PLOT ON THE LANDSCAPE
For globetrotting green thumbs, a hotel should have an ensuite garden with spades of style, writes Christine McCabe
BARNSLEY HOUSE England
HOME to self-taught but virtuoso horticulturist Rosemary Verey for almost 50 years, this elegant 17th-century house near Cirencester in Gloucestershire nestles in what many consider to be the perfect English garden.
Charming rather than grand, the 1.6ha plot, with many historic references, combines formal lawns and knot gardens with magical walks and a productive potager. The house has been sensitively restored to offer stylish digs complete with a restaurant and day spa set in its own modernistic garden designed by Stephen Woodhams.
The luxe guestrooms are kitted out with all mod cons and interiors have been given a contemporary twist by owners Rupert Pendered and Tim Haigh. Listed by English Heritage, the gardens remain true to the Verey spirit, echoed at nearby Highgrove where Prince Charles cites the designer as an important influence. www.barnsleyhouse.com.
DURING the 1920s, society garden designer Norah Lindsay helped the Astors with their borders at Cliveden and a sense of glamour still prevails at this famous property (later to become embroiled in the Profumo affair). Today a team of less glamorous but more pragmatic gardeners and woodsmen take care of the National Trust-owned estate sprawling across a heavily forested ridge above the Thames in Berkshire.
Gone are the elaborate herbaceous plantings instigated by Lindsay. Instead simpler pleasures prevail (albeit on a grand scale) including a romantic water garden and vast parterre of sage, catmint and santolina planted below a balustrade shipped from Rome’s Villa Borghese. The famous marble Fountain of Love and ancient Roman sarcophagi scattered about as casually as garden furniture speak to the astonishing financial investment this garden represents.
Cliveden’s interiors and guestrooms are no less lavish and echo the house party excesses of uber society hostess Nancy Astor. When former British prime minister and Cliveden regular Harold Macmillan was told the house was to become a hotel, he quipped ‘‘ it always has been’’. www.clivedenhouse.co.uk.
FOUR SEASONS Bali
THE gardens at this benchmark resort are some of the loveliest in Southeast Asia. The work of Australian-born landscape gardener Michael White (better known by his adopted name of Made Wijaya), they evoke the sense of a lost Balinese palace and feel as if they have been here forever.
Perched above Jimbaran Bay near Denpasar airport, the resort appears to grow from the verdant hillside with lush, tropical gardens enveloping every building.
An island of frangipani trees floats in a secluded swimming pool; moss-ravaged pots and statues adorn apparently ancient walls and balustrades. Narrow paths wind between the thatched-roof guest villas, each entered through an old wooden door in a stone wall.
A private garden abuts the large open-sided living pavilions which, in turn, open on to stone plunge pools with sea views. This favourite Four Seasons resort has few peers; service is impeccable and the gardens the very essence of tropical living. www.fourseasons.com/jimbaranbay.
LUNUGANGA Sri Lanka
THE Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa spent more than four decades refining his Italian-inspired gardens at Lunuganga near Bentota, 90 minutes south of Colombo. A montage of green on green, this elegant 10ha garden, once a rubber and cinnamon plantation, lies on a wooded hill overlooking the jungle-cuffed Lake Dedduwa.
Bawa used his impeccable eye to create a serene retreat that references English landscape as well as Italianate traditions.
Trees were removed and the ridge of a hill lowered to improve the view; fussy flower borders were eschewed for stands of towering bamboo, mangroves and a lotus pond.
Lunuganga offers four ensuite guestrooms (including one named for the Australian artist Donald Friend) in Bawa’s elegant plantationstyle house as well as a two-bedroom studio set high on the hill.
Daily changing menus feature Sri Lankan as well as Mediterranean-influenced seafood dishes, and meals may be taken alfresco in one of countless magical garden nooks; the house is open year around. A website is under construction: www.lunuganga.net or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MILTON PARK COUNTRY HOUSE HOTEL Southern highlands, NSW
REGARDED as one of the finest gardens in the horticulturally blessed southern highlands, Milton Park was established almost a century ago by the Hordern family.
Very much an English garden, with the oldest parts of the property heritage listed, Milton features impressive elms, oaks, a glorious weeping beech and Australia’s oldest and largest variegated tulip tree. This arboreal splendour is complemented by an array of garden delights: a wisteria walk, bluebell wood, parterre and sundry rose gardens.
Located just east of Bowral, the arts and crafts house was converted into a hotel almost two decades ago (for a short time aligned with the Amanresort group) and today features 47 elegant rooms, six suites and a day spa.
Green thumbs should book a guided garden tour in advance (or pick up a DIY tour guide from reception). www.milton-park.com.au.
THORNBURY CASTLE England
I AM having trouble imagining the svelte Eric Bana as Henry VIII but was presented with no such problem at Thornbury, a pictureperfect Tudor castle in southern Gloucestershire where the portly king and his Anne Boleyn once romped about the walled garden, claimed to be the oldest Tudor-style patch in England.
With just 25 guestrooms (or bed chambers, I should say) replete with tapestries, roaring log fires and, in some instances, arrow slits, and sequestered behind crumbling stone walls smothered in climbing roses, Thornbury features fabulously grand public rooms with high ceilings and handsome oriel windows.
The Gloucester bedchamber has a view of the Privy and Goodly gardens, the latter also dating from Tudor times and opening on to an orchard and rose bushes humming with fat bumble bees. The hotel’s mod Brit cuisine features herbs and vegetables grown in the castle garden. There’s even a vineyard producing estate wine.
The gardens are small (about 6ha) by royal standards, but Thornbury is rightly considered one of the most romantic castlehotels in Europe.
Here paths and corridors echo with the footsteps of kings and queens and the Machiavellian mutterings of courtiers. www.thornburycastle.co.uk.
Gardens great and small: Clockwise from main picture, Milton Park in the NSW southern highlands; exotic Four Seasons Bali; Thornbury Castle; entrance to the swimming pool at Cliveden; and Cliveden’s stately facade