Brodsworth Hall's Formal Garden
The formal elements of Brodsworth Hall's gardens bear the hallmarks of Thellusson's original Italian ideas, created to enhance the new white limestone house.
In the formal garden you can see wide lawns, often used for playing croquet or tennis, and precise geometric flower beds where the planting is changed twice a year from a spring scattering of tulips and hyacinths above the violas and forget-me-nots to the dazzling summer displays of pelargoniums and marigolds inter-planted with cannas, ginger and banana.
Around these brightly coloured beds are tightly clipped evergreen spirals, cones and balls framing the three tiered Dolphin Fountain supplied by Casentini. It is now what it once was – a place for strolling and admiring the planting, but when English Heritage took over this was choked with overgrown shrubs and self-sown trees.
These gardens with their heavy reliance on a readily available supply of cheap labour thrived in the 19th century and even in the early part of the 20th century it still supported around a dozen gardeners.
But as changes occurred rapidly in the structure of society, people were more likely to look for work in towns and cities and Brodsworth, like country houses up and down the land, began to falter. By the time of the Second World War when the house was requisitioned by the army Brodsworth was looking sadly dilapidated.
This makes what you now see even more impressive. Not only has the garden been restored to its mid-Victorian splendour – the parterres still take around 10,000 plants and bulbs each year – but it has all been done with a fraction of the labour.
Just beyond the formal parterres is a shrubbery containing a large number of handsome evergreens in a wide variety of different shades of green and gold. There are Portuguese and Japanese laurels, yew, box, Viburnum, bay and holly now all clipped into shape to provide an impressive living sculpture.
Many of these are original specimens of the 1860s including the odd break in the evergreens provided by Japanese maples.
When the gardens were passed to English Heritage this area was an impenetrable thicket. But the tough evergreens responded well to fierce pruning and eventually came back into shape.
Now the best place to appreciate it is from the classical summer house, built as a Doric temple, elevated upon the man-made Mount allowing you to look down upon the varying domes, obelisks and spirals.
Near here is a recently planted collection of alpines from across the world, which enjoy the conditions created by the well-drained rock garden.