Snowdrops at Painswick Rococo Gardens
Published: 15 February 2013
Drifts of Snowdrops at Rococo Gardens
Painswick Rococo Gardens are set in a hidden Cotswold valley and have some of the best snowdrop displays in Gloucestershire. Visitors travel for many miles to admire the thousands of naturalised snowdrops. Although the Galanthus is such a delicate looking flower, it braves the harshest of the winter weather to bloom; with February being the month to see the snowdrops in all their glory.
The Painswick Rococo Gardens were once the rear garden to Painswick House which was built around 1735 for Charles Hyett, an asthma sufferer who wanted to enjoy the clean country air. Unfortunately he died in 1738, just after the house was completed. His son Benjamin became the creator of the original garden and as the Rococo style was in vogue at the time, developed the garden in this fashion.
Snowdrops and Eagle House at Rococo Gardens
During the period 1720 to 1760, tastes were moving away from the more formal style of garden, to a more natural landscape design, with the Rococo garden incorporating aspects of both styles. Decorated with ornate follies, temples and other structures, the main purpose of a Rococo garden was decadence and pleasure, where the aristocracy could show off and entertain their guests.
A magazine in the 1750s described a Rococo style garden as ‘You are taken to a pompous and gilded building, consecrated to Venus for no other purpose, or so it seems, than that the squire riots here in vulgar love with a couple of orange wenches from the local play-house'.
Stained Glass Window of the Red House
It was hardly surprising that with such a bad press the style soon fell from grace and few gardens of that period survived intact. The garden at Painswick House was mostly converted to grow fruit and vegetables, which was highly labour intensive.
The snowdrops however continued to thrive under the trees at Painswick House and in Victorian times the local villagers were allowed into the garden to admire and pick the snowdrops.
In 1965 the new owner Lord Dickinson, in an attempt to minimise effort, planted a wood in place of the fruit and vegetables and left it to take care of itself. Gradually the garden became quite overgrown.
An exhibition during the 1970s brought to light a painting from 1748 by Thomas Robins illustrating the layout of the garden in its Rococo heyday and when the historic importance was realised, it was decided to restore the gardens. Restoration began in 1984 and although now nearly complete, the garden continues to be developed under the charitable Painswick Rococo Garden Trust.
The Gothic Red House
A statue of Pan, the God of Love, welcomes visitors, who then receive a magnificent bird’s eye view of the garden, dominated by the diamond shaped vegetable garden and, during the snowdrop season, steep banks carpeted in snowdrops. Visitors to the garden should bear in mind that they do not enter it as was originally intended, when the garden would have been revealed slowly, through tantalising vistas.
Visitors can explore the six acres of garden along its many paths, venturing into the colourful structures along the way. The Eagle House is situated overlooking the garden at the end of an herbaceous border, which in February has colourful cyclamen and winter aconites accompanying the snowdrops and the banks beneath the Eagle House are carpeted in snowdrops.
The Anniversary Maze
There is a fine vista from the Red House - an asymmetrical Gothic summer house - looking through its beautiful stained glass windows with their Latin inscriptions, down the entire length of the garden, past the long straight formal hedges to the wood beyond.
The Anniversary Maze was planted to celebrate the Garden’s 250th anniversary and features three goals for visitors to reach. On the slope above the Maze, are benches where you can sit a while and enjoy the stunning views across the surrounding countryside, as well as the garden.
The Exedra with its reflecting pool is the stunning centrepiece of the garden. The plinths surrounding the pool feature busts of famous historical people.
The Exedera at Painswick Rococo Garden
The fish pond at the lower end of the garden gives some beautiful reflected views of the Exedra and Red House as well as the snowdrops.
The Tunnel Arbour alongside the fish pond is lined with hornbeams, in keeping with eighteenth century fashion.
A babbling stream from the fish pond leads the visitor into the wood where the snowdrops flourish and naturalise under the trees and up the banks. The woodland paths are thoughtfully covered with bark chippings, but it can be muddy in places after a lot of rain. Children can explore the secret trails through the wood, where interesting discoveries await.
The steep path which leads up to the old Pigeon House, provides a wonderful view of the Grade I listed Painswick House, which is not open to the public and is now completely separate from the Painswick Rococo Garden.
Reflections in the Fish Pond
A small café, where you can sit and relax indoors or out, serves up a welcome hot drink and homemade cakes. Gifts and plants are also for sale.
Allow 1 to 1½ hours for your visit.
Standard Admission: Adults: £6.50, Over 60’s: £5.50, Children (5-16): £3
Open: January to end of October, daily 1100 to 1700
Information and prices correct as at 14 February 2013.
Please see Painswick Rococo Garden website for further information
Snowdrops and red stemed Cornus
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© The Gloucestershire Oracle February 2013
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