Clean cut The win­ter dor­mancy serves only to heighten the crisp shapes and strong lines of Map­per­ton’s Arts and Crafts gar­den in Dorset

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Map­per­ton’s Ital­ianate gar­den is the very def­i­ni­tion of a gar­den with good bones, and as such it is stun­ning in the depths of win­ter. In fact it is al­most all bones: red-brick walls; pil­lars and but­tresses; steps and pools; and im­pres­sively loom­ing, crisply cut topi­ary. In spring and sum­mer it is soft­ened just a lit­tle by a few bor­ders of peren­ni­als up against the walls and by climb­ing roses, but even then it is the struc­ture that dom­i­nates. De­spite not be­ing a tra­di­tion­ally fem­i­nine gar­den, this is a land­scape that has been dom­i­nated by women through­out its his­tory. The house and land were owned by the same fam­ily for 800 years, but passed down the fe­male line. In 1919, it was sold to Ethel Labouchere, the widow of a Bel­gian banker, and she had the Ital­ianate gar­den built as a memo­rial to her hus­band. It was Ethel who turned this nat­u­ral val­ley into such an idio­syn­cratic and strongly struc­tural gar­den, com­plete with grot­tos with in­te­gral fire­places so she could sit and paint in warmth in win­ter.

Although the style harks back to 15th-cen­tury Ital­ian Re­nais­sance gar­dens, Map­per­ton was built be­tween 1919 and 1927. There is no known de­signer – per­haps Ethel even de­signed it her­self – but in a touch­ing move she did com­mem­o­rate the ma­sons, labour­ers, gar­den­ers and me­chan­ics who con­structed the gar­den in a plaque on one of the gar­den’s pil­lars (a move later echoed by Vic­tor Mon­tagu, the 10th Earl of Sand­wich, who bought the house in 1955 and had an or­angery built at the north end of the Ital­ianate gar­den, com­plete with its own labour­ers’ plaque). The gar­den is very much a prod­uct of its time, par­tic­u­larly in its hard land­scap­ing. Much of the sur­face area com­prises crazy paving (very 20th cen­tury), and most of the gar­den’s nu­mer­ous an­i­mal sculp­tures are made of cast con­crete or re­con­sti­tuted stone – then con­sid­ered a won­der ma­te­rial, now au­then­ti­cally weath­ered. The house is now owned by the 11th Earl and Count­ess of Sand­wich, and head gar­dener Steve Lan­nin works closely with the count­ess, Caro­line Mon­tagu, who has re­planted much of the gar­den.

Right Ethel Labouchere – the Bel­gian widow who had the gar­den built be­tween 1919 and 1927 – cre­ated a strong frame­work of hard land­scap­ing that is the gar­den’s dom­i­nant fea­ture: paths and steps sur­round­ing a cen­tral water fea­ture. Across the gar­den is the en­trance to one of its two grot­tos, both of which con­tain fire­places so Ethel could paint even in win­ter.

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