Gloucester is a great place to live.
Aside from the great city itself, it is well located to visit a wide range of places, with the Forest of Dean close at hand on one side and the Cotswolds on the other.
One of these great places, right on our doorstep, is the Rococo Garden in Painswick.
And one of the best times to visit is now, when the snowdrops are in full bloom.
Although the Rococo Gardens are only about five miles from my house I had never been there before last summer, when my wife decided to buy us both a season ticket.
Painswick Rococo Garden is the only surviving garden of the rococo period which is open to the public. It was designed for the Hyett family, who bought and expanded Painswick House in the 1730s.
The Hyetts were a prestigious Gloucester family: Nicholas Hyett, a local lawyer and JP had a town house built in Gloucester in the sixteenth century at what is now 91 Westgate Street. It is now known as Hyett House.
Charles Hyett was a wealthy attorney who suffered from asthma and moved to Painswick to escape the smog of Gloucester, but it was his son Benjamin who created the garden in a hidden valley behind the House in the 1740s.
It was created at a time when garden design was in transition. Previously, gardens had been formal, regular in layout, but now they were ‘light-hearted, flamboyant and even frivolous’. It was ‘a country gentleman’s experimental creation, not the realisation of a horticultural dream’. Features were included to surprise the visitor and make them smile.
The garden changed as fashions changed until it was abandoned in the 1950s, becoming a jungle. Eventually it was noticed by garden historians who saw the potential of restoring the country’s only surviving rococo garden. They contacted Lord Dickinson, a descendent of Charles Hyett.
Lord and Lady Dickinson began an ambitious programme of work which commenced in earnest in 1984, and in 1988 they handed control of the restoration to Painswick Rococo Garden Trust.
The gardens are a lovely, relaxing place to wander around at any time of year, but there are key highlights. February is perhaps the most celebrated of these as the snowdrops come into bloom.
There is a relatively narrow window of opportunity to visit to see the display at its best, so a couple of weekends ago we decided to venture up despite the less than ideal weather.
As we arrived it began to snow.
In fact, it snowed quite heavily for a while.
But that somehow seemed appropriate and, despite the cold, it added to the experience. The snow didn’t last too long and it actually turned into quite a nice day.
Apparently snowdrops are one of our most cultivated plants and there are more than five million of them at Rococo Gardens, in 15 varieties – who knew there was more than one variety of snowdrop!
They make an impressive vista, although the many photos that I took really don’t do it justice.
I believe the snowdrops are still out – I recommend a visit.
All information taken from Rococo Garden website at www.rococogarden.org.uk