A typical English garden, seen from abroad.

I received an email from someone in Austria recently, caught up in the growing craze for Romantic English Gardens over there. To those of us battling with weeds and parched soil, whose Hostas were eaten by slugs and whose roses are besieged by greenfly, it may seem a bit idealistic. But it inspired me and I hope it will inspire others, as we soldier on with hoe and watering can.


England is ‘The Garden Country’, favoured by climate, and the number-one destination for garden-loving tourists from everywhere. One such garden journey is the basis for a TV programme here in Austria, called “England’s Loveliest Gardens”, presented by Karl Ploberger.

In the most recent programme Herr Ploberger visited several private gardens. At Manor Farm, Kingston, Lady Veronica Farquhar, the owner, spoke about the importance of having something to look at all year, which is what great structure and formal elements in the garden can offer, because it is still beautiful in winter when flowers do not bloom.

The Priory, Beech Hill is an old house with a mature garden. Water plays a large part, and a small river flows through it. An arboretum includes fascinating rare trees. Again the program drew attention to a balance of elements and moods in which this garden’s appeal lies. The kitchen garden is important, and the cultivation of vegetables contributes a structured look. Finally, the programme visited Eccleston Square, as a fine example of a London Square garden.

Inevitably, though, we foreign visitors will ask, ‘What does a typical English garden look like?’

Perhaps an artificial question, but it is natural for visitors to wonder what makes a garden typically English. Karl Polberger offered one answer: for the archetype of an English garden, visit The Manor House, Upton Grey. This garden was redesigned by Gertrude Jekyll, whose memory the present owners honour (her name is prominent on the Garden’s website http://www.gertrudejekyllgarden.co.uk/), and they seek to maintain the garden as she envisaged it. The principles seen here; combining structure and flower displays, wild and cultivated, decorative and vegetable elements, can bring to life the smallest suburban garden. Even if Jekyll’s tennis lawn has to be replaced by ping-pong, and the traditional breed of chickens are forgone, so as not to awake the neighbours with a cock crowing!

The near-perfect gardening climate of Southern England [!-editor] brings the same benefits and possibilities for year-round appeal to gardens of all sizes. As I saw for myself, when visiting West Wickham, a suburban garden owner can take inspiration from the world-famous tradition which Gertrude Jekyll represents.

Warmest greetings to you all from Austria!

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