Last year, England was part of my August reset. Thoughts of leaving Paris on a high-speed train underwater to a place I daydreamed about was exciting. The two hours from Paris on the Eurostar was uneventful. London was closer than I anticipated. One of my garden club members Eileen met me in London for this brief, but full trip. My Aunt Yvonne was just as excited but our journeys were different. While she visited other historic sites throughout London, Eileen and I were on the hunt for gardens. Eileen had investigated places to see, one of which was Chiswick.
In 1819, a portion of the Duke of Devonshire’s Estate called Chiswick was purchased to be used for flower shows and events. The group that started this included many people who were passionate about the plants they were acquiring. Now known as the RHS or Royal Horticultural Society, this group kept Chiswick at the forefront of many plant aficionado’s minds. The RHS even maintained the grounds until around 1904.
Chiswick has quite a long history of being passed down from family to family, being sold, and even a short stint as a mental hospital. After nearly falling into total disrepair, The English Heritage set up the Chiswick House and Garden Trust. A major overhaul of the gardens was initiated and the results are what we see today.
SAVORING THE SPLENDOR
Eileen and I followed the walking directions from the train. The walk was delightful and there were so many gardens along the way. Our desire was to see more than one garden that day. We were looking for the underground tunnel that would take us under the busy street, to safely approach the grounds of Chiswick.
A mixed garden greeted us and we were simply excited to imagine what was beyond this beautiful naturalistic distraction. As we wandered between the clipped hedges, we could feel the excitement in the air.
We checked out the map to see what the quickest way was for us to get to the glasshouse. Chiswick has a glass house that is home to quite the historic Camellia collection. We were seriously on a mission to see all we could, before lunchtime.
As we approached a clearing on the side of the Doric Column and Rosary, the vision was simply amazing! The gardens were the appetizer that drew us in.
As we made our way to the glasshouse, it was hard to not be in awe of the magnificent structure. Although it had been renovated, I could only imagine the entertaining that took place here many moons ago.
One of the most memorable guests who performed at the glasshouse were the Beetles.
Another notable item in the glasshouse was a duo of original urns. These were quite beautiful and I could have looked at them for hours. The detail was amazing. Due to potential damage, the urns are now kept inside to protect them from the elements.
Imagine a sincere plantsman building a 300-foot glasshouse to protect his plant habit. What a devotee of the garden, to make sure that all his plant gifts or purchases were given a home. One of the plants he loved was the camellia. The Duke had collected quite a few of these “Exotic” plants for the garden from near and as far as China.
As I stood inside the doorway of the glasshouse, my imagination allowed me to mentally dance on the lawn. The view, along with the perennial beds, encouraged me to daydream vividly. In my mind, there was a soiree of plantspeople enjoying the beauty that surrounds them.
Dotted throughout the interior of the glasshouse, were large containers of scented geranium’s and assorted annuals.
As the morning wore on and hunger settled in, Eileen and decided to grab a quick bite as we continued on our journey. The sandwiches were delightful.
I am glad we started the day at Chiswick, the place where English gardens were cultivated, plants traded and people gathered – all for the love of plants.
As we continue to unintentionally pause, are you dreaming of traveling to places unknown? Have you sorted your photos, organized new pictures on-line, or considered taking a tour? I think each of us has imagined the possibilities and can’t wait for 2021.
Considering an organized tour, to a garden, of course!
Teri, Cottage In The Courtby