giving our team the opportunity to come up with a completely fresh design. With this changed layout it was decided not to reinstate the hedging but to keep clean edges instead. The garden has issues being so close to an extremely large London Plane tree which casts shadows over the northern edge and keeps the garden very dry with a root system that spreads under the entire area.

Look back across the roses for views of the park beyond
The parterre in summer at Hatchlands Park, Surrey

The plan is similar to the original. It features four square beds each surrounded by its own C-shaped bed and edged with straight borders on all four sides. At the centre of the design is a statue of three cherubs.

The planting scheme we’ve chosen is a mix of African marigolds, heliotropes, antirrhinums, nicotianca, cosmos, salvias and foxgloves; 250 lavender plants flank the outer edges. We’ve retained as much of the previous scheme as the box blight allowed us to, but these annuals give us the chance to switch things around each year. This winter it’ll be back to the drawing board again.

The design gives a nod to Gertrude Jekyll who encouraged her clients to use marigolds. They’re haemostatic and were used in the First World War to make bandages. Jekyll gave over the use of a field on her estate in Sussex to grow marigolds.Large bundles were shipped out to and used as bandages for the wounded. 

Peonies in C-shaped borders in the parterre garden
The parterre in summer at Hatchlands Park, Surrey

Interim planting will continue for two years while further investigations into those drainage and irrigation problems, soil sampling takes place and the Garden Conservation Statement is updated and agreed. The statement will cover the way forward for the garden as a whole giving us a firm direction for its design and presentation in future years.

Thanks to our volunteers

We’re hugely grateful to our local volunteer group The Foresters. They not only donated money to help us realise this project, but also gave two days of their time to clear borders and help our team to plant the 250 lavender plants.