It was a pretty murky day when we, raincoats donned, set off for Hatfield House. But not to worry, Hatfield was all about the house, the history and the heritage. I’d seen photos of its formal garden but decided that a glimpse out of the window would probably suffice: I didn’t particularly need to see lots of hedges close up.
But a gap in the clouds upon our arrival convinced us to have a quick run round the grounds whilst the weather held up.
The formal gardens were actually pretty special, particularly the Old Palace Garden, perfectly in keeping with its 1497 backdrop: the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I.
And the Sundial Garden – whilst also pretty hedge-heavy – what it lacked in imagination it more than made up for with its immaculate execution and maintenance. A well kept garden is always a pleasant place to dwell.
In the West Garden, I was smitten with a mother and her five ducklings. What is it about ducklings that always has me transfixed? They are just so fluffy and adorable and also seem torn between their own, inquisitive adventures and the desperate need for the security mum provides.
Despite the bright, interesting and tasteful planting in this garden, it was the ducks that grabbed my attention.
Apparently, fluffiness is less all-absorbing for Paul, and off he wandered beyond the vicinity of the house. I begrudgingly left my ducklings and followed him into an area pretty much left to its own devices. A few weeds, a few trees, not much more.
But how buttercups have changed since I last lived in England. They used to be unwanted, yellow splotches on the lawn. But it seems they have mutated into tall, elegant, dazzlingly golden cups of joy, lighting up meadows with an airy glow. How has so much changed since I left the UK?
I guess two things have changed. The buttercups themselves, of course, haven’t, but I now see them through more appreciative eyes since starting my horticultural and blogging journeys. Secondly, the fashion for naturalistic plantings has taken off since we moved abroad.
I clearly remember seeing Sarah Price’s Chelsea Show Garden in 2012, an evocation of the British countryside: silver birches underplanted with naturalistic grasses and flowers. It struck me as utterly beautiful: so serene, uncontrived, yet manipulated enough to be completely captivating.
And back at Hatfield, the backdrop of a beautiful, historic building, the contrast of neatly mown, straight pathways and perfectly pruned topiary, all provided an idyllic setting for these English-style meadows. We sat under dark, stormy clouds, feeling entirely at one with nature.
We’d left the crowds behind with the ducklings and the coffee stand but had found a little piece of paradise for ourselves.
So often, the simplest things in life bring the most pleasure.
How ever could I not have noticed how beautiful buttercups are?