The Beauty of the Gardens
The Gardens at Parham consist of seven acres of Pleasure Grounds, laid out in the 18th century, with a lake, spring bulbs, a brick and turf maze and many specimen trees.
The old four-acre Walled Garden contains romantic wide herbaceous borders, a rose garden, a cut flower garden, a vegetable garden, an orchard and a 1920s Wendy House. A splendid Greenhouse, also dating from the 1920s, has a fine display of pelargoniums and other tender plants.
In 2020 Parham had to close to visitors due to the the COVID-19 pandemic, and an important decision was made to tackle some serious and long-standing perennial weed problems. Visitors who know Parham well will therefore notice some changes when they visit. This is the start of a very exciting horticultural renovation for Parham.
Gardens change; they develop, decay, and are altered. Their trees and plants grow and die. The one certainty is that change happens, and should be cautiously welcomed. Parham's Garden walls date from the eighteenth century but the land had been cultivated for many hundreds of years before that. The only "rule" that we follow at Parham is to work with, and not against, this ancient place, accepting and preserving its spirit. The Garden's tranquillity surely reflects the hours of labour and love put into it across the centuries.
A Historic Garden
Few documents survive which give us an idea of the past history of the four-acre Walled Garden. It certainly pre-dates the House, and it is likely that the land has been cultivated since the 14th century. The walls date from the 18th century, and the garden is laid out in the traditional manner by crossed paths that divide it into four.
All the buildings within the Walled Garden were built in the 1920s and designed by the Arts and Craft architect Victor Heal, who was also engaged in the conservation and restoration of the House. The Greenhouse and the Wendy House, which is built into the garden wall, are particularly memorable.
The Wendy House has an oak floor, a working fireplace, a balcony and several rooms.
The Greenhouse is all that now remains of a connecting series of four, built by Mackenzie and Moncur of Edinburgh in 1923.
Until the late 1970s the Walled Garden was run on labour-intensive pre-War lines, producing vegetables, fruit and flowers in large quantities, with very few decorative borders. The only grass area was the Orchard.
The garden designer Lanning Roper was a friend of the Pearsons and often came to Parham. He gave them advice on planting during the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s Peter Coats laid out the double Blue Borders and Gold Borders, and other changes were made. Subsequent Head Gardeners have brought their own touches to the Garden over the years.
The Garden is a series of interlocking pictures, woven into each other with a tapestry-like effect. It contains strong bones but wild and woolly planting in the English romantic tradition.
The Pleasure Grounds
The Pleasure Grounds were laid out by Sir Cecil Bisshopp (1753-1828). This area has had many guises over the years. Numerous curved paths, flower beds and shrubberies were put in a removed. At one point it even contained a rockery and tennis courts. Today everything is kept deliberately simple, laid out with lawns and trees.
In Spring the area is a sea of snowdrops, daffodils and other wild flowers. Veronica's Maze was laid out in 1990 and is made of turf and brick. Its design was inspired by the embroidery on the bed in the Great Chamber inside the House.
The Cannock House, a pretty sandstone building, sits beside the Pleasure Pond.
The Garden Today
Head Gardener Andrew Humphris and his team are working very closely with the Barnard family, following the decision in 2020 to tackle a longstanding perennial weed problem. Over the next three years much new planting will take place with a distinct goal in mind.
In 2003 Lady Emma Barnard and then Head Gardener, the late Ray Gibbs, characterised the Walled Garden as a series of 'interlocking pictures' exemplifying the best of the English romantic tradition. With the help of Andrew and his team, the family aim to restore Parham's Walled Garden to this effect, whilst maintaining its special nature and idiosyncratic sense of place.
The Garden Team
Fifty years ago, the Garden was predominantly a “working” one, and it and the grounds surrounding the House were looked after by a team of 20 people.
Today, Head Gardener Andrew Humphris leads a team of eight full-time and part-time gardeners.
We hope to be able to invite our Garden Volunteers back to Parham before too long, when circumstances permit. We are always very grateful to them for their invaluable contribution.