Thursday, August 07, 2014

Patchwork of the Crosses

Lucy Boston was not only a proficient quilter and popular author, she was a master gardener.  When she first bought the Manor in 1939, the land in front of the house was a field.  Designing the gardens was one of her first major undertakings upon moving into the house.  Bordered by a moat on three sides and the River Great Ouse on the other, the garden is about four acres with a fifth deliberately left wild as a haven for wildlife. 
Lucy began her gardens by planting over 200 trees and shrubs beside the towpath along the River Great Ouse.  In the 1940’s, in addition to the gramophone recitals for the RAF that required so much of her time, she managed to plant eight yew bushes on either side of the house which later became topiary shaped into crowns, orbs, and the dove of peace to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. 
In the early 1950’s, twelve more yew bushes were planted which eventually were shaped into chess pieces.  These now stand in squares of purple-leaved ajuga and grey-leaved stachys to represent the squares of the chess board. 

After the war, Lucy concentrated on her first loves – old roses, irises, and herbaceous perennials.  The garden, today, is home to over 200 old roses and award winning irises.

In her garden, Lucy enjoyed working with nature, rather than battling to overcome it. She writes in the notes at the end of A Stranger at Green Knowe: ‘My approach to gardening is to find out how the garden would like to be – what wants to grow where. My chief pleasure in it is the interplay of sun and shadow among trees and on the face of the house.’ 
Just so, a walk along through the garden might take you through large herbaceous borders full of scented plants with plenty of self-sown annuals intermingled with the forest and wild flowers just waiting to take over – the essence of informal gardening.

Today, the gardens are a mass of flowers, shrubs, trees, and topiary with leisurely lawns and secluded corners that are a real delight. A kaleidoscope of spring iris and stands of allium merge into a summer show of roses and drifts of white foxgloves, before the mellow colors of autumn.
A majestic Huntingdon elm marks the passing of the seasons – in spring its seeds float down like a gentle fall of snow.
During the winters when she was unable to garden, Lucy spent time writing her classic series of children’s books.  For those of you reading the Green Knowe series, the Manor at Hemingford Grey and the gardens were recreated and made famous as the house of Green Knowe in the books. 
The topiary figure prominently in the books - especially the deer topiary- as does the statue of St. Michael which is also found in the garden. 
 All the secret paths and hiding places in the books are still there making a visit to the gardens especially enjoyable to both adults and children alike who have read the books.  As the main character of the books says:  ‘I like this house,’ said Tolly. ‘It’s like living in a book that keeps coming true.’ And so it is today, that all who visit the Hemingford Grey Manor and its’ gardens can step into the pages of Lucy’s books and travel in time with Tolly and his companions.

1 comment:

Sue... said...

I went to Lucy Bostons home last week and it was just as good if not better than your photos.
I went to see the patchwork of the crosses quilt and what a beauty it is, along with all the others that Lucy had made,