Taking historic Windsor gardens into 21st century

While Napoléon considered the British to be a nation of shopkeepers we could equally be described as a nation of gardeners.

21 January 2014

Rose Garden

Gardens in the UK are unrivalled for their diversity and sophistication, bringing plants together from around the temperate regions of world and displaying them in carefully considered associations.

The Savill and Valley Gardens, in Windsor Great Park, part of The Crown Estate, were created during the middle decades of the twentieth century and have come to be regarded as exemplars of their type. However, in the face of stiff competition for visitors, it is important to take an innovative approach in considering how we can continue to attract people to visit the gardens.

The Savill Garden is a fusion of the traditional elements of British horticulture - a spring woodland garden with summer features such as rose gardens and herbaceous borders. While respecting the antecedents of the garden, our horticulturists today have sought to make it more relevant and contemporary as well as meeting modern access and information requirements.

When looking at the future vision of the Savill Garden we asked ourselves how we could take the garden into the 21st century, while retaining the best of its traditions. To this end over the last 15 years the Savill Garden has seen a series of developments which have moved the garden forward in new and stimulating ways to offer greater inspiration and enjoyment for visitors.

By way of example, the Rose Garden, opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 2010, has taken the display and presentation of roses in a quite different direction. Andrew Wilson's design eschewed the normal accoutrements of the traditional rose garden - a formal arrangement with mixed beds of numerous rose cultivars, climbing roses on rope swags and metal obelisks - and provided us with a much more imaginative interpretation. Swirling paths guide the visitor to the centre of the scheme to be presented, along the way, with a choice: a journey deeper into the heart of the plantings - burgundy-red, heavily scented roses - or to rise above the garden on the raised walkway to enjoy an elevated view and savour the rising perfume. Carefully selected ornamental grasses add elegance and liveliness to the scheme and grow as the season progresses to emerge with feathery flowers as the roses fade.

Further improvements have been made throughout the garden by combining the exciting ideas of talented external designers with the husbandry and horticultural expertise of our team. In addition to the physical design of garden space we have also exploited the burgeoning availability of new plants - we live in a time of great innovation in plant breeding and selection. The combination of newly available plants, of the highest ornamental value, and inspired spatial design has energised the Savill Garden giving it more relevance for a modern and more discerning audience.

Other collaborations with designers have given us the extraordinary New Zealand Garden where the exclusive flora of these far-away islands is presented as a series of immersive habitat types in a scheme by London-based New Zealander Sam Martin. Barbara Hunt, a doyenne of garden design, provided us with a very different take on that oh-so-English feature, the cottage garden.

Throughout all these developments the Savill Garden horticulturists have continued to add to the extensive palette of plants which populate the garden to ensure we respect the tenets established over 80 years, while continuing with the progressive approach that has always characterised this unique space.