Thursday, October 4, 2012

Guest Blogger- Gordon Hayward

photo by Gordon Hayward

A September Visit To Rosemary Verey's Barnsley House

On Wednesday, September 19, Mary and I visited the late Rosemary Verey’s Barnsley House Gardens to be part of a small group of people who signed up for lunch in the restaurant there along with a tour of the gardens with head gardener Richard Gatenby.  I thought I’d just tell you a bit about what has happened to house and garden since Rosemary died in 2001.

photo by Gordon Hayward

Rosemary's son Charles, a garden furniture designer who had a stormy relationship with his mother, inherited the house and soon after sold the property to two young men who owned the local village gastro-pub just up the street. They poured tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds into turning Barnsley House into an aggressively designed, edgy and very pricey hotel of red leather and black décor. Guests did not visit the hotel or restaurant in sufficient numbers to allow the hotel to continue and it went into receivership only two years after opening. In 2009 the prestigious Calcot Manor Hotel group from nearby Tetbury purchased Barnsley House. You can click on the link to get a feel for their classy, contemporary English country house style.

photo of Head Gardener, Richard Gatenby
 by Gordon Hayward
As to the garden…. Four years before Rosemary passed away, she hired Richard Gatenby as her head gardener. He is still there, providing the garden’s continuum in a most enthusiastic and professional way. Gatenby said during our tour two weeks ago that for the first few years after Rosemary passed away, neither son Charles nor the two gents paid much attention to the garden. Inadequate staff and inadequate financing necessary for Gatenby to do his work properly showed in the declining garden.

The famous Laburnum Walk;
photo by Gordon Hayward
Mary and I can testify to this as we went to Barnsley for lunch and a garden visit with another couple in June, 2005, a week after it opened under new glitzy management. The nearly $400 bill for a simple lunch we ordered from a menu sans prices was startling enough, but the condition of the garden was dismaying. That condition was pretty much summed up by a wooden chair that we remembered from when Rosemary was alive; it had been left facing into the laburnum walk for so long the legs were rotting into the ground. The nearby laburnums were turning into trees, not the shorn arch Rosemary intended.

photo by Gordon Hayward

Most of that decline has been reversed in the intervening seven years since 2005. Gatenby now has a staff of four full time and one part-time gardeners. As the photos can attest, even when taken in late September, the garden is being looked after not only with skill but with passion. Gatenby is an enthusiast and remains loyal to Rosemary’s memory and her garden. (He referred to her as Mrs. Verey throughout the tour.) No bed shapes have been altered; all major trees and shrubs are where they were when Rosemary was tending the garden though several of the laburnums have broken their traces and are becoming upright trees. Gatenby has lifted and relaid all the stone paths and terraces, in part because it now is a hotel open to the public; stringent UK Health and Safety regulations have to be honored.

photo by Gordon Hayward

photo by Gordon Hayward
Gatenby told our group that he has weekly meetings with management and chef so that all parts of Calcot Manor’s operation dovetail. And this brings me to the major change in the garden: food production. While the potager across the farm track from the ornamental garden is still intact, though clearly missing Verey’s exacting crisp attention to detail, the field beyond the potager is now two acres of highly cultivated and beautifully maintained vegetables, herbs and fruits for the kitchen at both Barnsley and the Calcot Manor Hotel. There is also a fenced off area for chickens and their coop.

photo by Gordon Hayward
Two hoop houses give Gatenby the opportunity to grow tomatoes in this otherwise too cool climate along with grapes, figs and any number of other plants that appreciate heat and protection.

photo by Gordon Hayward

All in all, Mary and I came away with the feeling that Barnsley is once again a garden with stature. I hope my pictures will back this up.  For more views of Rosemary Verey's Barnsley House, you can take a springtime tour of the garden by clicking here to see photos taken by Joe on his visit this past May.

To learn more about Rosemary Verey's artistic vision and the development of her garden at Barnsley House, an excellent reference is Rosemary Verey's Making of a Garden.  You can click on the image of the book for more info.

You can also check out this recently released account of Rosemary Verey's life as told by Barbara Paul Robinson, a Manhattan attorney who first worked with Rosemary as a volunteer gardener and later became close to her for the last twenty years of her life.  Click on the book's image for more info.

Gordon Hayward is an acclaimed garden designer and lecturer and the author of over ten books and countless articles on gardening and garden design. For more information on Gordon, you can click here or visit his website at

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful, informative and beautiful post, thank you Gordon and Joe!


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