Valley Friends April Report

From Joan Steel

The Restoration of Mary-Anne Disraeli’s Garden

Our speaker Mr Frank Parge, the Head Gardener at Hughenden Manor, studied in his native Germany and learned to apply the most modern technology to gardening and also studied garden history. He has become known as a Landscape Engineer.

Frank came to Britain about thirty years ago, with his wife who was a trainee paediatric doctor at Stoke Mandaville Hospital, and also his two sons aged ten and three years old. Frank was free to look for work and found that Waddesdon Manor required someone with experience in garden design and knowledge of garden history to restore their Victorian Parterre. The National Trust reviewed his portfolio and accepted his application. They also found that he was happy to take charge of the 14,800 plants needed to recreate and build what was required. He had to be able to develop an underground irrigation system and a way of keeping the garden weed free.

Some years later the head gardener at Hughenden Manor was retiring and Frank was invited to use his experience to advise on the restoration of Mary-Anne Disraeli’s Victorian Garden. Disraeli bought the Manor in1848 and decided to change the house style from Georgian to Victorian Gothic. The Victorian layout of the garden followed, showing Mary-Anne’s planting scheme of cutting shapes out of the lawn and planting flowers or trees in the centres. The restoration team copied this by using Victorian shapes of items in the house. Frank showed us slides of these and the Victorian pergola that ran the length of the rear of the house and was demolished in the 1930s. Plants in the garden are protected from rabbits by surrounding them with green metal stakes, and gravel paths are covered with cloths when likely to be littered with clippings, leaves or hedge cuttings etc. The fountain that was installed in Mary -Anne’s plans never functioned because there was no mains water to the manor. However when planted with blue flowers and silver leaf plants it makes a stunning display.

Volunteers provided by the National Trust Holiday Camp are needed to plant thousands of plants each year. To make the geometric patterns, Frank draws lines on the earth which the students follow. The lawns are made up of a mixture of grasses mixed with micro clover, and no lawn feed or water is needed. The walled garden is a learning centre showing vegetable and fruit growing ideas. Frank knows the exact acreage of the estate, where every tree is and its species. There are three glasshouses and the restored orchard is growing original old English apple trees, pears, cherries and plums, with bumper crops last year.

Frank answered questions from the members and was thanked by Heather for a very interesting talk. Hopefully we are all inspired to visit the gardens in the near future when at its best.

On May 1st our speaker is Richard Road with a talk entitled “Grandma Flew Spitfires”. This is an OPEN MEETING, everyone is welcome to join us.
01494 562648