Levens Hall is on the southern edge of the English Lake District where the lower limestone hills roll down to the sea.
It is on the banks of the River Kent and is so low lying that high tides often push the river’s water backwards. When this is coupled with periods of high rainfall upstream, it bursts its banks and the garden can be engulfed beneath a metre or more of muddy water. Fortunately these are fresh water floods rather than sea water and the silt left behind simply serves to enrich the soil.
Winters can be severe with long periods of frost and snow. Freezing conditions often bring seasonal work to a standstill, but the structure of the garden- the topiary and the hedges look magical!
It is in spring and summer though, when the true glory of the garden becomes apparent...
Early in the year there are massed plantings of tulips, double daisies and pansies, 20,000 in all beneath the crisply clipped and sharply defined topiary. Tulips are also a dramatic feature of the orchard. Each tree rising from a grounding of these bright red flowers.
Then, in summer a further 20,000 home-grown seasonal flowers create clouds of colour beneath the sculpted shapes.
The main double herbaceous borders are stunning too. These are coordinated in the lighter blues, pinks, yellows and whites of a pastel palette.
Whilst those beyond the great beech circle encompass a stronger shades of deeper blues, reds and purples.
The rose garden is also a wonderful sight and full of perfume from midsummer on.
Elsewhere, ornamental and productive vegetable borders line the narrow grass paths, leading on across red borders to pleached lime tunnels and the fountain garden beyond.
Colour themes are effective everywhere including the Yellow Border, shining out brightly against its dark yew backdrop, and elsewhere the low growing varied textures of the Grey Border. Whilst the intrepid explorer will go on to discover extensive wall plantings, wild flower meadows, a herb garden, willow labyrinth, mixed borders, flower filled urns, planters and much, much more.
It is however the views through the extraordinary and ancient topiary that remain with the visitor the longest...