East meets west, in the west: Sezincote

On the last day of August this year, I visited a unique house and garden in the Cotswolds. From the main road, the A44, the tree-lined drive conceals the extraordinary sight of Sezincote House until its final bend. The grand honey coloured Cotswold stone house is crowned by an Indian style dome and decorated on the four corners of its roof by smaller domes. Peacock tail inspired window surrounds grace the front facade and the Indian theme was reinforced by a classic Ambassador car parked at the front door decorated with flowers in preparation for a wedding at the property the following day.

The garden also contains several Eastern features, the first to be encountered by a visitor being the Indian Bridge at the entrance to which stands the ticket kiosk. The bridge is decorated with kneeling Brahmin cattle sculptures, metal replicas of the Coadestone originals, the manufacturer’s name legible on each plinth. The bridge spans the area of the garden known as The Thornery, an extensive water garden. This descends in a series of pools and streams from a circular pool in front of a small temple dedicated to the Hindu god Surya down to the Island Pool, beyond which real cattle graze in the surrounding meadows. Immediately beneath the bridge and reached by a narrow path, a series of rectangular stepping stones lead you to the Snake Pool, in the centre of which stands a serpent entwined column.

The damp environment of the banks of the streams and less formal pools encourage plants such as Hosta sieboldiana, Rodgersias and Alchemilla mollis to thrive, their contrasting green shades, leaf shapes and structures providing interest at the water’s edge. The lawns to either side of the stream are planted with rare specimen trees and shrubs including three stately Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani). Hydrangeas feature here as do two species of hazel: the ‘wriggly nut’ Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ and the purple nut Corylus maxima ‘Purpurea’. Late summer afternoon sunshine highlighted the tiered branches of the wedding cake tree, Cornus controversa, which has been given adequate space in which to extend its graceful limbs.

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The artfully ‘natural’ planting of The Thornery contrasts with the formality of the Persian Garden to the south of the house. In keeping with the design principles of the paradise garden, this area consists of four quadrants, created by a waterlily filled canal intersected by paths lined with Irish yew columns (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’). At the centre of the quadrant sits a raised octagonal pond.  A life-like pair of Asian elephant sculptures placed at the end of the canal have something of Disney’s Animal Kingdom about them. Beyond these beasts a steep slope rises towards woodland beyond the garden.

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The Sezincote guidebook contains a beautiful photograph of the garden showing brightly coloured autumn foliage beyond the bridge. A good season in which to return perhaps?

Next time I plan which spring bulbs to buy for containers and observe some bulbs which flower in autumn.

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