Set perpendicularly to the manor house with its elongated outbuildings and sloping away for more than seventy metres towards the meadows below, the long borders would always present an enterprising challenge to any garden designer with a new vision. The latest transition is no different. To start with, several problems needed solving; the Yew hedge enclosing the borders had become unruly, parts were more than three metres thick, making clipping an awesome task. Besides, it had also lost much of its formal character. A group of Ash trees on the north side encroached and many of the perennials had formed massive groups; fine from a distance but unsatisfying when viewed from close by. Strilli Oppenheimer’s greatest wish was to incorporate Hedge Bindweed (Callistegia sepium) already rampant in these borders, into the new planting in such a way that it could be kept under control.
A solution followed. Attempts to retain the formal character of the Yew hedge were abandoned. From now on it will be clipped in irregular, rounded, often whimsical shapes leaving an occasional opening, a kind of viewing-hole, which would fix the viewer’s gaze over the adjoining lawns onto a group of specimen trees in the middle distance. The first radical “clipping” took place in May 2002. An ingenious idea evolved of planting five oval-shaped, tightly clipped Beech-hedges at regular intervals down the entire length of the border, thus retaining the formal structure. Inside these ovals (which have the visual effect of broadening the borders) and on each side of the path, “towers” will be erected upon which the Bindweed and other so-called weeds could flourish to their heart’s content.
Perennials will be sprinkled about, at random as it were, heightening the feeling of naturalness, the hallmark of all the gardens at Waltham Place. A handful of plants would determine the atmosphere in each season. Many beautiful grasses such as Miscanthus and Panicum vouchsafe that winter’s lease keeps structure and silhouette intact.
Long borders were planted anew in 2003. It is hoped that once again these will become the pièce de resistance of the ornamental gardens.