Jill SinclairGarden review: Anne Wareham’s ‘Veddw’

Veddw is a modern garden, laid out among the gentle hills of the Welsh borders. It has an unusual genesis: not a plantswoman’s garden, not a gardener’s garden. Instead, its creator, Anne Wareham, was driven by a fascination with the garden as art form. With her photographer husband Charles Hawes, Anne has spent 25 years developing Veddw from meadowland.

veddw-12We visited last June and found lots of things easy to enjoy and admire.

The garden is full of big confident sweeps of plants and patterns of hedging. This is not a timid place, fiddling around in details. It makes bold marks on the landscape.

veddw-16veddw-27veddw-01 1Despite its confidence, Veddw is not a garden with airs and graces – you take it as you find it, from the home-made sign on the door to Anne (maybe) offering builders’ tea, no cake, and a gossip after the visit. It is full of contrasts, between wild flowers and clipped shrubs, light and shade, open vistas and secret pathways.

veddw-02veddw-19veddw-09There are words in the garden – a quirky, modern use of inscriptions – from the apt Wordsworth quote on a bench:

“These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines of sportive wood run wild”

veddw-15to lists of common plant names in the cornfield garden, stamped in gold lettering on wooden railings. Here I learnt the delightful phrase “snotty gogs” and discovered that it is a child’s term for yew berries.

veddw-17veddw-18The garden is not seen as settled or finished, but is constantly undergoing review and refinement. Just after we visited, Anne announced plans to chop down the tree at the end of this pathway and replace it with something else.

veddw-22Although the garden’s most famous feature, a reflective pool, left me rather cold (feeling too self-conscious, too much of a stage-set):

veddw-24there is a delightful smaller stone pond near the house. It is firmly rectangular and makes no pretence at being natural but, surrounded by mossy stones and seemingly self-seeded alpine flowers, it manages somehow to look like it has always been there.

veddw-20What I admired most about Veddw was how the garden sat in its time and place: the way the curved hedges echo the rolling hills beyond the garden:

veddw-27the retention of ancient meadow:

veddw-21the little tombstones in the wild garden with their inscriptions of lost local names:

veddw-08veddw-11the casually displayed collection of objects found when the cottage was partially rebuilt – allowing us to imagine the former life of the site.

veddw-13I was not so keen on a boldly planted area in the north garden, full of contrasting grey cardoon and purple heuchera and cotinus. I thought it out of context, lacking the sense of place that is so strong elsewhere at Veddw. I know Anne disagrees – she told me that she loves the impact of this area, the way it changes and develops from winter into high summer, and would not want to lose those pleasures. I hesitate to say ‘each to their own’ – as Anne scoffs at the idea that we should explain away critical comments as just a question of different tastes.veddw-05veddw-04My only other quibble in this wonderful garden is the grasses parterre (in the background of the photo below). I really wanted to like this area: low hedges are laid out in the pattern of the 1841 local tithe map, and the resulting ‘fields’ are planted with ornamental grasses. It seems a great idea, another novel way of referencing the history of the site. But I found it impossible to understand on the ground. It just looked puzzling and slightly scruffy, like it was trying to tell you something but you couldn’t work out what.

veddw-10Given the use of quirky inscriptions elsewhere, it would be good to see the inspiration of the tithe map somehow made more explicit on the ground.

The garden is a joy, always changing and growing, and worth repeated visits. We dedicated most of a day to our trip, including an excellent lunch at a nearby pub, and thought it very well worth the effort. Just don’t simper to the formidable Anne that you think it all vaguely “lovely” – and don’t expect roses or cake!

veddw-23

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Jill Sinclair

About Jill Sinclair

Jill is a British landscape historian, based these days in New Delhi. She studied landscape design and history at Harvard, completed a Masters in garden design at the Inchbald School in London, and lived and worked for a number of years in Paris. Her first book was published by the MIT Press on a historic landscape in Massachusetts, and she now researches, writes about and lectures on designed landscapes across three continents. Follow her blog at Landscape Lover

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