Myddleton House. 05.06.13

It's always lovely to bask in the summery splendour of Enfield. Myddleton House was the home of Mr E.A.Bowles and at it's peak it was one of the garden wonders of the nation. I visited it with my nanny as a very young thing, in those awkward years when Gloria clains she hadn't yet been born, though we seem to have arrived at similar ages when we reached finishing school. Perhaps I am wrong, arithmetic was never a strong point and it wouldn't be like Gloria to forget anything. Not even a slight offense or an overlooked promise so I'm certain she couldn't have forgotten a decade or two.

The lawn to the south of the house leads down gently to the pond in a way that seems artless and natural yet was actually excavated by hand from the thick clay and sits on a terrace on the hillside, several feet above the level of the local stream. In those days men with power and money felt an obligation to build ponds for the benefit of mankind.

Geranium phaeum is a stout perennial that was very popular in those days as the Mourning Widow for its black purple flowers. Mr Bowles grew one that he was very proud of with flowers that were the colour of a good claret and its descendants are still to be found in the garden. If one were to search for it in a publication such as the Plantfinder today it would be in vain, but it is still being grown in other gardens as 'Bowles Red'. I had it myself in a garden in Cheltenham after the death of my fourth husband, and the locals jokingly referred to it as the Scarlet Slut because it appeared every time a bed was turned over.

The garden is going through a phase of great renewal and reconstruction and it is marvellous to see it arise anew from the dusty museum of its past. Mt Bowles grew a great many Iris and his original beds had slumped into historical irrelevance. It is wonderful to see this new bed prepared to house a collection of Dykes Medal winning Iris. I had hoped to see it resplendant in the June sun but they seem to be struggling a little. It is possible that the bright gravel mulch is a little too harsh for these sturdy border perennials or perhaps Gloria is right. She always mutters 'virus' under her breath when she sees a plant ailing. Whatever the cause, I am sure it will be remedied by the garden team, and the intention is perfectly admirable.

The garden also houses a remarkable range of forms of the lovely Paeonia delavayi in red, orange and in the yellow that I was brought up to call P.lutea. This one has large frilly flowers glowing with marvellous rich colour that put me in mind of Gloria's exact counterpart, as day is to night and joy is to sorrow. She is a marvellous photographer and has captured the poise of the plant to perfection. I feel sure that Mr Bowles had collected together as much variety as he could obtain and they (or their offspring) remain in wonderful diversity.

This picture of a seat in front of a rather unloved Yew hedge filled me with hope and I feel I have to share it (though Gloria says I should keep such things to myself). For all its wonder, this garden had suffered through the years of institutional care following Mr Bowles death. Though many of us still loved it, the stagnation of the ages had come upon it and the future looked bleak and dusty. However the last few years have seen a resurgence of life. It is returning to its proper role as a dynamic and developing garden and this picture assures me that the process is ongoing. The wreckage of the old has been removed, a new space has been created and a new plan is afoot. This pictures is an emblem of the lifeblood that has started to course along the gardens whimsical pathways again.

Evidence of a new dynamic in the garden is this trial of pyrethrums, carried out in association with the Royal Horticultural Society. It has been years since I have seen such a glorious display from a plant that has slipped so far from favour. They glowed from pure white to rerally quite pink, with every minute graduation in-between. I would love to think that these old friends of childhood would mount a comeback and bring with them the names of the gardeners of the day. This is Tanacetum coccineum 'Robinson's Red' though it is as pink is a modest gentleman would care to be.

I must end, but not without this picture which caused me to laugh with incredulity. Mr Bowles had a pair of lead ostriches stationed one at each side of this little bridge but they were removed, first to the conservatory and latterly to the garden museum. I'm sure the original intention was to enchant and perplex, and their absence is unfortunate. Astonishingly, this replacement made from wire mesh has been fashioned and it fulfils the original intention and adds a dash of modern enterprise. It is a triumph that filled me with hope that in this garden at least, the spirit of adventure was prospering.

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