Extensive research was carried out with the assistance of garden historians Kate Harwood and Janet Waymark, Bushey Museum and the Thomas Mawson Archive Office in order to recreate the garden.
Mawson was influenced by Italian gardens with formal structures and features such as balustrades, pergolas and rose panels. His belief was that garden design should complement the architectural style of the house and its surrounding landscape.
Unfortunately, no original plans of the Rose Garden have been discovered, despite searching a number of sources. The areas referred to as ‘The Lawn’ and the ‘Rose Walk’ were not originally part of the Rose Garden and there is little knowledge on what these areas looked like at the time the garden was built. The only item of evidence we have about the garden is from Mawson’s biography when he mentions his visit to Bushey to meet Sir Herkomer and discuss the proposals, but this in not in any detail.
As the original drawings of the garden are no longer in existence, the planting has been carefully pieced together from research into Mawson’s other gardens and from studying archived photographs of the site. Bushey Museum has black and white photographs of the Rose Garden dating from the 1930s which have provided an idea of the layout of the Sunken Garden and features within.
Roses – old or new varieties
Roses were one of Mawson’s favourite plants and his book - The Art and Craft of Garden Making - includes an extensive list of roses. Following advice from English Heritage, the restoration has allowed for modern roses to be planted. David Austin roses were decided as the best selection as their English roses are hybrids of older roses offering a large selection to choose from and the roses can be more disease resistant. A number of Mawson’s recommended roses have been planted and it’s proposed more of the unusual varieties will be sourced and planted in the future.
The Sunken Garden
This area encompasses the entrance from the High Street with a footpath leading to the sunken area around the fountain and up to the Summer House and Pergola.
From old photographs it can be seen that the five formal beds (or ‘rose panels’) surrounding the central fountain contained white or pale coloured roses edged with a box hedge. What looks like a grass pattern can be seen around the pillars and roses. This pattern has been reinterpreted using gravel rather than grass for ease of maintenance. The roses selected are two varieties of David Austin English roses (Winchester Cathedral and Queen of Sweden) which have a similar form to the ones shown in the original photographs. The rose beds are underplanted with viola and winter flowering bulbs such as dwarf narcissus, Chinonodoxia, cyclamen and crocus to bring a splash of colour. The rose pillars are planted with English climbing roses and clematis.
The other surrounding beds have been planted with a mixture of scented shrubs to bring all year round interest to the garden so that this area can be enjoyed throughout the year, rather than just when the roses are in flower.
The area along the United Reformed Church boundary is quite shady with the mature yew and prunus species casting heavy shade. The restoration allows for the management of these trees to increase light levels to new planting below. Some areas are still in shade and plants tolerant of dry shade have been allowed for in these areas such as Skimmia, Osmanthus and Sarcococca.
The Column/Rose Temple
Part of a semi-circle of lilacs was discovered during a vegetation survey and the aboriculturalist’s report confirmed these shrubs date to the time of 1912. A new semi-circle of lilacs has been allowed for as part of the restoration using a smaller variety of lilacs (Syringa microphylla) rather than Syringa vulgaris which grows into a spreading tree.
Mawson used rambling roses in his designs on pergolas and walls and the restoration includes a number of his recommended ramblers. Some will only flower once but have been combined with planting of late flowering clematis (C viticella) to provide additional colour later in the summer.
This area encompasses the lawn area, the Cloister and the new toilet block/potting shed. This area was not part of Mawson’s original design and so has been designed in to be in keeping with the rest of the garden using shrubs and perennials, including many from Mawson’s plant list.
The Rose Walk
This area encompasses the entrance from Herkomer Road leading into the Lawn area. Again, this area was not part of Mawson’s original design and has been designed as a mixed border with roses, box balls, lavender and herbaceous plants to provide all year round interest including spring bulbs. The rose pillars are planted with Rosa ‘Madame Plantier’ (a white old rose) and Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’ and ‘Perle D’Azur’ from Mawson’s list. The Herkomer Road entrance beds are quite small raised brick beds. This area has been planted with clipped box balls, low perennials and spring tulips. The walls have an old rambling rose which is tolerant of shade (‘New Dawn’).