We are very lucky to have dear friends who spend their weekends in Oxfordshire; living in the tiny village of Rousham.
And for the garden obsessed, that will mean William Kent and his design of the stately home and its grounds. Rousham is their playground.
It is hard to chart your garden influences and ideas; but whenever I get out the rake I think of Rousham.
Our rill running through our courtyard is inspired from there. And my love of shrubs (especially privet – which Rousham unashamedly grows in thickets). Seeing someone else doing a mass planting of an unloved species makes you feel a little less fearful when you decide to do the same.
I grow my shrubs because some varieties are drought tolerant, evergreen and I can chart the age of the garden’s development according to how well and tall and thickly they grow. Viburnum tinus and prunus lusitanica are not showstoppers. But they work.
But back to rakings. We went there to visit one autumn – in a season just like this – and as we were walking around the grounds we came across a sloping bank dippmg towards the River Cherwell where there were around half a dozen specimen trees planted about.
Nothing unusual about that. Rousham does have a lot of parklands. But when you tried to put your finger on why the scene was particularly pleasing it took close examination.
And the answer is so simple. They remove most of the fallen leaves. But leave the rakings in beautiful circles around two or three of the huge trees. You get a geometric pleasure that doesn’t overwhelm. And practically, doesn’t kill all the grass at the bases of all the trees.
I almost dared to do it here on our lawn around the huge birch. But I chickened out. The wind was picking up and I feared that any artistic display would have been negated by a still southerly wind roaring up and over the mountain.
But I might give it a try on the lower terraces where I can look down on the pleasing effect. If the wild boar don’t get as much pleasure from kickng through piles of dying leaves as I do.