Wollerton Old Hall Gardens

PUBLISHED: 18:15 15 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:08 11 February 2013

Wollerton Old Hall Gardens

Wollerton Old Hall Gardens

Wollerton Old Hall Garden has been lovingly restored by its owners John and Lesley Jenkins. Photographer Alan Wilkes captured its springtime charms

In an English country garden

Wollerton Old Hall Garden has been lovingly restored by its owners John and Lesley Jenkins. Photographer Alan Wilkes captured its springtime charms
Words by Debbie Graham

This Easter weekend heralds the summer opening of one of Shropshires premier gardens, Wollerton Old Hall Garden near Market Drayton.
Spanning four acres it is described by leading gardener, Chris Beardshaw as possibly the most beautiful personal garden to have been created in the last 25 years.

And he is not the only one to sing its praises. Its numerous fans also include television presenter, wildlife expert and passionate conservationist Chris Packham and landscape designer Sir Roy Strong.

It is, therefore, hard to believe that when John and Lesley Jenkins returned to her childhood home in 1984 the site was little more than a field. For although there had been gardens here since the 16th century they had gone to ruin and there was nothing left of the Elizabethan knot garden.

As such it was a blank canvas and John, a highly knowledgeable horticulturist and artist Lesley began what was to be an incredible
success story.

Lesley was influenced not only by horticulturists likeSir Roy Strong, Norah Lindsay and Jimmy Hancock but also artists such as Mark Rothko, Van Gogh and Monet. This perhaps explains the variety on offer at Wollerton, from the formal gardens inspired by the 17 century where the classical revival was sweeping Britain to the extensive use of colour. It finishes with a natural area with romantic influences of nature and gardening.

The site is split into two distinct areas, a large formal area which contains 15 rooms, each unique in character and a smaller, informal section which appears to blend seamlessly into the Shropshire countryside.

The formal part begins with the Yew Walk where 10 towering spires frame a grass pathway and add architectural interest to borders filled with blue, silver and white.

The architectural influence continues in the Rill Garden where simple planting of muted perennials, box (Buxus sempervirens) and hornbeam (Carpinus betulus Frans Fontaine) work to complement the Yorkshire stone paving and geometric formal pools.

The linear vistas and geometrical shapes are also repeated in the Lime Allee and Sundial Garden where lines, structure and form take centre stage.

A beautiful Arts and Crafts-inspired gate then leads the visitor from the Sundial Garden to the Lanhydrock Garden.

And with Lesleys background as an artist it is little wonder that the vibrant Lanhydrock Garden is one of her favorite areas.

I wanted to create a hot garden based on the zinging colours of a Mark Rothko and Van Gogh, she says.

I became interested in gardening at a very early age encouraged by my mother to sow brightly coloured nasturtiums and sweet peas. This is the fourth garden (and last) garden I have designed. We never intended to open our garden to the public but started off by being asked to open for Hodnet Church and various charities including the National Garden Scheme.

I love the fiery colours of the Lanhydrock Garden in high summer but the little Shade Garden full of treasures in the early spring is also as exciting in its own way.

With its strong red, yellows and oranges dominating, it can only be concluded that she has succeeded and its large block planting is hugely reminiscent of Rothkos paintings of the early 1950s.

Featured are many different varieties of hemerocallis, heleniums, helianthus, kniphofias and salvias along with erysimum.

Artists influences are also seen in the Well Garden where Monet's famous water lilies series proves the inspiration for its palette. The greens, blues and whites of Miscanthus Morning Light; Agapanthus Regal Beauty and Rosa Lady Emma Hamilton work to reflect the hues of his iconic images.

For the Easter visitor Lesley recommends a visit to the shade garden where a canopy of ancient silver birch shelters wood anemones, fritillaria, trilliums, ranunculus, leucojum, primulas, hellebores and uvularias.
The Croft is where the garden takes on a new identity. Here is where gardening meets Mother Nature head on and Mother Nature wins. Life takes on a much slower pace and offers a tranquil escape from reality. Rare trees such as Juglans regia 'Purpurea', Acer carpinifolium and Magnolia tripetala are a particular feature.

Lesley says: The exciting part about our garden is it is never static, creative forces are always at work. We are so lucky to have such a knowledgeable and dedicated team here at Wollerton who take a pride in their work.

Wollertons attractions are not limited to the garden. Throughout the summer there are meet the celebrity days where visitors can enjoy a lecture from experts including the likes of Stephen Anderton and Bob Flowerdew.

Guests are then treated to a three course seasonal lunch before being allowed to roam free in the garden at a time when it is not usually open to the public and Lesley Jenkins herself is on hand to answer any questions. Tickets are 60 but get booking now as competition is fierce and some dates are already sold out.

For two summer evenings only the public are invited to experience the romance of the candle-lit garden by dusk with the heightened night-time scents of the garden before dining in the tea room. (Tickets 27.50.)

Wollerton Old Hall Garden has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Societys prestigious Partner label and the Good Garden Guide has given it its top award, the two-star grade, one of only two properties in Shropshire to have achieved the accolade.

The garden is brown-signed off the A53 between the A41 junction at
Tern Hill and Hodnet.
Wollerton Old Hall Garden, Wollerton, Market Drayton TF9 3NA,
Tel: 01630 685760.

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