18. Double Walled Garden
The Double Walled Garden is a very unusual feature of Welsh and English gardens but is more commonly found in Scotland. The stone outer and brick interior walls create a series of different microclimates and it is thought that this extended the growing seasons. In Paxton’s time the Double-Walled Garden, at over 3 acres, could provide enough fresh fruit and vegetables for a household of 30 people, and employed 12 full- time gardeners. The two walls – one brick, one stone – provided shelter from animals and the harsher elements, and created important microclimates where tender plants could grow. This enabled Paxton’s gardeners to extend the growing season and, in an era when the transport of fresh produce was very slow, allowed Paxton to impress his guests with a harvest of unseasonably early strawberries, or fresh peaches cropped long after the main season was over.
Within the walls were four primary paths, a central dipping pool to provide handy water for gardeners and a lean-to glasshouse (now a ruin) described as a ‘Peach House’ in an 1824 sales document. This was an enclosed building where, using a Roman-style under-floor heating system, peach trees and other soft fruit were grown all year round. The slip gardens between the brick and stone walls may have been used to grow a range of soft fruits and perhaps to hide unsightly objects like gardening tools and manure.
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The Double Walled Garden is divided into four quadrants, each with their own distinctive pathway.
Quadrant 1, Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 3 tell the story of the evolution of flowering plants, and is based on the latest DNA and microscopic research. From primitive water lilies at the centre of the garden to the latest cultivars by the outer walls, you can travel though 150 million years of botanic history.
In Quadrant 4you’ll find a modern kitchen garden, reflecting this area’s original use. Crops grown here include unusual varieties, and you will often find them on your plate in our restaurant. In this corner you will also find the schoolchildren’s allotment. Along the wall closest to Springwoods are the ruins of the early 19th century Peach House, which we hope to restore over the next few years.
You might, however, just want to sit around and take in the views, like the people on this 20 second long film.
During the summer, there are regular talks about the Double Walled Garden, starting at the central Dipping Pool. Look out for details in the Gatehouse or ask a gardener.
In 2007 we opened the new Tropical House in Quadrant 1.
The new performance stage in the Outer Walled Garden was erected in 2010 and 2011.