Congratulations – once again – to the wonderful Cleve West, winner for the second year running of Best in Show for his sublime topiary garden for Brewin Dolphin.
Rumour has it he thought they’d made a mistake when they told him. But this is a garden which creeps up on you gradually: go back a few times, take another look, and you’ll find yourself slowly falling in love.
At first glance you take it for your standard formal symmetric stately home style layout.
Then you take some photos, and realise it isn’t actually symmetrical at all.
The craggy well head wall sculpture at one end has a corner knocked off; the weighty topiary, like anchors holding the garden in place, is a little wonky in places.
Unlike conventional ‘symmetrical’ gardens, you can’t see it all at once: you try taking a photo of the whole thing and it’s just about impossible.
Slowly it dawns on you: the whole thing is one big illusion, a mischievous game played with a twinkle in the eye. I found it enchanting.
And the planting… It was vintage Cleve: romantic, beautifully judged, passionate. Soft umbels, little fireworks of green and sparkles of white valerian over a froth of Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’ (one of my own favourites – I have it gambolling about my garden and adore it with a passion). And all lifted with just the perfect splash of ravishing scarlet here and there from dancing ‘Ladybird’ poppies.
I loved the contrast between the solid, reliable topiary sitting there like grumpy old granddads while the light twinkly fairy plants danced about their knees. Here’s another picture. Actually I took quite a lot. It really was very, very lovely, especially today when the sun came out.
It took me a little while to ‘get’ it but when I did, this garden stood head and shoulders above the rest for me. Quite, quite brilliant.