Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Harold Peto returns to Iford

We unveiled a new statue of Harold Peto last weekend by Wiltshire-based wire sculptor Derek Kinzett (pictured), to celebrate the mastermind behind Iford’s inspirational gardens.

Peto, as regular readers will know, was one of England’s foremost Edwardian garden designers.  He lived at Iford from 1899 to his death in 1933.  During this time, he developed the terraces and buildings behind the house into an eclectic, Italianate garden, characterised by colonnades, pools and rural views.
But it wasn't only the garden which he influenced heavily.  

Adapting the character of the valley to give a more Italianate feel, the altered the fa├žade of the house, placed the statue of Britannia on the mediaeval bridge and changed elements of the other buildings in the yard to romanticise the hamlet.  His greatest work at Iford was undoubtedly his Cloister, and this year it celebrated its 100th Birthday.

Present at the celebratory lunch were members of the team who have spent decades curating and restoring the garden at Iford.  Gardens are the sum of many parts, but the skill of those that work with the plants and structural fabric is a cornerstone to their successful restoration and maintenance.  

The sun emerged from the rain-clouds just as the ghostly statue was unveiled.  Mr Peto had returned for the first time since his death in 1933, and he provided sunshine too for the occasion.
The sculpture is based on a photograph from 1904 (held by JH in the above photo) showing Mr Peto reading some papers while sat on the half-round seat of Iford’s great terrace.  Somehow we felt it was only natural that Harold would still be sitting there now if he could, keeping an eye on us as we maintain his garden – and Derek has created an uncanny likeness.  Here's the statue sitting where Harold was in the photo:
The gardens are undergoing a five-year historic replanting and restoration programme, the first major re-plant in decades.  By the end of the process, flower borders will have been redesigned, Peto’s rose garden will have been restored, and structural elements will have been repaired.  

The roses on Peto's papers in the top photograph are the first blooms from the newly planted historic forms: Paul Transon (pink, from 1900) and the Noisette Claire Jacquier (from 1888).

We hope Harold would raise a wry smile, at least.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Summer Round-up and a return to Blogging

It was a really busy year, and we decided to take the summer off from blogging to allow us to get some other projects underway (details of those to follow). But now we’ll be back to regular updates here on the blog. You may also like to check out our Facebook Page.

Garden Borders

This year has seen the redevelopment of a further set of borders as we continue our four year project to bring the softer, floral elements of Harold Peto’s garden up to the quality which his buildings now deserve.
Working with garden designer Alison Jenkins, the annual border from last year (which was an emergency measure owing to a late winter!) has been replaced by the planned perennial border. And following a prolonged summer, it came into its own bringing colour right through to the end of October.
Next year it should be even better as the hardier, slower growing plants will have established themselves properly.

Iford Arts - Cloister Centenary Season

This year was the 100th Anniversary of Harold Peto’s Cloister, a remarkable building from 1914 in the 12th Century style, which today houses our performances of opera, jazz and other events.
This year the season was entirely Italian in style. Productions included the charming love story of Puccini’s La Rondine, Donizetti’s comedy La Fille du Regiment (reworked brilliantly by Jeff Clarke to be set in a troop of Californian bikers) and an emotionally intense production of Monteverdi’s Ulysses. Keep an eye out for next year’s programme or sign up to the mailing list on the Iford Arts Website.

Wisteria Season - all year!

A most unusually dry, warm summer, ensured that the wisteria flowered not once or twice, but sporadically all through the summer, only losing its last flowers on the First of October.  Who knows whether this will be repeated next year, but we can only hope!

Hydro Plant Update

The downside of a great summer is that there's no water in the river from which to make electricity - so the Hydro Plant has been almost completely dormant for 5 months.  In recent weeks we have got it turning again and now we are back, thankfully, to generating some meaningful power.  We will still probably manage to make this an average year (the first quarter was jolly wet, after all), but it's a relief to have it running nevertheless.

Visitor Numbers

We found ourselves on television earlier in the year, as the garden designer Paul Hervey-Brookes asked the BBC to film his Chelsea Flower Show introduction here, which was very kind of him!  As a result we saw more visitors to the garden in June than in recent years, and a much larger number of 'pilgrims' who had travelled from across the country specifically to visit the garden.  

It is always humbling to be reminded of the meaning and value which people place in the gardens here which we seek to maintain true to Mr Peto's ethos.

Tea Room Success

Iford's Housekeeper, Sarah (The Crafty Housekeeper), made a great impression this year in the tearoom with a new range of cakes and tasty bites.  The Rocky Road was a particular favourite and one member of the family (yours truly) had to start exercising more as a result.

Other Events

Butterfly Day 2014 was a roaring success; various charity walks and sponsored events came through; our tiny caravan site has welcomed a small number of rallies and casual visitors; we hosted three motocross events; it was a busy year on the farm dealing with new cattle housing; we removed our crop of Miscanthus which was under-performing for various reasons; repairs to the cloister became urgent as was suffering some ground instability under one corner; and this morning the 350 runners on the annual "Over the Hills Race" forded the river and ran the half mile up the drive on their 8 mile cross country run.

Roll on the winter!  I wonder what it will bring.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Sunshine and cattle

For no particular reason, here's a rather nice photograph of our South Devon herd enjoying the sunshine.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Garden update - wisteria

The wisteria is really showing off.  It's out in force on the front of the house, on the casita and by the central entablature of the terrace.


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Sycamore felling - brave stuff!

The sycamore is finally down.  It was sad to lose a 100ft tree; it always is.  However, it wasn't in a great state with a fair bit of rot, and it was threatening the surrounding buildings, and indeed our visitors!

Now, here is some brilliant tree surgery.  This wasn't an easy job.  After chopping off the top hamper, the team had to thread the main trunk through a small gateway such that it fell clear both of a water tank on the one side, and Harold Peto's casita building on the other.  Skill indeed.  Here it is:

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

First day of the season - and removing the old sycamore

What a glorious day to welcome the summer season - 18 degrees at its hottest, with a slight breeze, bright sunshine... wonderful.

But it was also a sad day, as William Waldren's team of tree surgeons arrived to begin a two-day 'sectioning down' of the old Sycamore above the Oriental Garden, photos below.  The tree was condemned as dangerous (to people and buildings) when it was found to have a broadly hollow trunk, and with the high winds this winter we were crossing our fingers rather!
The loss of this tree will certainly affect the structural look of the garden, but as with all living elements of gardens, as one thing is lost, others take over and the focus shifts.

In addition one of the false acacia (robinia) trees in the main yard was taken down as it was showing signs of leaning in a rather uncontrolled manner.  Attractive stumps!

Monday, 31 March 2014

A busy day, planting, casting and mowing

A hive of activity today helped by the warm dry weather.

On the back terraces, Joff and Shane have been casting the concrete foundations for the posts which will hold up the second run of Peto's climbers for our historic reconstruction of his rose garden.  
Rose expert Robert Mattock of www.RobertMattockRoses.com has managed to track down old forms of roses that Peto would have used, based on the the metal plant labels which we have dug up in the borders over the years.  Planting should be taking place at the end of the month - so watch this space (phase 1 on left, below, with phase 2 on next terrace up, to the right)
Rob has been laying down some very smart lines (above, and below) with the mower in the first big cut of the season. The smell is glorious, and the results speak for themselves:

And Shane has also planted out two venerable, old rosemary plants, one garden form (left) and one wild form (right).
It is a challenge to know what to do when a structural element is forcibly taken away from the garden.  The design must adapt for sure, but there are a lot of considerations.  The rockery here has been built following the demise in the winter storms of one of four lime trees, and whilst we wait to see whether there is any residual disease, or other factors, the rockery is a good 'for the time being' solution.
The surrounding wild flowers will fill in the bare patch above the rockery.