Herterton House is nestled in the small Northumberland village of Hartington, two miles north of Cambo. Widely acclaimed as a classic of 20th Century garden design, this lucidly structured one-acre garden on a difficult, windswept site is a brilliant synthesis of influences as diverse as the paintings of Paul Klee, the patterns of oriental carpets, William Lawson’s 1618 work ‘The Country Housewife’s Garden’, and the ideas of horticulturalists Marjorie Fish and Graham Stuart Thomas.
Now owned by Frank and Marjorie Lawley, five distinct garden enclosures wrap around the house within the one-acre grounds. All are quite different yet cleverly linked by repeated use of various clipped forms of box, yew and holly – the flower garden, the fancy garden, the formal garden, the physic garden and the nursery garden.
The flower garden is home to a vast collection of herbaceous perennials, making this a true plantsperson’s paradise. Strong, rectangular blocks of yew and box act as backdrops and dividers for sweeping plantings of persicaria, viola, centaurea, geranium, geum and poppies. Box spirals bring permanent height to the area, and a stone birdbath reinforces the fact that this is an abundant garden, both in terms of species of flora and fauna. The perennials weave through each other in beautiful, colour-coordinated swathes.
When you walk into the fancy garden, the view is instantly impressive – and a photographer’s dream. Metre upon metre of meticulously clipped box parterre is woven into a Tudor rose pattern. With simple gravel and paving in between, this creates a confident, bold design. Strategically placed staddle stones lead the eye, and the stone gazebo is home to symmetrically display photographs showing the evolution and maturation of the garden over the decades.
At the front of the house, the formal garden shows how, through the subtle differences of colour, texture and shape, you can rely on the impact of topiarised evergreens to add drama and personality to a property. A large pair of globed Buxus sempervirens ‘Aureovariegata’ are framed by low box hedges infilled with Dicentra formosa. A simply black solid gate leads you up the main path, where the stonework of the house is broken up by columnar yews and a solitary Clematis montana.
The nursery garden is crammed full of regimental stock beds from which plants are lifted each day for sale. Carefully wrapped in newspaper and then in a clear polythene bag, the perennials sold include some choice rarities as well as more familiar species. The gardens are open daily, except Tuesdays and Thursdays, between the months of April and September, so owners Frank and Marjorie are kept incredibly busy stocking up the plant sales area.
In early June beds in the physic garden are edged with the pink fizz of Saxifraga ‘Clarence Elliot’ with a monolithic clipped silver pear, Pyrus salicifolia, at its centre. The hot pink of the saxifrage provides one of the strongest blocks of contrasting colour to the gardens, quite different to the subtle variegation of Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegata’ which spreads to fill one of the nearby herb beds. Many other medicinal and culinary herbs grace this garden area, too – monarda, thyme and hyssop to name just a few. This truly is a plantsperson’s garden packed with interest and inspiration.
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Buy the book
Frank Lawley has written a highly informative book, cataloguing the 40 years he and his wife Marjorie have spent restoring and evolving the house and gardens at Hartington. Packed with beautiful photography and illustrations, the book, Herterton House and a New Country Garden, can be purchased for £30 (plus £3.95 postage and packing) by visiting herterton.co.uk