A visit to The Peto Water Garden at Buscot Park back in May aroused my interest in the architect and landscape gardener Harold A. Peto. This week I decided to do a little more research and paid a visit to The Peto Garden at Iford Manor, his home from 1899 to 1933.
Peto was an architect by profession and the partner of the renowned English architect Sir Ernest George. However, in 1892 Peto resigned from their partnership due to health reasons and an increasing desire to live in the countryside. In 1899 when he visited Iford Manor with his lifelong friend, garden designer and author Avray Tipping he knew he had found the place to test out his ideas.
The garden is situated in 2.5 acres on a steep hillside. Terracing has formed an important element of the garden design for this challenging space. As an architect Peto believed that a gardens beauty lay in the combination of architecture and plants. He had a particular fondness for Italian gardens where flowers held a subordinate place amongst walks, statues and pools. It is at Iford Manor where he has experimented with these ideas using his eccentric collection of anitque fragments. His efforts were well accepted by the society of the time and Tipping wrote of him "If the relative spheres and successful inter-marriage of formal and natural gardening are better understood today than ever before, that desirable result is due to the efforts of no one man more than to Mr Peto."
As you enter the garden you see the Loggia standing in a paved courtyard.
The architecture is broken with planting, not the usual english country garden sort, but carefully chosen and often quiet unusal plants. I particularly liked the sea of golden Bupleurum fruticosum in a bed near the Loggia.
Opposite the Loggia is a semi-circular pool with bronze deer on plinths either side of it. The deer are copies of bronzes found in the garden of the Villa of the Papyri in Pompeii.
From the courtyard, steps lead you up to a series of terraces with more unusual statuary and plants.
Each set of steps leads further upwards to a different terrace. The final series were edged with masses of lavender tumbling over the walkway. It was smothered with butterflies and bees.
As I made my way through the swathes of lavender and butterflies I reached the Great Terrace. On the far side of which the Castia, with it's 13th century pink marble Verona columns immediately grabbed my attention.
The paved terrace outside the Castia was full of beautiful white day lilies which formed a wonderful point of contrast to the large clump of Lobelia tupa opposite them.
There were lots of little water features dotted around the garden, gargoyles with water pouring from their mouths, statues standing over pools of water, but the one I really liked was this small bronze lion outside the Castia.
The bronze statue of Romulus and Remus suckling from the wolf was another striking piece of art on the terrace. It was made for Peto from a mould taken from the original in the Capitol Museum in Rome. The beds in this area were full of day lilies and one or two other beautiful plants such as the Romneya coulteri above.
Day lilly from the Great Terrace.
As well as statuary there were large terracotta urns flanking yet more steps leading up to the next level of the garden. One of the best statues in this area was of an 18th century German dog with an itch.
Dog with itch.
Everywhere you turned in this garden there were butterflies. For a garden that was supposed to focus somewhat less on plants it was certainly full of life and colour. I adore gardens crammed with plants, but I really did enjoy Peto's Italian folly. There was so much to see, plenty of places to rest and contemplate, some beautiful plants and a view to die for from every direction.
On refection, if anything I would say there were too many butterflies. I ran myself silly chasing after them all with the camera and in the end had far more pictures than I had space for on the blog!
For what seemed to be initially quite a small garden there was an extrordinary amount to take in. The wisteria enclosed lily pond was beautiful and to my surprise hidden behind the Great Terrace was an idyllic Japanese Garden. There is too much to describe with this garden and the hidden treasures to be found at every turn. Up a steep embankment behind the Japanese Garden for example, I was quite amazed to see a large fat Buddha sculpture looking down at me. I discovered it quite by accident, and if I hadn't been exploring off the main walkway I would never have spotted it.
The Peto gardens are full of terraces brimming with plants, wildlife and quirky architectural features. It is a delightful way to spend and afternoon getting lost in Peto's daydream. Everything about this place is unusual and eccentric, right down to the cream teas served out of the housekeepers window. As you wait for your delicious home made cakes to be handed to you, you can see the scones being warmed in the Aga. What more could a garden visitor want than a thoroughly entertaining afternoon and delicious home made cakes and cream teas?