Lord and Lady Heseltine tell story of Thenford

Lord Heseltine has paid tribute to the plantsmen, gardeners and nurserymen who helped in the development of his Northamptonshire garden Thenford, at the launch of his and Lady Heseltine's new book Thenford: The Creation of an English Garden.

Grosvenor: Lord and Lady Heseltine praised plantsmen
Grosvenor: Lord and Lady Heseltine praised plantsmen

At a launch event at Grosvenor House in London's Mayfair, horticulturists in attendance included Roy Lancaster, Robert and John Hillier, Jim Gardiner, Wolfgang Bopp, Mike Fitt, as well as industry leaders Dame Helen Ghosh and Sue Biggs.

Haymarket owner Lord Heseltine bought the house and land in 1977 to be near his new Henley constituency and the book tells the story of the development of the 20-ha garden.

Lancaster, Sir Harold Hillier, Allen Coombes, Keith Rushforth and Chris Chadwell were instrumental in advising on plant and tree choices.

Lord Heseltine said: "I thought I would become a member of Government within a very short time of acquiring Thenford so I asked Harold Hillier for a list of plants we could have."

He said he bought the whole of the list from Hillier's "world-class catalogue" which became the "foundation of the collection" of 3,000 trees among 13,000 varieties of plants acquired over four decades. Nurseries including Crug Farm, Taylor's Bulbs, Notcutts, Bowden, Evolution and Mattocks have also supplied plants.

Peverelli also supplied trees, as the Italian nursery had done for the Liverpool International Garden Festival in 1984.

Lord Heseltine also led an ovation for the work of head gardener Darren Webster, who came to the garden from Kew more than 20 years ago, and now runs a team of 10 gardeners.

He added: "Most gardens were created before the age of cameras but Thenford was photographed from its earliest stage."

Lady Heseltine joked that publishers Head of Zeus vetoed their original title 'Mistake by Mistake', citing a 8,000 sq m aviary in which the birds inter-bred. In the book, Lord Heseltine writes of building a 2,000 sq m greenhouse in 1979 to grow chrysanthemums to sell in Covent Garden market but that became "our greatest mistake" and he had to sell it as oil prices rose 500 per cent after the 1973 oil crisis.

Landscape architect Lanning Roper was also an advisor, while designer George Carter worked on the walled garden.

Journalist Sir Max Hastings spoke at the event: "Even the most depraved Brexiteer would find a light in this most wonderful publication."

Gardens and arboretums such as Savill, Bedgebury, Kew, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Arboretum des Pouyouleix also provided specimens. There are 3,000 different trees in the garden and many more plants. The garden has many sculptures, including from famous names such as Elizabeth Frink, as well as a Lenin head from Moscow.

Thenford: The Creation of an English Garden is published by Head of Zeus.


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