The Cruden Farm garden changes dramatically with each season.
Summer is when the Walled Garden comes into its own. Literally hidden behind stone walls, it is a secret space and, at its peak, offers a riot of floral structures and colours. Originally Edna Walling planted one area with a central row of standard crab apples and fruit trees espaliered onto the walls and the other walled garden with roses.
Despite Dame Elisabeth and the gardeners’ ongoing efforts to maintain the fruit trees, the area was just too hot and enclosed for the plants to thrive. So in the late 1940’s, Dame Elisabeth bravely changed Wallings’ design and removed the fruit trees. In the 1980’s she also moved the roses as they were unsuited to the hot and confined space of a small Walled Garden concept. She kept a few of the original trees and the small pond but replaced the hard paving with soft grass.
Over the months of summer, the palette of the Walled Garden shifts from blues, greens and whites to pinks, mauves and yellows when the summer light is brightest. The Walled Garden receives hours of specialist horticultural attention all year round, allowing it to remain showy for almost five months. Dame Elisabeth enjoyed the challenge of creating a sense of space within the confines of the Walled Garden and constantly fine-tuned the area’s plantings – a tradition that remains today.
With the change of season, the dominance of florals recedes as the deciduous trees become more obvious in the landscape. One’s eyes move skywards to follow the intense and warm colours of the copper beech, liquid amber and tupelo trees. The underlying structure of Cruden Farm becomes evident as the post and rail fencing and the stone walls are more visible and the consistency of the bricks and blue stones used across the gardens is obvious. The solid structures of the Willow and Eucalypts trees are reflected in the lake, surrounded by busy bird life.
Dame Elisabeth and the Number Two Gardener, Michael Morrison always preferred Cruden Farm in this form of ‘muted’ loveliness’. Autumn brings a rest from the endless days of watering and dead-heading of flowers that the Summer months demand. The gardens’ colour palettes are reminiscent of the warm open fires and old tapestries that the two gardeners enjoyed. Roses, phlox, zinnias abound, alongside dahlias reaching as high as six feet tall.
Winter brings a quieter time in the garden, as well as frosts and fog. There is much hard work to be done over the colder months; pruning and shaping bushes and hedges, top-dressing the lawns, transplanting and evaluating the exposed structures of the garden.
There is a meditative stillness to Cruden Farm in the colder months; the sculptures in the garden are more obvious, as are the massive stone walls, the stables and the chimneys. Yellow tones abound amongst huge carpets of daffodils and the laden lemon and grapefruit trees. The garden and the farm meld into one vast space at this point in the calendar and the lake appears to be twice its normal size. Textures too become more easy to identify, be it the lichen on the trees’ bark or the actual structures of the trees that, now leafless, reveal their architectural bones.
Spring makes every corner of the garden burst with growth and blooms and the air is filled with noises from the many types of birds who live at Cruden Farm. The purple of the famous Wisteria covers the front of the house and there is a sense of renewal across every part of the garden. Healthy clumps of fresh new green foliage appear everywhere as the spring flowering plants do their work. For brief periods, plants such as the old-fashioned Lilacs bud and bloom but they are gone almost as fast as they appear.
There is a real contrast between the manicured turf around the house and the tall rural grasses growing out in the farm areas beyond. Throughout Spring barrow loads of spent leaves need to be raked up and composted as all around the roses, sweet peas, alstroemeria and clematis bloom and once again, fill the garden with terrific colour and heady scents.