Rosemary Verey Remembered – In Style5th June 2018 • Places to Visit • Stephanie Donaldson
Rosemary Verey was one of the 20th century’s most influential garden designers and – had she lived long enough – this year would mark her 100th birthday. Barnsley House, her home in the Cotswolds, is now a wonderfully relaxed but luxurious hotel, where the team of gardeners, led by Head Gardener, Richard Gatenby, are keeping the garden looking as splendid as it did in her day.
I had the great good fortune to be invited to a dinner at Barnsley House to celebrate Mrs. Verey’s life – and then to stay overnight so that I could visit the village open gardens on the following day. Perfect weather made the occasion even more memorable.
Somewhere on my bookshelves, there lurks a copy of the book Rosemary Verey co-authored with Avilde Lees-Milne, ‘The Englishwoman’s Garden’ with its cover showing the famous Laburnum Walk at Barnsley House. Since I last visited there, the original laburnums had started to die and have had to be replaced, but the new trees are growing well and we were told that this is the first year when they have put on a proper show of flowers. The accompanying alliums were at their peak, making for a vibrant display. I’m not sure that the laburnum is my favourite tree, especially when combined with purple alliums, but how boring life would be if we all liked the same things. Rosemary Verey advised The Prince of Wales on his garden at Highgrove and the same purple and yellow combo appears on the Thyme Walk with golden yews and purple creeping thymes.
One of the fellow guests at the dinner was sculptor, Simon Verity, who was commissioned to make sculptures for Mrs Verey, including the ‘Flower Sellers’ on either side of the gate that leads from the main garden to the potager across the lane. As a sculptor, it must be wonderful to see your sculptures weather and age as this pair has done.
The most eye-catching plant was the stripey Paeony delaveyi, given the name ‘Burnt Marmalade’ by Rosemary Verey. It appears to be unique to Barnsley House, which is probably a good thing as I have nowhere suitable to put one even if it was available. Lack of a suitable spot often fails to dissuade me from buying a plant – I’m currently desperately seeking a suitable spot for a lovely Rosa mutabilis that I succumbed to recently!
These days, the potager is primarily ornamental, with most of the vegetable-growing for the hotel taking place in polytunnels tucked discreetly out of sight. While the box-edged beds would provide for a family’s needs, the hotel’s demands are far greater.
Appropriately, the celebratory dinner included home grown vegetables, as well as eggs from the Barnsley House chickens and the tables were decorated with delightfully informal arrangements of flowers picked from the garden.
The following day, while most of the world watched the Royal Wedding, I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the Barnsley Village Open Gardens. It was unfortunate timing for them as they usually have far more visitors, but a perfect opportunity for me to see the gardens without the crowds. The Little House garden was particularly impressive, but there were many charming corners elsewhere.
Herbs for Healing is the garden of Rosemary Verey’s daughter Davina Wynne Jones – a delightful contrast to the formality of her mother’s garden
The gardens of Barnsley House are open to guests who are staying, or having lunch in the restaurant, or for £10 per person you can wander round the gardens and enjoy homemade biscuits with coffee or tea – but do check first in case the hotel is closed for a private event.