Sometimes, when designing gardens, there is a clear need for a piece of sculpture, and I always find this is a problem because it is a subjective choice, and the client seldom wants to be guided by the designer. For the same reason, I am hesitant to include a sculpture garden in my blog; you either like my choice, or you don’t.
I have been to many sculpture gardens I find so disappointing I can’t bring myself to write about, such as the Kroller-Muller in Ottero in the Netherlands, and closer to home the Gibberd Garden in Harlow New Town in Essex. Added to this is the fashion to use famous garden settings such as Chatsworth for temporary exhibits; I just wish they wouldn’t. They have all been buried in my ‘Underwhelming Gardens’ file, never to see the light of day again.
But there is one garden I have been to several times, that delights me time and time again; and that is the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden, near Otley in Surrey, which forms the backdrop to over 100 figurative and abstract sculptures, all for sale, so it is constantly in a state of change..
What makes this garden work is firstly the setting – a small, narrow valley with a succession of ponds, streams, bridges and waterfalls, below a canopy of broad-leaved trees. Hannah’s husband, the internationally renowned garden designer, Antony Paul, has, since they purchased the property in 1977, created a water garden; the series of carefully conceived spaces showing the sculpture off to best advantage.
He has been influenced in his design work by the gardens of Japan, and the flora of his native New Zealand. The garden is characterised by its restrained use of colour, its carefully managed views, and the bold use of architectural plants, such as gunnera, ligularia and bamboos. The overall effect is unusual and stylish.
The narrow paths and rickety bridges lead round the garden from one sculpture to the next – it is a strolling garden, where there is always the excitement and anticipation of what one might see next. The half-timbered cottage, surrounded by water is their home, and there are offices for both businesses set carefully in the landscape.
It has recently taken on a slightly neglected air – the planting is beginning to overwhelm, and some of the landscape features are abandoned, but nevertheless it remains an inspiring garden with great sculpture, in a peaceful setting.
Where Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden, Ockley, nr. Dorking, Surrey RH5 5QR
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