The ghostly shadows of long-lost gardens have emerged in the wake of this summer’s heatwave after browning grass revealed the foundations under lawns.
At Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the remains of an 18th century ‘military garden’ were revealed. Laid out in 1705 by royal gardener Henry Wise, it covered 70 acres and the rectangular parterre, surrounded by a high stone wall with bastions, stretched the full width of the palace. The gardens were demolished by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to make way for his own sweeping design.
Meanwhile, in Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, the shapes of ornate curled flowerbeds and paths have appeared under the scorched grass of the South Lawns. They are believed to be the remains of a parterre design, dating back to 1699 and intended as a suitably ornate setting for the newly-completed South Front of the main house.
The heatwave is also exposing the marks of other lost treasures in the wider countryside. The ‘ghost’ of Clumber House, a grand 18th century mansion demolished in 1938, has turned up under grass in Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, and at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire, the dry weather has revealed a shadow of its former Victorian garden, an elaborate geometric parterre long since lost.
The outlines of stone foundations become visible as they heat up more quickly than surrounding earth, scorching the grass above to a lighter shade.
Meanwhile, the RHS is recruiting the UK’s first garden water scientist, in partnership with Cranfield University. The new role, which will be based at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, aims to better prepare the UK’s 27 million gardeners for periods of drought and flood which put pressure on plants, people and wildlife.
The water scientist will explore ways to improve water provision in gardens by adopting new technologies, developing management strategies and encouraging gardeners to change the way they use water in their gardens.