The Garden & Parkland will be opening from 19th May 2021
As part of the comprehensive restoration programme at Farringford, the grounds are also being returned to their Tennyson-era appearance. In 1854 the poet described his “careless-order’d garden, / Close to the ridge of a noble down”, and we are striving to recreate the stunning setting of the home he loved best in the same carelessly-ordered fashion! The extensive grounds afford beautiful views of both the house and Freshwater Bay, and we hope you will take full advantage of a trip to Farringford by exploring the outside.
The Walled Garden
The main attraction is the walled kitchen garden, which Tennyson loved to walk and sit in with his family and guests. All the Tennysons were keen gardeners, constantly planting shrubs, raking up leaves, gravelling paths and laying hedges; according to acquaintances, Tennyson had such a love of the natural world that he couldn’t even bear for flowers to be picked on his grounds!
Our colourful planting scheme is based on the many descriptions of the garden provided in Emily Tennyson’s journal, and on the striking watercolours painted by family friend Helen Allingham. This includes oriental poppies; poet’s laurel (Danae racemosa); ‘King Arthur’, ‘Galahad’ and ‘Guinevere’ varieties of delphinium; and tobacco plants (Nicotiana sylvestris), which were said to be over seven feet high in Tennyson’s day. We are also growing fruit and vegetables, in keeping with the practical use of the garden to provide food for family meals. Apple and quince trees are being planted, accompanied by a working greenhouse cultivating traditional shrubs and flowers.
In the garden you will also find a sundial crafted for the Tennysons by the sculptor Mary Seton Watts, wife of the celebrated Victorian painter and close family friend George Frederic Watts. The garden is a work-in-progress, and we very much hope our visitors will return in future years to see how it develops with each new phase of planting.
Elsewhere in the grounds, visitors can enjoy a walk round the re-created historic parkland. You may also be lucky enough to catch sight of the red squirrels that have made Farringford their home.
“Went to our withey bed, such beautiful blue hyacinths, orchises, marsh marigolds and cowslips. Wild cherry trees too with single white blossom. The park has for many days been rich with cowslips and furze in flower. The elms are a golden wreath at the foot of the down, we admired the mespilus in flower and the apple trees with their rosy buds. [Alfred] dug the bed ready for the rhodedendrons. A thrush was singing among the other birds, as he said ‘mad with joy’. At sunset the burning splendour of Blackgang Chine, and St Catherine’s, and the red bank of the primeval river contrasted with the turkis-blue of the sea (that is our view from the drawing-room) make altogether, a miracle of beauty. We are glad that Farringford is ours.”
(Emily Tennyson’s Journal, April 1856, after buying Farringford)”
Since our closure last spring we have been busy behind the scenes working on the garden extending and tweaking some of the initial planting. The garden has matured somewhat from its beginning just four years ago when the first plants were placed in two long borders either side of the main paths.
We have added to our small collection of Clematis and Roses from the Victorian era as well as plantings that are more tolerant of the bitter winds that whip across the garden. The vegetable beds have been widened and we have extended the hazel tunnels to grow squashes and runner beans, that some of you may remember from previous years.
Much of our lockdown has been spent as a family tending to the garden and sowing seeds in preparation for spring. We do hope that you have a chance to come and enjoy the garden.
Ellen Penstone-Smith Walled Garden Manager
Alastair Penstone-Smith Garden Manager