ISSUE 38  |  The Low Countries

Garden Visit: A Dutch Master in Yorkshire

September 19, 2012 7:00 PM

BY Kendra Wilson

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The sheer scale of the place is difficult to grapple with. The kitchen garden at Scampston Hall in Yorkshire, in the north of England, contains four acres within its brick walls. But in the end the impossible size has been the making of this garden and its staggering renewal.

In desperation, large enclosed spaces at the center of old country estates were often turned over to grazing or the growing of monocultures like Christmas trees, and Scampston was no exception. The greater the space, the worse the situation. But when Sir Charles and Lady Legard inherited the estate in 1994, they undertook an ambitious restoration of the house followed by the garden. A big vision was needed for this massive space and they found it in a chance meeting with Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf. This was pre-Chelsea-Best-in-Show Oudolf. It crystallizes his ideas from the years before international acclaim, and it remains his largest private commission in the UK to date.

Above: The Perennial Meadow is in the center of the garden. Low seats were chosen to aid the enjoyment of the full impact of the plants, from stem to flower head. Photograph by Alexandre Bailhache.

Above: The house shimmers behind meadows and young trees in summer. Foreground: salvia and allium sphaerocephalon. Photograph by Alexandre Bailhache. (N.B.: To recreate the Oudolf look in your own garden, see "Steal This Look: Piet Oudolf's Private Garden.")

Above: Autumn in the Silent Garden. The "new" Walled Garden is still quite young; these yew columns will be allowed to grow to three meters before leveling off, so that they will be reflected in the pool. Photograph by Alexandre Bailhache.

Above: The Walled Garden was built in the mid-18th century. Soon after, Capability Brown was engaged to overhaul the rest of the park with the naturalistic style so chic at that time. A slightly different approach to "naturalistic" now thrives within the right angles of the Walled Garden. Photograph by Phil Tatler.

Above: Seats in the Drifts of Grass area, at the beginning of the season, when everything is more green and less tall. All the seats were designed especially for this space by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek. Photograph by Phil Tatler.

Above: The vast scale. The Walled Garden dominates everything, including the house, originally built in 1690. Image via Scampston Hall.

Above: Drifts of perennials including grasses. sedum, helenium, and salvia. Photograph by Phil Tatler.

Above: The Perennial Meadow, contrasting with the rigid parallels of yew hedges. Photograph by Phil Tatler.

Above: The Silent Garden, with pleached limes, beech hedging, and yew topiary, which is getting closer to its final height in this more recent photograph. Photograph by Anne Ainsley

Above: An overview from The Mount in autumn, with the Katsura Grove (cercidiphyllum Japonicum) in the foreground. Katsura has a scent reminiscent of sugar being cooked. On warm, still days it is powerful enough wafting from just one tree, let alone 32. The leaves are a lovely orange as well. Photograph by Alexandre Bailhache.

Above: Piet Oudolf's plan was to add more structure within the walls, as well as emphasizing contrasts. Here, the autumn color in the drifts of Molinia grass contrasts with the mown grass but also the evergreen topiary next door, in the Silent Garden. Photograph by Alexandre Bailhache.

For more, see "Piet Oudolf: The Genius Behind the High Line."