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garden tales from a Brit abroad

Snotty gogs and tithe maps: the garden at Veddw

Veddw is a modern garden, laid out among the gentle hills of the Welsh borders. It has an unusual genesis: not a plantswoman’s garden, not a gardener’s garden. Instead, its creator, Anne Wareham, was driven by a fascination with the garden as art form. With her photographer husband Charles Hawes, Anne has spent 25 years developing Veddw from meadowland.

We visited last June and found lots of things easy to enjoy and admire.

The garden is full of big confident sweeps of plants and patterns of hedging. This is not a timid place, fiddling around in details. It makes bold marks on the landscape.

Veddw 12Veddw 16 Veddw 14 Veddw 01 Despite its confidence, Veddw is not a garden with airs and graces – you take it as you find it, from the home-made sign on the door to Anne (maybe) offering builders’ tea, no cake, and a gossip after the visit. It is full of contrasts, between wild flowers and clipped shrubs, light and shade, open vistas and secret pathways.

Veddw 02 Veddw 19 Veddw 09There are words in the garden – a quirky, modern use of inscriptions – from the apt Wordsworth quote on a bench:

Veddw 15to lists of common plant names in the cornfield garden, stamped in gold lettering on wooden railings. Here I learnt the delightful phrase “snotty gogs” and discovered that it is a child’s term for yew berries.

Veddw 17 Veddw 18The garden is not seen as settled or finished, but is constantly undergoing review and refinement. Since we were there, Anne has announced plans to chop down the trees at the end of this pathway and replace them with a bench as a better focal point.

Veddw 22Although the garden’s most famous feature, a reflective pool, left me rather cold (feeling too self-conscious, too much of a stage-set):

Veddw 24there is a delightful smaller stone pond near the house. It is firmly rectangular and makes no pretence at being natural but, surrounded by mossy stones and seemingly self-seeded alpine flowers, it manages somehow to look like it has always been there.

Veddw 20What I admired most about Veddw was how the garden sat in its time and place: the way the curved hedges echo the rolling hills beyond the garden:

Veddw 27the retention of ancient meadow:

Veddw 21the little tombstones in the wild garden with their inscriptions of lost local names:

Veddw 08Veddw 11

the casually displayed collection of objects found when the cottage was partially rebuilt – allowing us to imagine the former life of the site.

Veddw 13Anne invites visitors to suggest one improvement. I immediately and erroneously plumped for an area in the north garden, full of contrasting grey cardoon and purple heuchera and cotinus. I found it leery and brash; she clearly does not. It did not need improvement as such –  it just didn’t appeal to me (although I know Anne scoffs at the idea that we should explain away critical comments as just a question of different tastes).

Veddw 05 Veddw 04On reflection I think a better suggestion for improvement would have been the grasses parterre (in the background of the photo below). I really wanted to like this area: low hedges are laid out in the pattern of the 1841 local tithe map, and the resulting ‘fields’ are planted with ornamental grasses. It seems a great idea, another novel way of referencing the history of the site. But I found it impossible to understand on the ground. It just looked puzzling and slightly scruffy, like it was trying to tell you something but you couldn’t work out what.Veddw 10

No easy solution springs to mind but, given the use of quirky inscriptions elsewhere, I wondered if the tithe map could be more explicit? Or the area made more aesthetically pleasing in its own right, so that knowledge of the map as its inspiration becomes just a bonus?

The garden is a joy, always changing and growing, and worth repeated visits. Just don’t simper to the formidable Anne that you think it all vaguely “lovely” – and don’t expect roses or cake!

Veddw 23

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8 comments on “Snotty gogs and tithe maps: the garden at Veddw

  1. trollag
    March 26, 2014

    “snotty gogs” a term that I was told by my Mother,many years ago, for the red yew berries.
    Now 76yrs., originally from Northeast Hampshire, England.

    • landscapelover
      March 26, 2014

      How funny – we lived for 10 years in northeast Hampshire (Winchfield) and still have a house there, but I first came across snotty gogs at Veddw.

  2. Cindy at enclos*ure
    March 27, 2014

    Thanks for the good photos. Veddw is on my wish list for gardens to visit.

    • landscapelover
      March 27, 2014

      It’s very well worth a visit. And thanks for the positive comment about the photos. It was a rare sunny afternoon in South Wales when we visited and the light was difficult – low and sharp.

  3. Of Gardens
    March 28, 2014

    Can’t wait to get to Veddw myself and to meet Anne – although I feel I have a sense of her from the blogs and other publications

  4. Anonymous
    March 28, 2014

    Landscape lover, you do our country no favours, it’s often sunny here!
    I visited Veddw with Landscape Lover (she’s my sister!) and recommend it. A wonderful garden, in a wonderful part of the world, and some really good restaurants nearby. It makes a good day out.
    As Landscape Lover stated, it’s the scale of the planting that impresses, nothing small, one huge vision, beautifully executed.

  5. Landscape Designs
    May 21, 2014

    What a greenery awesome images!!! Thanks for sharing with us.

  6. Pingback: gartenarchäologie | theorie der gartenkunst

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This entry was posted on March 26, 2014 by in Gardens, Modern design, UK and tagged , , .

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