Gar­den­ing

Country Life Every Week - - Books -

Then­ford: The Cre­ation of an English Gar­den

Anne and Michael He­sel­tine (Head of Zeus, £40)

MICHAEL HE­SEL­TINE reck­ons that the vast english gar­den that he and his wife, anne, have made at Then­ford since 1977 is a bet­ter legacy than any of his po­lit­i­cal achieve­ments. This fas­ci­nat­ing book tells how they de­signed it, how they tack­led the prob­lems they en­coun­tered and why some fea­tures went wrong. It de­scribes the se­quence of im­prove­ments, the con­stant re­vi­sions, the new lakes and foun­tains and the cre­ation of an amaz­ingly com­pli­cated and ex­ten­sive se­ries of waterworks called the rill. It just shows what can be achieved with en­ergy, en­thu­si­asm, wealth and taste.

Their ad­vis­ers were among the best: Quin­lan Terry built the Baroque sum­mer house and Lan­ning roper de­signed the rose gar­den. The list of friends who have ad­vised and helped them along the way reads like a Who’s Who of mod­ern gar­den­ing: harold hil­lier, roy Lan­caster, richard Carew Pole, Char­lie Lansdowne, John rop­ner, Xa Tollemache and many oth­ers.

What comes through clearly is how well the hes­eltines work to­gether as a team. Lady he­sel­tine has an eye for the de­tails of de­sign and en­joys ac­quir­ing sculp­tures and or­na­ments for the gar­den—they are tremen­dous fre­quenters of French bro­cante deal­ers. It was she who res­cued a huge bust of Lenin from a KGB build­ing in Latvia.

Lord he­sel­tine is a hands-on gar­dener, a true plants­man, a pas­sion­ate col­lec­tor of trees and shrubs—in love not just with the plants in his gar­den, but with the sheer va­ri­ety of the whole plant king­dom. he has amassed more than 300 dif­fer­ent mag­no­lias, 342 snow­drops, 370 oaks, more than 350 co­toneast­ers and all known Aes­cu­lus species and cul­ti­vars. although a rich man with 10 gar­den­ers, he dis­plays a re­mark­able mas­tery of the tech­niques of gar­den-mak­ing, plant-rais­ing and main­te­nance.

hun­dreds of pho­to­graphs show how the main fea­tures were cre­ated. They also dis­play the scale and va­ri­ety of the de­sign and plant­ings. all is un­der­scored by a cheer­ful be­lief that prob­lems can be over­come, even if the so­lu­tions are very ex­pen­sive.

There are a few small er­rors— the rose on page 66 is not Com­pas­sion; ‘auric­u­lar’ and ‘self-sewn’ ap­pear (a writer is only as good as his ed­i­tor). But what a gar­den—and what a book! Charles Quest-rit­son

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