For centuries, Stourhead has been acclaimed as one of Brittain's most picturesque
Located in the middle of a 2,650 acre estate near Warminster south of Bath,
this magnificent garden surrounds a peaceful lake, a jewel nestled among
Tucked in strategic spots around the shore are various classic
architectural features including several monuments and an arched
stone bridge. Each one serves as a focal point for yet
another memorable photograph.
The garden was designed by Henry Hoare II between 1741 and 1780, and
enhanced with new species of trees from America between 1791 and
1838 by his grandson, Richard
Colt Hoare. Those who plant trees do not plant for
themselves, but for others to appreciate.
We happened to be there to witness a very
large and rare Chinese Dove Tree, Davidia involucrata , in full glory. As the
common name implies, the large,
delicate white flowers look like white doves fluttering gently in the breeze.
Another common name is the "handkerchief tree", and although descriptive seems
a little less elegant to me. After an elusive search for the Dove tree through
perilous mountains in China, noted plant explorer E. H. Wilson
finally sent back seeds of this rare plant to
the Veitch & Sons Nursery in England around the turn of the
century. From the size of the specimen at Stourhead, I felt certain
that this Davidia must have been one of those original seedlings.
According to the literature, the "latest"
rhododendrons and selected azaleas were added around 1900.
Looking at the enormous size of rhododendron hybrids such as Cynthia and
Pink Pearl along the shore, it was
clear that these old standbys must have been those latest introductions a
century ago. I wondered how many of our new hybrid introductions will
stand a similar test of time. In my garden, rhododendron Caroline
is making it clear that she expects to be around for a long time.
Trying to visit two or three gardens a day for two weeks, we were typically pressed for time when we reached Stourhead.
We didn't have time to tour the Palladian Mansion, an impressive structure built
around 1720 that sits on the top of the hill overlooking the lake. There was no
time to take any side trails, just a liesurely stroll around the
lake on a cloudy day for an hour and a half, and then we would have to hit
the road again.
It must be wonderful to see Stourhead at sunrise
with soft mist on the lake giving way to
mirrored reflections, or to be there on sunny day to appreciate the brilliant
rhododendrons towering into the blue sky, or to be there in the
evening as a golden sunset echoes the soft yellow of the fragrant azalea,
Rhododendron luteum. The setting at Stourhead is surely
a delight at all times of the day, every day of the year.