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a garden of wonders

There is nothing that makes me think more of the Alice in Wonderland stories than a garden full of 'topiary' where the expert gardener has clipped their trees and shrubs into weird and wonderful shapes. A bit like Japanese bonsai trees, but on a much grander scale!

As you enter the Cumbrian Lake District, close to Kendal and just off the main route to Windermere, you will find Levens Hall, a family home dating from the Elizabethan age (the first Elizabeth!) with a garden looking like it has stepped from the pages of a fairy tale.

Levens Hall




A little 'potted' history!

The topiary gardens were created and designed back in 1694 by Guillaume Beaumont (one time gardener to King James II) and Colonel James Grahame. Monsieur Beaumont (who was obviously French!) also designed gardens at Hampton Court Palace and Versailles in Paris. Levens Hall at the time was the home of Colonel Grahame - the Keeper of the Privy Purse for King James II - who commissioned Monsieur Beaumont to design a garden based on the fashion of the day including formal topiary. One of his criteria was a garden he could look out onto from his window at Levens Hall. Isn't that a lovely thought? Up in the North we get a fair amount of wet weather and the days spent gazing at your garden through a window are plentiful!

Centuries and just ten head gardeners later, the topiary gardens remain almost unchanged from Beaumont's original plans. Within the garden there are more than 100 gardening pieces of topiary art, some more than 9 metres high, dotted about and surrounded by huge beech hedges and colourful plants.

June 2023 we were staying in Bowness for the weekend so decided to meet up with friends and family and take a walk round the gardens - of course it also involved scones, clotted cream, jam and pots of tea!

The skies were blue, the sun was out, it was a 30C bright, summery and very hot day! The perfect day to visit the garden and see it in its summer plumage. Just needed to watch out for the hosepipes everywhere as the gardeners hydrated the garden in what was a very hot spell.

It really was the perfect day to capture the garden as the bedding plants, roses, shrubs were all in full bloom and the trees and larger shrubs were a stunning mixture of greens and yellows. It was also very quiet, possibly due to the heat and the fact it was outside of school holidays.

Cue a very enjoyable two hour walk around the topiary and gardens - watching croquet, pre wedding photoshoots, gardeners obviously gardening plus the opportunity to cool down by making sure you ran through the sprinklers!

Scones before you started then a picnic under the trees at the end - slightly intimidating picnic bench neighbours though with their cut glass glasses, silver cutlery and delicious looking meal compared to our plastic tub of home made sausage rolls and bags of crisps! Forgot the paper plates and napkins too! No photos of that lunch!

We enjoyed our visit very much and we were very happy with the colourful photos of the magical garden. Wonder what its like in the winter? I imagine mean and moody black and white shots - our favourites! Might have to try! The skies on this one give the weather away a bit don't they?!

If you want to see more of the gardens you can watch our YouTube video and while you're there why not subscribe? We'd love you to join us!



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