It has to go.

by AnneWareham on November 12, 2013

Post image for It has to go.

I’ve been told often enough now. That tree has to go and major reworking done. Most notable of the commentators is  Rory Stuart in his book What are Gardens For?, who described the ‘formal avenue of top-worked Corylus colurna‘ which ‘disappointingly,..leads nowhere.’

Then I received an email from a recent visitor, Catharine Howard who said ‘Below the house there is an alley of trees leading to a large hedge – there seemed to be nothing in the sight line and I found myself wishing to fight with the hedge as my eye was drawn to it.  Did I miss something?’

View into the Meadow and avenue of Corylus colurna through the Hornbeam Tunnel. Cotinus on right. Veddw House, Monmouthshire. May 2008

Path with a dead end.

They are both right, and they are not the first. Stephen Anderton told us the same, some years ago. And I’ll tell you one thing that is very interesting here. Lots of people when considering the idea of garden criticism dismiss it saying ‘it’s all just a matter of taste‘, implying that everyone will have different responses to gardens according to their taste. (or perhaps, lack of it?)

But the criticisms that we have had of Veddw (apart from Clive Nichols uniquely and understandably telling us to get rid of the house) have picked out the same weaknesses repeatedly.  I have found the same with criticisms of other gardens too. (see the several reviews of the Laskett, for example)

So, why haven’t I done anything about this problem??!!

It’s this tree. Totally now in the wrong place, but it took ages to grow and it blazes away in the autumn.

Maple November Veddw Copyright Anne Wareham s.jpg

Got To Go

This is its final autumn. When it sheds its leaves someone will take a chain saw and cut it down to the ground. And we will clear a space behind it and make a small path to a new seat. With a view back up the meadow.

Will this work? I hope so – I have always regretted not having a seat with a view of the meadow. I have one doubt – will that reproduce the problem, just further back, by still creating a ‘stop’ to the path?

Any thoughts?


View up the Meadow, Veddw copyright Anne Wareham on Veddw blog

The view we will have from the seat. More calls to get rid of the house?

See also ‘The Bars of a Prison’ for previous response to Rory’s appraisal of Veddw.


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Charles November 12, 2013 at 2:49 pm

You say that someone is going to cut that maple down but I am hoping that between Jeff and I we can dig it out and relocate it in the wood. But I will probably be persuaded that this is folly and that if we wanted another maple in the wood it would be better all round to plant a smaller one. The only thing I would add is that it always has had a focal point at the end. So why is it considered to be “going nowhere”? At the end you can turn left or right in front of the Dove. Also I have never been entirely happy with the view back up to the house.

AnneWareham November 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm

View back up…I think that the meadow itself may take centre stage – otherwise: you suggest? Could make a path right through the hollies and foret a meadow seat?

But the T junction at the bottom of Elizabeth’s Walk is too abrupt and stops the path too severely, I think (and others, see above). The focal point is all very well but it doesn’t stop it stopping too soon… Xx

Martin November 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm

My personal choice would be a notice that can be clearly seen as having writing on from the hedge, but is only legible from about a couple of feet away (though not so small it requires reading glasses) requiring the visitor to walk to the end of the avenue. Then on that notice, arrayed poetically, should be written the following:-

“The exercise
good for you.”

Works for me 😉

AnneWareham November 12, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Like it. Should the signs flash, perhaps?

Maggie November 12, 2013 at 4:24 pm

But isn’t there a stunning view of rolling fields behind the hedge? So couldn’t make a new long view focal point, instead of the dark block of the hedge, to continue the idea of where your garden came from and it’s historic connections? I’m not sure I like the idea of a seat looking back – i’m used to moving into the garden out and away from the house.xx

AnneWareham November 12, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Maggie – you’ve got the angles wrong. Behind the hedge is our neighbour’s garden and house. You can see the view you describe from the Front Garden because you’re looking right over the top of the hedge (and the neighbour’s house and garden) from there. The meadow slopes quite a bit. So – not an option, or I would!

John November 12, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Why, I wonder, is there a fixation with the principle that a path must lead TO somewhere? Can it not just lead THROUGH somewhere? When I see something like (granted the foreground has changed) there is plenty to interest me in the combination of colours and textures, even if we summer visitors are denied the flaming red of the autumnal maple.

Take either turn at the end and see where it takes you, the path does not actually end, as such, merely diverts sharply on its way to somewhere. Put something in to which the meadow path leads and you detract from those two turns. And is there not a risk that if you put a seat there, you will get comments that the view back up the meadow leads nowhere? Maybe a larger focal point, soften the T into a less abrupt semi-circle or something but not a seat!

AnneWareham November 12, 2013 at 8:56 pm

The problem is that the end of the path is too abrupt; the tree and the dove too ‘in your face’. I think it needs space as well as destination. Still have to firm it up with Charles though. ..

Abbie November 12, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I am less than keen on putting in a seat for the prime purpose of being a focal point…. Seats should be where you choose to sit in the first instance, not defacto garden ornaments. It always jars with me when I visit private gardens and see seats – often gaily painted to tone with the colour of the border – placed where I doubt that anybody would ever choose to sit. Even in open gardens, who wants to sit and become the focal point for other garden visitors?

AnneWareham November 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm

That’s a big one. I’d like a seat there and I’m happy for them to be focal points. Would need you to see the garden or pictures at least – I think variables like distance (from the visitors sitting on it) matter. But I also think our gardens are likely to be so very different…

Amy Murphy November 12, 2013 at 8:51 pm

It’s a brave decision. There a several similar decisions I need to make in my garden but I have been postponing them for years. As my garden matures I am getting squimish about cutting down large plants, or small trees, that or too big to move. I’ll take inspiration from your act of cutting down your maple. Good luck.

AnneWareham November 12, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Thanks, Amy.I think I should know by now that it’s a relief and pleasure when something that was not right is sorted. It’ll be worth it. Good luck with your changes too.

catharinehoward November 12, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Goodness me – I found myself drawn further and further into interesting links – Rory Stuart and the like. Like the distraction of looking a number up in telephone directory and getting sucked in by the pleasure of unusual surnames. I think you want noise and movement down there – oh no not wind chimes.

AnneWareham November 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Noise and movement? ? You must say more. What sort?

catharinehoward November 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I know they are not what you want but think of the rustle of poplars. I love that noise. (You could copy the french, and hide some sound effects in a carefully positioned boulder). Movement of large grasses.

AnneWareham November 12, 2013 at 9:59 pm

This may sound stupid but can you explain why? Why that, there?

catharinehoward November 12, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Did I reply? Think computer lost it. The fight I had with your hedge revealed the neighbour’s house beyond. The idea of noise is that is bestows a feeling of privacy – the rustle of plants in the slightest breeze. Will have to wait for my memory to remind me which are good candidates. Meanwhile I have been prompted by the inner slough, and you to write a little on that trip on my blog t

Jack Sequoia Gardens November 13, 2013 at 7:21 am

I agree with Charles – move the tree. Especially when done over two years (trenching around it in year one) there is an excellent chance of success and the tree doesn’t seem too large to me. It might take as long to grow again as a new tree, but the history and satisfaction it adds… I have moved trees which still speak to me of 20 year old efforts! Is there space beyond the hedge? Perhaps create a narrow opening in it leading too something very small – a privy sized peek-hole from which to spy on the neighbour’s inferior garden perhaps? 😉 Glory by comparison…

AnneWareham November 13, 2013 at 9:46 am

I will have the move it or lose it discussion with those who would do it….There is space beyond the first row of hollies so perhaps a path through? Still thinking…..

Henk van der Eijk November 13, 2013 at 8:59 am

It has to gRoW, maybe?
Granted, I have no idea where the soon-to-be-discarded tree exactly is, but is there room to lower the hedge and still block the unwanted view at the neighbors’ house and garden, ánd let the tree grow till it rises above that line and will thus form a focal point to the path?

Again, I’m not familiar with the site, so this may have been me, barking up the wrong tree from the beginning… 🙂

AnneWareham November 13, 2013 at 9:50 am

Sadly the tree is simply in the wrong place for any of these possibilities. And as I should have said more clearly, the hedge consists of full grown hollies and laurels, and needs to be that size as the land slopes down. They bring the garden to a full stop at that point in the slope. But as there is a path between, a way through to the path could happen….

Cindy at enclos*ure November 13, 2013 at 9:45 am

When I took landscape design classes, the hardest thing for the professors to get across was the need to cut down badly sited trees. In fact, it was a sort of “trick question” on our class projects. I particularly remember one assignment of a property with a front yard that had a dogwood on only one side of the walk. Almost everyone in the class designed the heck out of every part of the garden, except that front yard — because we couldn’t make the tree work, but we also couldn’t bare to cut it down, even on paper.

Catherine Howard’s suggestion above of adding sound effects made me think of the Heirloom Garden at the Smithsonian Institution, which is in a difficult site and pipes in American music via fake rocks. It’s actually quite effective:

AnneWareham November 13, 2013 at 10:00 am

(Personally, I think it has to go, too…) That’s really interesting. I think we should be glad that people have such inhibition about getting rid of trees. But sometimes they really have to go. And even be killed. (Ouch!)

I’m very sensitive about noise (which sadly we make a lot of by way of hedge cutting) and, apart from a discrete sound of water in some places silence is what I’m after. For the neighbours too, who might not appreciate our efforts at pleasant. Though of course, wind in trees is different. Or is it? We think ‘natural’ sounds are simply, by their nature, acceptable, but there are birds that can drive me mad, and the wind howling in the chimney last night got to be irritating too.

Jane Stevens November 13, 2013 at 11:43 pm

How about a wide mown panel at the end of the hazels in front of the hedge or trees, to dissipate the sightline and settle your eyes a bit earlier rather than shooting you through to the meaningless darkness? Perhaps it would have to include the last two hazels, breaking the fierce focus down to the end between the rows.

It seems to me that height of the dove conflicts with the height of the hazels and a seat would be better because of being lower. But a bit obvious.

For something to journey to and think about you could have a tastefully evocative trap door in the ground. I can’t quite get why but something to do with lost things. And it would focus you in and down. Too whimsical maybe. Perhaps a pit of some sort, with charcoal and bones.

When I saw the meadow with the trees I thought it was enchanting, they are so neat and shapely. But I remember a slight feeling of promise unfulfilled, a very firm purposeful line which seemed over emphatic. I remember thinking that I wanted it a little more broken to let you feel drawn sideways across the meadow. But then you might lose that lovely neatness.
Love these problems. Such an escape.

AnneWareham November 14, 2013 at 12:02 am

Thanks for this, Jane – and everyone else. I think I now will have to do what I always do with these garden problems: let the possibilities roam around in my brain, letting my brain work away at them until, if I’m lucky, the answer will emerge. Always has before and there is a lot of fuel in all these thoughts and ideas you’re offering.

I quite like a rabbit hole….or trap door..And I do like the order of the trees too, contrasting with the rough meadow to either side. It can’t be walked on so we need to funnel people through – to what? Well..I’ll see what my brain and Charles’s brain come up with.

Jane Stevens November 13, 2013 at 11:48 pm

I realise I’ve completely lost sight of the tree issue. That’s because it’s hard to see exactly where it is, proving it does not act as a focal point I suppose. If you could establish the attention more inside the meadow it wouldn’t matter if you left it, would it?

AnneWareham November 14, 2013 at 12:04 am

No – the tree is wrong and must go…I know that being ruthless is critical to making a good garden, I’ve just been avoiding it – partly perhaps because the alternative vision has not yet arrived to excite and motivate me.

antony jones November 14, 2013 at 8:41 am

Just cut it down Anne once it’s gone you’ll not miss it. Enjoy the fact that you are prepared to keep changing rather than letting the garden go stagnant like so many gardens.

AnneWareham November 14, 2013 at 9:22 am

Thanks, Antony, and I’m sure you’re right.

Rory Stuart November 14, 2013 at 10:34 am

A seat plonked down in front of the hedge won’t do, too arbitrary! You must make a ‘place’ at the end of the avenue. A hole in the hedge would lead both eyes and feet; if the view beyond is dire, then invent something to paint onto the ‘windowpane’.

I’d suggest two seats not one, this will avoid the view back down the path to the house. And will give you two different views of the meadow. They might curved and be grouped around a hole in the ground (great idea, can we have smoke emerging from it?!)

with love.


AnneWareham November 14, 2013 at 10:56 am

More grist to the mill! Thanks, Rory. The hedge, not being a hedge but full grown hollies and laurel, won’t take a windowpane, I fear. But a hole….

Will no doubt let you (all) know the results of the cogitations.. Many thanks, everyone. Xxx

HB November 17, 2013 at 11:47 pm

My thought is the solution will reveal itself once the tree is gone.

AnneWareham November 18, 2013 at 12:01 am

That is an excellent thought and is the kind of thing that can be transformative.

We just had Noel Kingsbury here ( for lunch, and he made a suggestion…

Could well be it. Watch this space. Xxx

Emily November 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Small water feature? Maybe combined with a lighter/whiter looking foliage to end the path? Knowing your garden through pictures only, I feel a need to “release” to a more open or untructured area, but I see that the orientation/location makes that impossible.

Emily November 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm

I was thinking something like a mostly sunken trough–historic, or a concrete equivalent.

AnneWareham November 19, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Still thinking, of course, but I think it will open out more then there will be a way through to….well …?