The Ashridge Nurseries team was honoured to be invited to the pre-launch opening of The Newt in Somerset last Thursday. Now, you may well ask, what on earth might that be all about? In short The Newt is a stunning recreation of Hadspen House gardens and estate.
The family seat of the Hobhouse family for two centuries, Hadspen dates back to the 18th century. The original farmhouse was built by William Player, who created formal gardens and courts with two fountains and avenues on three axes within a private park of 300 acres. Terraces and more formal gardens were created in the 20th century whilst a walled parabola-shaped garden was created by Penelope Hobhouse and opened to visitors in 1970.
Recently bought by South African Koos Bekker, this historic estate has been transformed with a boutique hotel, spa, restaurant and café plus a cider press and farm shop. Extensive woods and gardens have been planted which include a kitchen garden, fragrance garden and a parabola-walled garden showcasing apple trees from across the UK. It’s an impressive project, with the official opening due on 11th May and the hotel and spa taking bookings from July this year.
Ashridge Nurseries has supplied a wide variety of the plants and trees over the past year or so and we were thrilled to attend the pre-launch opening to admire the landscape and gardens designed with such innovative and creative style.
Having parked (even the car park is a work of art, chock full of formal ornamental trees and herbs planted in dividing beds), we made our way to the gatehouse, along an impressive wooden walkway to a new threshing barn, and then into an open courtyard area with the garden shop on the left and cider press to the right.
The highlight for me was unquestionably the apple tree parabola. Within it lies a maze, the design inspired by the Baroque gardens brought to Britain from the Dutch Republic by William and Mary. It’s inspired, clever and immensely accomplished – a classic combination of water features and intricate geometry contrasting Baroque flamboyance with the simplicity and homeliness of apple trees.
Sourced from all major apple producing counties in the UK, including of course Somerset, there are more than 250 varieties in the parabola alone. Trained and coaxed into astonishing shapes, including spirals and double helices, they’re a masterclass in showing how, given the expertise, you can train a fruit tree into virtually any shape you want it to be!
Other highlights include a Victorian fragrance garden, the prettiest cottage garden, tulips and wallflowers, bathing pond, mushroom house and greenhouse. An entirely envy-inducing kitchen garden brims with near perfect vegetables and has a great view of the house, whilst throughout, herbs border many of the beds and an area of yew hedging is destined to become a topiary expert’s dream.
Victorian Fragrance Garden
Tulips and wallflowers
Kitchen garden with view of Hadspen House
Trained apple with chives
I also loved the fact that the cafés use food grown on the estate as well as championing Somerset fare. It’s certainly worth a visit and may in some small way inspire us all to create something wonderful in our own gardens.