Painswick Rococo Garden welcomes snowdrops season

  • Painswick Rococo Gardens offer a beautiful blanket of blooms. © Paul Nicholls.

  • Visitors can expect millions of snowdrops once again. © Richard Atkinson.

  • Enjoy a day out within the stunning setting of Rococo Gardens.

Popular beauty spot, Painswick Rococo Garden, is gearing up for its busiest season, welcoming the arrival of millions of snowdrops and hosting daily talks until the end of February.

Boasting one of the largest collections of naturalised snowdrops in the country, Rococo Garden is famed for its impressive blooms, with around five million snowdrops appearing each year to herald the approach of spring.

Offering advice on the best time to visit, staff at the garden are predicting that the weekend of Saturday 4 to Sunday 5 February 2017 will see the best displays of the season, with the main Snowdrop Grove likely to be in flower.

Meanwhile, naturalists and horticulturalists can also enjoy daily talks from Rococo Garden’s expert team, which will take place at 12pm until the end of February, providing the ideal opportunity to ask questions.

Speaking of the snowdrops, garden director Dominic Hamilton said: ‘The blooming of our snowdrops is one of the county’s most anticipated events, and we’re thrilled that they’re looking as good as ever this year.

‘We’ve been hard at work restoring the garden and improving what we do, so there will be plenty to delight every visitor, whether or not they’ve been before. But don’t delay – they’ll only be blooming for a couple of weeks!’

For more information see Painswick Rococo Garden, call (01452) 813204, or visit rococogarden.org.uk directly.

© SoGlos
Tuesday 31 January 2017

Painswick Rococo Garden

Designed in the 1740s as a flamboyant pleasure garden for holding intimate garden parties, this hidden valley is now the country’s only surviving complete rococo garden. Years of restoration work have saved it from a woodland wilderness, and it is now a stunning place to escape the busy world. Enjoy beautifully-framed views or hide away in one of the fanciful garden buildings. Drink in the vista from the Eagle House, sit in the Doric Seat, climb the narrow steps to the octagonal Pigeon House and have your photo taken in the Gothic Alcove. All have been lovingly restored over years and are now in the care of Painswick Rococo Garden Trust. The Garden is famed for having one of the largest collections of naturalised snowdrops in the country. Each year, around five million snowdrops bloom, to see the full display visit in February.

There are plentiful spring flowers, the daffodils and tulips are a highlight in March/April and the recreated 18th century Exedra Garden is at its peak in July. The Garden was designed to make the most of the beautiful Cotswold countryside around it, and there are fine views both through and out of the Garden. It was a place to be entertained and to party. Nowadays you can battle to find the centre of the unusual maze and enjoy delicious homemade food and drink in the cafe.

The Exedra at Painswick Rococo Garden is a decorative folly in the shape of a curving screen. Pic credit: Clive Nichols

The middle classes of the 18th century couldn’t match the landscape parks of the landed gentry, says Michael Symes, so opted for Rococo.

The rococo garden is actually a late 20th century construct. In the mid-1700s, this subversive spirit of design did not have a name, as was not a recognised trend. It is characterised by irregularity, asymmetry and fanciful and capricious ornamentation, and is essentially small in scale. Because of this, it was more the province of the middle classes than the aristocracy, who preferred their expansive landscaped parks.

Rococo Features

Rococo was given a particularly English slant, reflected in serpentine lines, flower beds, shellwork and, above all, architecture. Entire rococo gardens were few: much more common were rococo features, usually whimsical buildings.

The best example of a rococo garden that can be seen today is Painswick Rococo Garden, near Stroud in Gloucestershire. It is full of surprises and upsets expectations. Laid out in a hidden valley, it is a sloping combe that bears no direct relation to the house. At six acres, it is modest in size, and most of the buildings have had to be scaled down from the proportions they might have assumed in a landscape park.

There is some formality of design, with straight paths and axes, but it is wilfully subverted: the well-known ‘goose foot’ arrangement of straight paths radiating from a single point is distorted by having one of the paths serpentising.

The Eagle House at Painswick Rococo Garden has a recess below and a Gothic pavilion above. Pic credit: Clive Nichols

Garden Buildings

The buildings, which are a curious and idiosyncratic collection, range from the purely decorative Exedra, a curving Gothic screen, to the functional two-storey Pigeon House. The Eagle House consists of a superstructure in the form of an airy Gothic pavilion, above a recess set into the embankment of the terrace walk. There is a Gothic Alcove, a plunge pool and a Doric seat with rusticated bands that originally formed a portico to the Pigeon House, as well as the most unusual of all, the Red House. This remarkable double façaded building is painted red, as are the walls of the Eagle House. As architecture, it is extraordinary and fully sums up the spirit of rococo.

Class and Nationality

The gentry who cultivated the intricacies of rococo were satirised by writer Francis Coventry in the periodical The World in 1753, where he presented a character called Squire Mushroom, who revelled in a packed space of less than two acres, including ‘a yellow serpentine river, stagnating through a beautiful valley, which extends near 20 yards in length’. But rococo can be seen as an imaginative departure from rules and discipline, leading towards romanticism and expressing a freedom that can be construed in political terms as a reaction against the autocracy of France and its regimented gardens, such as Versailles. Ironically, rococo was especially strong in France, and the limited advances in rococo art in Britain were often the work of French artists. But hostility to France was never far away, and the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) saw Britain and France clashing in several parts of the globe.

A Doric seat, originally part of the Pigeon House at Painswick Rococo Garden. Pic credit: Clive Nichols

Gothic or Exotic?

The sort of architecture that lent itself best to the extravagances of rococo was Gothic, chinoiserie or rustic. Sometimes the forms would be so distorted that they would run into each other, such as the ‘Chinese Pavilions’ at the famous pleasure gardens of Vauxhall Gardens (no longer in existence), which appear in illustrations to be decidedly Gothic. In the realm of Gothic, considerable liberties were taken with authentic medieval forms to make buildings more ornamental or striking. The enchanting Orangery at Frampton Court, Gloucestershire, contrasts with the slightly sinister summerhouse/museum at Enville in Staffordshire.

Chinoiserie, with its dragons, bells, fretwork and upturned eaves, was an obvious candidate for pretty decoration with a sense of the exotic. Many such confections were made of wood and thus ephemeral, preserved for us mainly in the watercolours of Thomas Robins; framed playfully with tendrils, shells, butterflies or birds. Rustic architecture expressed itself in hermitages, root-houses and huts made from materials supposedly close to hand – branches, roots, moss, boulders – and have likewise seldom lasted.

Moreover, to fill one’s garden with these quirky concoctions, an architect was not needed: a plethora of mid-century pattern books could furnish any number of fanciful designs.

Ruins (mock or real) also form part of a rococo scene because of irregularity of form. Among rococo designers, Thomas Wright stands out as master of arbours, hermits’ cells and grottoes. His grotto at Hampton Court House in London had a ceiling of the heavens and extensive shellwork on the interior walls. The Hermit’s Cell at Badminton, constructed of trunks and branches, even had wooden loaves on the table.

Garden sculpture demonstrated the change of taste. The previously popular classical images gave way to realistic figures in contemporary dress, usually painted in vivid colour. Some figures were rustic – gardeners, gamekeepers – while others were from the world of pantomime. But all of this exotic architecture was soon to fall out of favour and be surpassed, as a new fashion for masculine terraces and balustrades heralded the rise of the Italianate garden in Britain.

Pic credit: Clive Nichols

The Red House at Painswick

The Red House at Painswick Rococo Garden is the perfect example of a rococo garden feature. It is constructed as a ‘hinged’ building whose two façades face the two straight avenues of the goose foot paths. The façades contrast: one has an ogee curve surmounted by a cross and flanked by two recessed buttresses; the other has concave curves that sweep up to a point. The ogee shape is repeated in the windows and door of the building.

Pic credit: Clive Nichols

The ogee shape of one of the facades is repeated in the windows of the building.

Pic credit: Clive Nichols

Each façade faces a straight avenue of the goosefoot paths.

Find out more at rococogarden.org.uk

Painswick Rococo Garden

Maze at Painswick Rococo Garden

History of Painswick Rococo Garden

Painswick House was built in the mid 1730s. Its owner, the asthma suffering, Charles Hyett came to Painswick to escape the smog of Gloucester and named his new house ‘Buenos Ayres’. Sadly this move was not enough and he died soon after the House was completed. It was his son, Benjamin, who created the fanciful Garden in a hidden valley behind the House.

Fortunately Benjamin asked local artist, Thomas Robins, to paint the Garden in 1748. Without this wonderful representation we would have had no idea what the Garden looked like originally as in the 1970s it was an overgrown jungle.

Painswick Rococo garden

It was in the 1970’s that Garden Historians became very interested in the period of Garden Design between 1720 and 1760. It was a time of great change and gardens became very frivolous, they were a place for garden parties, somewhere for Georgian folk to let their hair down. These Garden Historians named the period Rococo.

Their pursuit of a Rococo Garden to restore brought them to the jungle that was our Garden here at Painswick. Their encouragement led Lord Dickinson, a descendant of Charles Hyett, to begin an ambitious programme of work. In 1988 he handed control of that programme to Painswick Rococo Garden Trust and granted the Trust a long lease of the Garden.

Snowdrops at Painswick Rococo Garden

The Painswick Rococo Garden has one of the largest naturalistic plantings of snowdrops in the country and is in many ways the spiritual home of Galanthus Atkinsii.

Although many believe the Romans introduced snowdrops they are more likely to have been brought to England in the early 16th Century. Galanthus nivalis is native to a large tract of mainland Europe from the Pyrenees in the west, through France and Germany to Poland in the north, Italy, Northern Greece and European Turkey.

Most of the other species Galanthus come from the eastern Mediterranean, though several are found in South Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Galanthus fosteri comes from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Israel.

The snowdrops at Painswick Rococo Garden can be seen from Late January and throughout February.

Painswick Snowdrops

Visiting Painswick Rococo Garden

Adults- £7.00

Over 60’s- £6.00

Children (5-16)-£3.30

Family- £18.00

Painswick Rococo Garden is situated on the B4073, 1/2 mile outside the village of Painswick. There is a free car park on site: For your satnav the post code is GL6 6TH.

Painswick Tour

Why not visit Painswick and other pretty Cotswold villages on one of our driver-guide or cycling Tours of the Cotswolds?

More information at

For a tour that visits Painswick Rococo Garden

South Cotswolds Tour-https://www.cotswoldsadventures.co.uk/package/castle-combe-lacock-chauffeur/

Cotswolds Adventures Ltd
The Lodge 23 Old Hospital Lawn, Stroud
Gloucestershire, GL5 4GA
UNITED KINGDOM
Phone : +44 1453 790725 Email: [email protected]

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