Sunday, May 09, 2010

Guest Garden: Agecroft Hall

Agecroft Hall is a 15th century English manor house. It was transported from England to Virginia back in the early part of the 20th century, after it's original location in the heart of coal mining territory, meant that the house had become unstable.
It is a truly beautiful house, rescued but not rebuilt exactly to the original plans. The wealthy philanthropist who rescued it had willed it to become a museum after his wife no longer lived there. She and the people in control of the trust decided to make it a museum representing late renaissance and Tudor/Stuart life in England.
It is beautifully decorated with period pieces, but the gardens are of course, what interest us :)
Coming out of the courtyard of the house you can choose to go down hidden garden paths and into a sunken garden- designed to be like that at Hampton Court Palace in London.

It leads out to more secluded pathways, and you might find yourself at an outdoor banquetting hall- the docent told me that people would eat their desserts there after a banquet in the house. Below the hall is a still-room- where herbal preparations were made by the ladies of the house.

Banquetting Hall
If you turn around, you can look out over the rolling hills and down to the James river. It is astonishingly like the land it originally came from in Northern England.

Coming out of the banquetting hall, you might sneak through another opening in the hedge, and find yourself overlooking extensive formal gardens.

Pass through a wrought iron gate...

The first is a herb garden- outfitted with all the culinary and medicinal herbs of the time- plus a few bee skeps!

Up the steps and you arrive in the Tradescantia garden.

Here are representatives of the numerous flora discovered by John Tradescant the elder and his son John Tradescant the Younger. In fact- they have the spiderwort you can see in my garden!

Up a second series of steps and you arrive in a knot garden. Knot gardens were very fashionable in Tudor times- tiny hedges of herbs were clipped into intricate patterns. It is NOT easy to do- we tried it once :) Establishing the plants into an even hedge would be the most difficult part- since typically one or two plants will die on you!

If you walk back through the formal gardens and out, you'll come to the rolling hills again, and be beneath that banquet hall.

A magnificent magnolia dominates the hillside- the air was redolent with that sweet scent.

Further up the hill and you meet the maze! It's a grass maze- nothing spectacular- but mazes were hugely popluar back then too. I wonder if they did that because of Hampton Court too- because if so, they got it wrong! Hampton Court had HUGE 6 foot tall hedges. I heard they got rid of it though!

If you go off of the terrace on the back of the house, you find a rose walk- where modern roses bloom effusively and scent the air.

I recognised this one- it is the crazy one in my front garden- the 1939 New Dawn rose. I'm thinking that I need to do this across the driveway though!

There are more plants I did not get to photograph- people were all over the place! I managed to get the highlights though!

Next door, is another English transplant- the Virginia House, which was once a priory.

It has some nice gardens too- my everlasting memory from there is treading the paths to the smell of mint- a closer look revealed corsican mint between the pavers on that path! I can only show you outside though, because it was closed!

If you get to visit Richmond, Virginia, then take a look at these two magnificent homes!


Jill said...

Beautiful! I love the bee skeps. I want some!! I just got a spiderwort on Friday too!

Spinneretta said...

They are currently my background on my computer ;) I have 2 different spiderworts- lovely plants!