The Endsleigh Gardner: The Endless Summer by Ben Ruscombe-King (August 2018)
This summer has reminded me of the long, hot, languid and quite possibly imagined summers of my childhood. The holidays lasted forever and there was nothing to do but concentrate on the finer things in life, like lying in the long grass next to the river, listening to the buzzing of insects, hurling ears of corn at my friends, damming streams to make swimming pools, climbing trees and building dens in the woods. Whilst I haven’t done much den building this year and there has been so much watering to do I haven’t had a chance to lie by the river, I have relived my childhood by building a few dams to redirect water to where it is most needed.
The summer already seems to have lasted forever and we are only just into August. The lawns at Endsleigh are looking parched and I hang my head in shame every time I see them, though I hear from guests that they look positively verdant compared to the rest of the country. The long border however is looking fantastic this year: the combination of sun and redirected stream water has led to lush growth and a profusion of colour, some of it as planned and some of it accidental. The sheer quantity of sunshine has brought the late season flowers out early and the border has mixed its early season subtlety with the rambunctiousness of the late season performers creating some oddly energizing combinations. Lupins have hung on to flower with Helenium, Delphiniums have collaborated with Persicaria and Perovskia has surrounded everything in its path in a beautiful haze of blue. The border is a veritable sea of colour along its entire 100 metres, which is certainly a relief after the panicked filling of frost induced gaps during the spring.
Last autumn I took a risky decision to bed out the parterre almost entirely with statice (Limonium sinuatum), inspired by a trip to the Alhambra many years ago. 2500 plants were duly planted and I prayed for a decent summer so that they could perform at their best but could not have hoped for the almost Andalusian summer we have been experiencing. Sitting in the shade of the loggia looking out over a sea of colour, the gentle splashing of the fountain in the background and the water trickling from lions’ heads into the surrounding rills, one is reminded of the islamic gardens of the Alhambra. The parterre at Endsleigh however is not enclosed and the views continue outwards over the river Tamar and Repton’s glorious picturesque landscape.
Within the landscape itself the dell provides a welcome relief from the summer heat: waterfalls and cascades rush down the valley to the Edgecumbe stream and on to the Tamar below. The backdrop of hidden grottoes, exotic trees and carpet of monstrous gunnera manicata provides a perfect setting for childish adventures. The outside world does not intrude at Endsleigh – there is no traffic or aircraft noise – and walks around the grounds offer occasional glimpses of buzzards, otters and kingfishers. Here one can step back a generation or two, into an idyllic imagined past and experience life as it probably never was.