On the map

Wyken Hall in Suf­folk seems im­mune to the buf­fet­ing of pass­ing years, but as its cur­rent cus­to­dian, Sir Ken­neth Carlisle, ex­plains part of the trick is blend­ing the gar­dens with the an­cient land­scape

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Contents - WORDS JODIE JONES PHO­TO­GRAPHS RICHARD BLOOM

Carlisle and his Sir wife Ken­neth Carla have cre­ated a stun­ning, time­less gar­den around their home at Wyken Hall deep in the heart of the Suf­folk coun­try­side

Deep in the heart of Suf­folk, wrapped in a patch­work of fields, hedgerows and wind­ing lanes, Wyken Hall has an air of time­less­ness.

This an­cient es­tate was recorded in the Domes­day Book and there is ev­i­dence of set­tle­ment on the land for over 6,000 years, but for the past 40 years or so it has been home to Sir Ken­neth Carlisle and his wife Carla. To­gether they have en­hanced the gar­dens around their manor house, trans­formed a dis­used barn into an award-win­ning restaurant and shop, and planted a highly re­garded vine­yard.

What or who has in­spired you to gar­den? My grand­fa­ther [Lord Aber­con­way] was Pres­i­dent of the RHS in the 1940s and cre­ated the gar­dens at Bod­nant in Wales, where I was born, so I grew up sur­rounded by ex­cel­lent hor­ti­cul­ture. How did you be­gin the gar­den here, and who in­spired the way the gar­den has evolved? My grand­fa­ther in­her­ited the Wyken es­tate and I be­gan farm­ing here in 1973. We are sur­rounded by lovely woods, and I was very in­ter­ested in wildf low­ers, but didn’t start gar­den­ing un­til 1979. I was per­suaded by a friend that I should have lots of old rose cul­ti­vars, so I bought them all, and that is how the Rose Gar­den took shape. I also be­gan the Win­ter Gar­den at the front of the house around that time.

[The land­scape de­signer] Ara­bella Len­nox-Boyd is a fam­ily friend and dur­ing a week­end visit in 1983 she drew up plans for the Herb Gar­den, Knot Gar­den and Rose Gar­den im­prove­ments, run­ning along the back of the house. I fol­lowed all her rec­om­men­da­tions, and so it is her designs that form the foun­da­tion of th­ese gar­dens today.

Carla has an artis­tic eye for colour and she has great inf lu­ence on the evolv­ing de­sign. How much help do you have in the gar­den? When I took over the es­tate, we al­ready had a gar­dener called John Mann, who had been work­ing here since 1956. Now, 62 years later, he still comes in one day a week. Our head gar­dener is Rob Kett, who runs the gar­dens with one other full-time gar­dener and an­other who comes in for five hours a week. We owe a lot to this amaz­ing team. What chal­lenges have you faced? Early on I planted a ley­landii hedge that was re­moved very quickly when I re­alised what I had done. The im­por­tant thing is to learn when things go wrong. And we had the great priv­i­lege of know­ing that we were go­ing to be here for years and years so there was no great rush, which is of­ten when mis­takes oc­cur. If you do one or two projects a year, the im­pact be­comes quite sig­nif­i­cant af­ter 20 years. Although tak­ing the long view can also be an is­sue. I planted a coastal red­wood in 1970, which is now re­ally quite large. Thank­fully, I won’t be around when it gets so big that it be­comes a prob­lem. How straight­for­ward was it to gar­den sym­pa­thet­i­cally with an his­toric prop­erty? The ba­sic struc­ture of the gar­den is built around the f lint walls and fine old trees, which were here when I moved in. And, of course, there are the views from in­side the house. A case in point is the pleached stilt hedge on the front ter­race, which is un­usu­ally high to avoid block­ing the view through the ground-f loor win­dows.

But with a site like this, the trick is to man­age the tran­si­tion from for­mal ar­eas near the house out into the an­cient land­scape. The gar­den must re­late to the ar­chi­tec­ture but also to the sur­round­ing fields and wood­lands. Many of our gar­den ar­eas are de­signed to frame a vista. To keep the wider views open, we put in a ha-ha. Es­sen­tially, this is a deep ditch with a fence at the bot­tom. It was done with a dig­ger in less than a day, keep­ing the costs down, and means we can en­joy look­ing at the sheep graz­ing in the field be­yond with­out them wan­der­ing into the gar­den. What are the gar­den’s sea­sonal high­lights? A long sea­son of in­ter­est is im­por­tant for our own en­joy­ment, but also be­cause we open the gar­dens to the pub­lic from the be­gin­ning of April un­til the end of Septem­ber. We start early, with a won­der­ful dis­play of snake’s head frit­il­lar­ies in the wildf lower meadow. Then the or­chard is full of blos­som. By late May, the Rose Gar­den is re­ally com­ing into its own, and we put in the Red Hot Bor­der, full of dahlias, kniphofias, and all sorts of strong colours, to keep the in­ter­est go­ing through Au­gust and on into Septem­ber. Has open­ing your gar­den to the pub­lic in­flu­enced the way you have de­vel­oped it? We have al­ways grown veg­eta­bles here, but they were rather scat­tered about, so we de­cided to make a ded­i­cated Kitchen Gar­den be­cause it is very at­trac­tive and pop­u­lar with the vis­i­tors. As well as the tim­ber raised beds, we have 20 dif­fer­ent types of es­paliered ap­ples, all tra­di­tional va­ri­eties.


IN BRIEF Name Wyken Hall. What Se­ries of themed gar­dens wrap­ping around the house. Where Suf­folk. Size Four-acre gar­den in 1,000-acre farm. Soil Suf­folk boul­der clay (clay with nuggets of chalk). Cli­mate Tem­per­ate. Har­di­ness zone USDA 8.

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