A Dorset garden – Langebride House
Susy and Colin Varndell look round an imposing garden in Long Bredy
Published in March ’16
The long, imposing wall along the lane on the approach to Langebride House alerts one to the assumption that this is going to be an imposing house and garden. The sweeping drive up to the house gives it a feeling of grandeur and the house sits so comfortably in its idyllic setting, surrounded by a tranquil and unfussy three-acre natural garden. In March, the overall impression on arrival is that the area is painted yellow with a huge variety of daffodils and primroses. Wherever one looks the delightful harbingers of Spring sway gently in the breeze.
It was designed by Scotts of Merriott with the previous owners over 35 years ago. It lies on chalk with a band of greensand going through the middle. An old copper beech tree dominates the main lawn, and the driveway snakes alongside the lawn, which results in the beautiful copper beech holding a pivotal position within the whole site. The house is positioned at the lower end of the slope with a series of confined areas developed on a slightly higher level around it.
Stone steps lead one to areas of the garden which are unseen from the drive. Magnolias, and a stunning double cherry Prunus ‘Shogetsu’ live very happily alongside the pond (which contained an abundance of tadpoles) in an elevated lawn area. The magnificent magnolias include a Magnolia soulangeana, the white flowered Magnolia stellata and the pale lilac-pink magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ which has a lovely scent. The double flowered cherry flowers start with pendent clusters of pink buds, which open to frilled, double white flowers in spring. Very eye catching.
As one wanders through to the next section of the garden a bright yellow Crown Imperial, Fritillaria imperialis, catches one’s eye in the well-maintained herbaceous border.
The euphorbia wulfenii also makes a striking statement adding to the drama of this spring garden. Later on in the year this border is sure to be full of colour, but for now it looks full of promise and anticipation. Inside the safety of the walled vegetable garden, flowers and vegetables share the space in harmony.
Within this garden (which also has a yew hedge) a mixture of flowers and vegetables compete for your attention: grape hyacinth, scilla, forget-me-nots, red tulips and primroses look vibrant while the vegetables feed the keen gardeners.
Moving on one comes to the alpine garden, which was created by the most recent former owner’s son. This rockery, alpine area, takes advantage of the naturally sloping contours and steep bank. It is certainly a focal point in the garden and looks like it is a natural, organic part of the landscape. In March it was awash with primroses. The view from the top of the alpine garden looking back towards the house and valley is well worth the vertical and uneven climb.
Further along, the ‘delphinium’ bed is now full of monkshood, (not in flower in March), a plant that is far less susceptible to slugs and snails than delphiniums, but does have its own challenges. Monkshood, Aconitum napellus, makes a magnificent garden plant, however, as all parts of the plant are very poisonous, great care needs to be taken when handling this plant. Even contact with the foliage may cause skin irritation in some people. The iris bed, which became impossible to maintain due to weeds twining amongst all the tubers, is now full of euphorbias and unnamed hellebores.
The area around the fruit tree avenue and the drive, which was developed by the present owners, is peppered with cyclamen repandum, celandines, daisies, grape hyacinth, Dog’s tooth violets and Snake’s head fritillaries. The fragrant cyclamen repandum have lovely mottled leaves growing in clumps.
The copper and green beech hedge along the lane, in addition to the pleached limes, shields the house from the adjacent road. The stone terrace around the house sets it off beautifully, but also provides an excellent place for children with wheeled toys to play. Under the copper beech tree primroses, anemones (purple), germander speedwell, celandines, violets, daisies and cyclamens vie for your attention. Indeed the lawn, with its Ginkgo biloba tree and magnificent copper beech, and impressive array of spring bulbs, also nurtures sycamore seedlings, beech seedlings and children. This lawn is not just for admiring it is also for playing on and enjoying.
The beauty of this garden can be enjoyed at many levels. The gentle sound of the natural world enjoying the early nectar feast was gratifying. Birds were claiming their territories and searching for their mates while the insects visiting the garden were busy enjoying the many pollen and nectar offerings. Rooks, blackbirds, chaffinches, great tits, jackdaws, peacock butterflies and bees were all busy fulfilling their lives alongside the human interests within the garden. It seems that all are welcome here; it is a very special place. ◗
❱ Langebride House is open under the National Garden Scheme on 6 March, 2-5pm, admission £4.50