Garden Historian Advolly chooses Winterbourne House and Garden, Birmingham University. Her ‘Introduction to Garden History in 10 Objects’ is at the garden on April .
I first went to Winterbourne House for a meeting regarding the Capability Brown tercentenary celebrations. The elevated terrace in front of the beautiful Arts and Crafts House looks down on to the pergola, the herbaceous borders and sunken garden. Down the steps is a large lawn, then a lime tree walk and yew trees. The walled garden has a crinkle-crankle wall; I use an old picture of it in my lecture and people always ask what on earth it’s for.
As a typical Arts and Crafts garden, everything is compartmentalised. Each one works in its own right and this allows you to experience a section at a time. It is a bit like reading a trilogy, each book stands alone but the story is better if you read all three!
Winterbourne was laid out in 1903 and is contemporaneous with Hestercombe in Somerset, which dates from 1902. Its original owner, Margaret Nettlefold, had a number of books by Gertrude Jekyll; you can really see that influence in the design and this taps into one of my specific periods of interest.
The glasshouses have the most amazing collection of cacti, and succulents and orchids as well. I was delighted, I hadn’t realised this place existed! The nut walk leads to a geographical collection of trees, a magnolia border and a beautiful alpine garden, too. People think Birmingham is just built-up and urban but Winterbourne is an oasis. It achieves what many places struggle with – year-round interest.
Everything is really well labelled and the interpretation is very good. I like discovering new plants and gardeners and volunteers are very knowledgeable. You look at something and think ‘that’s nice, what is it?’ and then realise that somebody has helpfully put a sign next to it.
Their dahlia selection is fabulous and I’ve found some brilliant plants there. They really have had a resurgence and it’s inspired me to create a dahlia border at home this year. I looked at it and just thought, ‘oh my God, I want some of that!’.
Winterbourne House and Garden, 58 Edgbaston Park Rd, Birmingham, B15 2RT