With spring now here, the magnificent gardens at Renishaw Hall are set to blossom like never before.
Following an ambitious redesign from current owner Alexandra Hayward – daughter of the late Sir Reresby and Lady Penelope Sitwell – visitors this summer are set to be wowed.
Renishaw Hall has just been announced as winners of the Historic Houses Association’s 2015 garden of the year award too. So expectations are high for when the hall reopens this month.
Alexandra said: “When we found out we had won, everyone so pleased. It is a huge honour, especially as there hasn’t been a Derbyshire winner for more than 20 years. I was delighted – over the moon, you might say.”
The last time the award went to Derbyshire was in 1993, when Haddon Hall was victorious.
The award is decided by HHA members, who complete a survey every year to say which gardens they have visited – as well as score them.
However, the prestigious accolade came after Alexandra and her team of loyal gardeners had spent almost an entire year redesigning the award-winning garden.
Head gardener David Kesteven, aged 47, said: “As soon as Alexandra told me the news, I thought ‘right, quickly, let’s move everything back to how it was’.”
Jokes aside, the changes are set to impress. David, who has worked at the hall for 17 years, said: “Alexandra has got a wide vision for the gardens, and the work we have done is really exciting.
“The gardens will look amazing when they blossom,” he said.
The gardens have had a few subtle makeovers.
Climbing plants have been trimmed and tamed to reveal more of the stunning 17th century stonework.
A local ironmonger has been called-in to create new gates, and steel obelisks.
The swimming pool garden has been filled with new colour-coded and height-synchronised roses, which will blossom into a theatre of colour later this year.
The old plants have been positioned along the woodland walk – which has also had somewhat of a makeover. The woodland around the house seems natural, but is preened, filled with former garden plants, and is a perfect example of nature tamed.
After an old tree collapsed in the woodland, light has flooded in and allowed David to bring more bluebells into the area. The woods are expected to transform into a fairy-tale forest of colour.
Alexandra said: “When my mother and father took on Renishaw Hall and its grounds they worked tirelessly on the restoration and redesign of the gardens to bring them back to their original glory.
“It’s wonderful to think that in the 40-plus years since my parents first came to Renishaw, the gardens have now been recognised as winners of a prestigious national award like this.
“It’s testament to their hard work and the continuous hard work of our gardening team here at Renishaw Hall and Gardens”.
Renishaw Hall and Gardens have now opened for the summer season. Call 01246 432310 for more information.
THE TOP LAWN
As visitors enter the gardens, they enjoy a succession of flowers; from pink daffodils and blue poppies in the spring, to the hooded cobra lilies in June and July to an impressive collection of hydrangeas for the end of summer. Above the creamy heads of hydrangea Annabelle and other varieties of Hydrangea paniculata, towers the Waterloo Oak which was planted by a Frank Elliot, a long-serving gardener, in 1815 to commemorate the battle of Waterloo. This area of the gardens also features the Gothic temple, built by Sitwell Sitwell in 1808 as a conservatory for exotic plants, and the statue The Angel of Fame.
THE SOUTH FRONT
The two yew trees on the west end of this terrace were planted by Sir George when laying out the garden to deliberately interrupt the very symmetry of the garden he had so painstakingly created.
THE FIRST CANDLE
This area, and the one opposite the Middle Lawn, are named after the central fountains of marble from a quarry near Verona. There are more than 100 roses here.
THE MIDDLE LAWN
In Sir George’s vision, the garden was seen as a foreground to the view of nature beyond. At the southern edge of the lawn, in the centre of Sir George’s garden layout are two statues by Caligari; Diana and Neptune.
THE BOTTOM TERRACE
At 130-yards long and 10-feet wide, backed by a 6ft 6in-high south facing stone wall, The Bottom Terrace is Renishaw’s longest, hottest and driest border. Bisecting the garden, yet invisible from the hall, it is where planting - formal and restrained near the hall - becomes wild and colourful. At the west end of the terrace, planted with fuchsias, is a lead tank, rescued from the old sunken garden.
The two main lakes at Renishaw were excavated in 1892, the year Sir Osbert Sitwell was born. The lakes performed many functions, the chief of which was to fulfil Sir George’s wish of a focal point to the main axis of the garden beyond its borders. As he wrote in On the Making of Gardens: “The garden must be considered not as a thing by itself, but as a gallery of foregrounds designed to set off the soft hues of the distance, it is nature which should call the tune, and the melody is to be found in the prospect of blue hill or shimmering lake.”
This garden area was redesigned last year, with the addition of yew buttresses and steel obelisks to give structure to the borders. At the centre of the pool is Sir Reresby’s first garden innovation; a large fountain.
THE FISH POND
This was the last area of the garden to be altered by Sir George Sitwell. It was on a summer visit from his Italian home, the castle of Montegufoni, in the 1930s, when Sir Osbert was long in residence at Renishaw, that his father, Sir George imposed his grand design.
In 1999, the orangery on the south side of the Bothy Wall was restored from a state of dereliction and was chosen to house The National Collection of Yuccas, held by Trevor Key. Here are most species of the Yucca genus that originate in the western United States and thrive in a hot, arid atmosphere. More than 30 species are represented, mostly with collected seed grown by Mr Key, making this a very complete and botanically important collection.
One of the most unique features of Renishaw is the fruitful vineyard which, when planted in 1972, held the record for more than a decade for being the most northerly vineyard in the world. After much effort and extensive experimentation the Seyval Blanc, Madeline Angevine and Rondo have proven to be the most successful grape varieties, which today produce award-winning wines.