We were both delighted to be invited to Veddw by Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes for their Summer Party last weekend.
Aside from fascinating people, including ‘literati and glitterati’ from the garden world, great food and flowing wine, the context of the garden itself made this party extra special. It is always a privilege to look round a garden of national status as a private guest. To be there at dusk is a treat on altogether a different level.
At night gardens morph. They become more challenging. Visually much detail is cut out and you perceive the garden as abstracted tonal planes. The shadows gain depth, the pale colours appear more luminous. At Veddw this aspect has been taken a step further. More than one visitor to this singular garden has commented on its Alice-in-Wonderland nature. The embracing arms of the wood behind make it seem more secretive; this provides a total contrast to the open hills southwards with their wave like motion which Charles and Anne have adopted as their leitmotif.
The garden is also subdivided into discoverable spaces or rooms, with hedges of yew or beech, but there is none of the chocolate box chintziness which this style of garden design suggests. The planting is often spare, sometimes abrupt or even absent altogether. A yew alleyway is lined with a single row of the thuggish Carex pendula, a small, apparently charming, meadow-like slope is studded with topographical tombstones, one room contains just an inky, rectangular pool.
As you move away from the main centre of merriment into this maze of hedges, a deep silence descends. Occasional sounds, like the trickle of a fountain or the cheep of a bat, acquire an added significance. You hear voices through the hedges – you could eavesdrop if you chose. What secrets would you hear? The bowl-like lie of the land means that you glimpse other rooms to explore. You also perceive other people bent on other routes. Will you encounter them-perhaps you would rather not. Noel Kingsbury in a stripey jumper? You take a left.
You pass a pale, rippling stone so monumental and stragically placed that it invites votive offerings or ….human sacrifice. At last you find the way into a room that is really quite difficult to get into. Will it contain……a time warp?….some of the former threadbare residents, who historically eked out some kind of existence on this hillside, lugubriously grubbing up some spuds for their frugal supper?…….or a mediaeval hunting party complete with swaggering nobles and lean and lanky hounds?
No, there is no one here…..YET. Tudor style box and wooden rail enclosures sway with wafting purple tipped grasses, juxtaposed with contemporary black and chrome dining chairs. The ideal place to sit and wait for the White Rabbit to rush through.
But no! Its firework time-a finishing touch which reminds us of the historic use of gardens to entertain, impress and astound.
Thank you, Anne and Charles!
There should be more gardens you can visit at night.
Robert Webber gardener, garden designer and writer