Gardening Team of Stephen Brockhurst, Head Gardener Kevin Martin at the piano, Dawn Aldridge & Garden Advisor John Hoyland
Bloggers perks are fairly rare and generally a very mixed bag, but occasionally something comes along that is quite irresistible. An invitation to tour the gardens at Glyndebourne with their gardens advisor John Hoyland and the gardening team and then attend the final dress rehearsal of Handel’s opera Rinaldo was definitely up at the top of the list. I’m not a great opera aficionado, but I knew the music would be lovely – and reading the synopsis established that there was a happy ending – so I accepted. I know that makes me a bit of a lightweight, but I have a theory that serious opera needs to be saved for times when life is less-than-happy – those times when sitting in the dark for several hours sharing extreme emotions with the cast is cathartic and healing. Anyway, enough of my thoughts on opera – back to the garden. It was a perfect summer’s day and the garden looked lush and lovely. Like all great gardens, it is in a constant state of evolution as the team introduces new ideas and replant over-mature borders.
The recent relocation of the coach park has allowed the family’s private gardens in front of the Manor to be planted with drifts of pictorial meadow mixes which give a wonderfully informal feel to what might otherwise be a more conventional setting for the house.
This has also had the effect of making the fabulous double borders along the Terrace the main entrance to the garden for those who have been wise enough to use the shuttle bus from Lewes Station (recommended). At the moment it is a mass of moody and magnificent mid-summer colour including a dwarf cleome which may be called ‘Senorita Rosalita’. (John thought it was called ‘Rosalie’ – this is the closest I can find)
Those familiar with Glyndebourne will know that the gardens are an essential part of the whole experience and the venue for the interval picnics. There are extensive manicured lawns in front of the house and alongside the lake, ensuring space for everyone to find a spot with a great view. You can lay your table on the lawn below the terrace and fantasise that you live in the Manor, spread your rug next to the lake and watch the ducks dabbling, or perch next to the ha-ha and admire the view of the South Downs. The picnics are as varied as the opera goers – from grand and elaborate, to simple and ungarnished. Everyone finds their spot before the performance so that come the interval the maximum time is available for eating, drinking and making merry. And should picnics not be your thing there are restaurants – as well as balconies on the opera house that provide covered areas for picnics if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Given plantsman John Hoyland’s involvement, it’s not surprising that there are pots planted with many unusual tender and half-hardy plants clustered around the entrance to the opera house and some wonderful exotic planting in the Bourne Garden including a huge and wonderfully fragrant clerodendron. Even the building itself has cobaea scandens scrambling skywards with its purple flowers nodding in the breeze. Practically all the plants in the garden are raised from seed, or propagated from cuttings, so backstage of the garden is just as busy as backstage of the theatre.
There’s even a cutting garden to provide flowers for eye-catching arrangements indoors.
I’ve discovered that at Glyndebourne it’s not just the stage that provides stellar events – the gardens put on a very fine performance too.
Normally only opera goers get to see the gardens, but there is an open morning on the 11th of October when non-ticket-holders can explore all aspects of Glyndebourne, including gardening talks and workshops, as well as the opportunity to explore the grounds on a self-guided gardening trail. More info here http://glyndebourne.com/families
p.s. I loved the opera!