I had a wonderful opportunity to stay at Holland House in the village of Cropthorne, Worcestershire this summer.  The timber-framed house, which is part-thatched, dates back to the 16th century and is set in 4 acres of gardens which lead down to the River Avon.  The gardens were mostly laid out in the early part of the 20th century and are said to be inspired by Sir Edwin Lutyens.   Though no plans or drawings exist, it is thought that he at least designed the sunken herb garden forming part of the terrace in front of the house.  Reference is made in Butler’s ‘Architechture of Sir Edwin Lutyens’ that in 1900 Lutyens designed a garden for the then owner of Holland House, a Mr H. Avery.  Whether Lutyens himself visited Holland House is uncertain but the beautiful sunk garden with a sundial at its heart is certainly reminiscent of his work.

Divided by low Box hedges – which appear to have escaped Box blight – and high yew hedges creating a garden room for the rose garden with “windows” cut into it giving views through to the garden beyond, there is also an extensive Kitchen Garden and spectacular herbaceous borders. The lawns are studded with majestic trees including cedars – both Lebanon and Atlantic – a Wollemi pine, a ginkgo and a mature walnut tree.

These historic and noteworthy gardens are managed by garden designer and horticulturist Patrick Swan www.patrickswan.co.uk who has implemented a major restoration programme since 2010.

Holland House is now a Christian retreat centre and part of the Quiet Garden Trust www.quietgarden.org which offers peaceful spaces for quiet contemplation.  At the RHS Malvern Spring Show 2014, the Quiet Garden Trust made a show garden, with Patrick Swan’s planting, which was awarded an RHS Bronze medal and won the ‘People’s Choice’ award for the garden most popular with visitors.  A labyrinth path held a fountain at its centre and led to a resting stone where visitors could sit and contemplate the soothing tones of the planting.  Despite the setting of a busy showground, the garden did indeed offer a peaceful retreat.

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