The creation of Tintinhull garden

Tintinhull House on a frosty morning

Surrounded by the mellow colours of old brick and Ham stone, Tintinhull garden is the creation of two twentieth century gardeners: the first was an untrained amateur whose name is often still unrecognised, and the second is one of the UK’s most distinguished garden writers and designers.

The garden was created around a 17th century, Grade I listed house; garden and house are intertwined, with the house visible from every part of the garden and the garden layout planned with an eye to those looking out from house.

The strong design of the garden was the work of Phyllis Reiss, who bought Tintinhull with her husband in 1933 and left it to the National Trust after her death in 1961. She was a shy woman, born into a disappearing world of leisured prosperity; influenced by gardens such as Hidcote and travels throughout France and Italy, she was part of a circle of gardeners that included the renowned Vita Sackville-West, then creating her own garden at Sissinghurst.

Reiss took a ‘painterly’ approach to her garden, aiming for impact and emotional effect. She took ideas from famed garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, but simplified the herbaceous planting and planned imaginative and bold colour schemes. The garden is deceptively disciplined, with a strict formal framework offset with much looser floriferous planting; Reiss also included architectural plants for year-round interest.

Twenty years after Reiss’s death, Penelope Hobhouse took on the tenancy at Tintinhull with her husband Professor Malins. It was while living at Tintinhull that Hobhouse developed her ideas on colour and became an internationally renowned garden designer and writer; many of her books reference her work at Tintinhull, where she used pots to dramatic effect and maintained Reiss’s experimental spirit.

Reiss intended her ‘happy’ garden to be a place of peace and tranquillity, especially so after the creation of the Pool Garden in memory of her nephew, who was killed in the Second World War. After more than 50 years in National Trust ownership, Tintinhull is a garden with dramatic impact, but also a haven of quiet calm.