Hatfield House Garden

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.

Stained glass window at Hatfield House

Stained glass window at Hatfield House

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 Old Palace Garden, Hatfield House

The Old Palace Garden, Hatfield House

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.

Water bowl at Hatfield House

Water bowl at Hatfield House

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.

Just adore ducklings

Just adore ducklings

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.

Colour in the West Garden at Hatfield House

Colour in the West Garden at Hatfield House

Despite the bright, interesting and tasteful planting in this garden, it was the ducks that grabbed my attention.

Wisteria and lupins at Hatfield House

Wisteria and lupins at Hatfield House

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.

Ranunculus acris (meadow buttercup), Veronica chamaedrys (germander speedwell), Rumex acetosa (common sorrel) and Anthriscus sylvestris (cow parsley)

Ranunculus acris (meadow buttercup), Veronica chamaedrys (germander speedwell), Rumex acetosa (common sorrel) and Anthriscus sylvestris (cow parsley)

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?

Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris)

Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) meadow

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.

Vetch, cow parsley, sorrel, buttercup and plantain

Vetch, cow parsley, sorrel, buttercup and plantain

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.

The contrast of topiary and meadow at Hatfield House

The contrast of topiary and meadow at Hatfield House. Just gorgeous

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.

Bright, burgundy Prunus and sunny, yellow buttercups

Bright, burgundy Prunus and sunny, yellow buttercups

We’d left the crowds behind with the ducklings and the coffee stand but had found a little piece of paradise for ourselves.

Mistletoe hanging like baubles

Mistletoe hanging like baubles

So often, the simplest things in life bring the most pleasure.

Lime pergola at Hatfield House

Lime pergola at Hatfield House; I’m sure the edge planting takes quite a lot of maintenance to look so natural, but isn’t it just the perfect edging for the spot?

How ever could I not have noticed how beautiful buttercups are?

Native buttercups, saxifrages and cow parsley mixed with anemones at Hatfield House

Native buttercups, saxifrages and cow parsley mixed with anemones at Hatfield House

8 thoughts on “Hatfield House Garden

  1. Kim Woods Rabbidge says:

    Lovely to see your spring story Janna.
    We visited just recently in summer and one of the things that stood out was the incredibly long borders of holly! They must be 250 + metres.
    And yes, English gardens and wildflower/grass meadows are raging. Quite lovely.

  2. Adriana Fraser says:

    I loved buttercups and forget-me-nots when I was a child – they fascinated me – and then, like you Janna, I found out they were weeds. What a disappointment, but when I look at pictures of English gardens ( as is my voyeuristic want – through Pinterest) I see the beauty in these modest flowers – still. I love it that you found these gems at Hatfield house. I do love the juxtapositions between formal, informal and wild. They have captured that perfectly at Hatfield. I don’t think though that the formal would have worked as we’ll without the others as allies. Glad you found that and brought it to us Janna.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thanks, Adriana. It is a shame that we automatically have negative connotations around many self-seeding natives and find it difficult to simply look at them for what they are. It was quite stark to see how many people visited the formal gardens versus the single other group we saw in all our time in the ‘meadows’ that day. As you say, it is the two combined that is the really exceptional thing about this garden.

  3. germac4 says:

    Lovely to see the gardens of Hatfield House as we missed it while in the UK. Some of the lawns look like velvet green…you don’t get that kind of green in Australia. Just as you feel about buttercup meadows, I feel about long fields of grasses, they were so much a part of my childhood (in Africa) I had trouble seeing their popularity at first…now love them!

    • jannaschreier says:

      It is a slightly different green here, isn’t it, although we have had exceptional amounts of rain this summer, so it’s perhaps extraordinarily so this year. I do love the Australian green too, though. It’s just so Australian! Lovely to hear about your childhood memories of nature…and nice to know that it took you a while to fall in love with them, just as with me.

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