Restoration completed at Canons Ashby

Head gardener says the biggest challenge was recreating complex formal style that can be maintained with fewer staff.

Canons Ashby: garden restored following renovation of main house - image: Jason Ingram
Canons Ashby: garden restored following renovation of main house - image: Jason Ingram

A £250,000 restoration project at Northamptonshire garden Canons Ashby has been completed by the National Trust.

The five-year project included recreating features including a rose parterre, herbaceous borders, Victorian style fernery, complex formal bedding, fruit and vegetables on terraces and an ancient topiary garden.

Head gardener at the property for 28 years Chris Smith said: "The biggest challenge for us was recreating the complex formal style of the gardens in a way that could be easily maintained with fewer staff.

"We have employed some techniques not available to the 18th century gardener, such as installing steel frames to the beds, making it much easier to keep the edges neat and firm. These are essential as there is a mile-and-a-half of edging that needs to be maintained every week during the growing season."

Smith said 227 trees have been planted and every year around 10,000 bulbs and bedding plants are planted out, so labour-saving devices are essential. "We wouldn't have made our five-year deadline if it wasn't for our supporting cast of volunteers. More than 70 were involved and we still have a team of 22 who will be vital in helping us maintain the gardens."

The gardens, enclosed by high walls, comprise a series of terraces with vistas framed by baroque gate piers. It was acquired by the trust in 1981. Renovating the house was the priority for the first 25 years while the garden was left as lawns and topiary.

Some £250,000 from a designated garden endowment fund has allowed the restoration to happen, using records left by Victorian owner Sir Henry Dryden. The gardens will formally open on 6 June.

Additional work

Further plans for the estate include replanting a lost elm avenue in the field below the Lion Gates, using Dutch elm disease-resistant trees from the elm foundation. The garden is also developing a series of walks starting and finishing at Canons Ashby that vary in length from one to six miles.


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