Historical accuracy not always helpful says Newby Hall custodian

Newby Hall owner Lucinda Compton grateful for lack of bureaucracy impinging on renovation of biggest borders in Europe.

Compton: unfettered by history - image: © Newby Hall
Compton: unfettered by history - image: © Newby Hall

New North of England Horticulture Society president Lucinda Compton has said historically accurate garden recreations are not always possible and she is glad to be unfettered by the bureaucracy that makes it difficult for National Trust gardens to become more modern.

The Newby Hall custodian, who took over looking after the gardens in 2009 from her late father-in-law Robin Compton, said: "We are renovating our borders - we have the biggest in Europe so it's a major project. It makes us thankful we're not guarded by lots of bureaucracy here.

"We have a small team working on the renovation but the National Trust has to cope with committees. Historical accuracy in gardens is sometimes not really possible. When you get the National Trust, they sometimes try and recreate with historical accuracy - for instance, at Hidcote and the Laurence Johnson garden of the 1930s.

"Our borders are from the 1920s planted by my grandfather-in-law, but we won't be tied to historical accuracy because plant varieties have improved and moved on."

She added: "The other angle is historical accuracy in planting. We have the freedom to use wonderful varieties from over the past 50 years to make it much more exciting and beautiful."

National Trust view: garden custodian rather than owner

"We care for more than 150 gardens on behalf of the nation and as such are custodians of these gardens rather than owners. Our role therefore is a very different one and it is to venerate any historic planting schemes. But we also don't have to be a slave to them. We can still innovate by using new plant varieties to push gardens forwards by creating new areas within our gardens - for example, the recent winter gardens planted at Dunham Massey, Mottisfont and Bodnant, and in our recreation of garden planting schemes.

"We are also working to adapt to a shifting climate so our planting can better survive summers of drought or heavy rain as well as gardening in the 'greenest' way possible so our gardens can look their best the whole year round. We may not have the freedom of a conventional garden owner but our aims are different. We do push the boundaries of what we can do in our own way to help create special places for our visitors to enjoy."

Mike Calnan, head of gardens, National Trust.

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