© Levens Hall, Kendal, Cumbria, UK
The gardens were designed in the 1690s by Monsieur Guillaume Beaumont, gardener to King James II and Colonel James Grahme. The ten acres of gardens retain many original features including over 100 ancient box and yew trees. Some of the trees and bushes are over 300 years old and the layout of this garden has changed very little since their planting and initial training. In the late 17th century it was highly fashionable to have a garden in the Dutch style with clipped greens set in a pattern of formal box-edged flower beds. Fashions had changed by the 1730s however, and most similar gardens were ripped out to make way for the new trend of natural landscaping. Amazingly the gardens at Levens Hall survived that purge, were enhanced in the 19th century and continued through the economic pressures of the 20th century. Most pieces of topiary here are nameless abstract or geometric shapes but others are very distinct and are named accordingly: King and Queen chess pieces, the Judge’s Wig, the Howard Lion, the Great Umbrellas, Queen Elizabeth and her Maids of Honour, a Jug of Morocco Ale and four Peacocks.
The parterre beneath the topiary provides a magnificent floral display through spring, summer and into early autumn. It is bedded twice a year with over 15,000 home-grown plants each time. The rose garden is set in an intricate low hedge-edged pattern of beds and is planted exclusively with David Austin’s ‘English’ roses. Beyond the romantic old orchard and separated by the great beech hedges, lie the magnificent herbaceous borders. These are traditionally double in format and amongst the finest to be found in England. There are also wall borders, vegetable and herb gardens, a fountain garden, fine lawns, wildflower meadows, a willow labyrinth and much more besides.