If you are interested in naturalistic and wildlife planting a visit to Waltham Place is a must. The philosophy of the private estate is to work with nature rather than to battle with it.

“Plants that can’t live without the use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides don’t belong on this estate”.

The design of these gardens by Henk Gerritsen is the effort to design a planting that is as diverse as possible within the limits of the present environmental circumstances, while maintaining the existing buildings, walls, large trees and shrubs.

Waltham place is a private estate with extensive gardens, woodland and meadows, organic and biodynamic vegetable gardens and a farm.

The gardens are influenced by the late Dutch garden designer or garden artist Henk Gerritsen. During my recent visit I was surprised how boundaries between nature and ornamental gardening melt together. I have seen ground elder in flower for the first time in my life. It looks very similar to cow parsley with delicate umbels of white flowers and in combination with pale pink Astrantia major rather stunning !

Swathes of Stipa tennuissima cover a beautiful yorkstone paved path and are allowed to self seed and multiply freely. Up to a certain point of course. Their movement with the wind is stunningly beautiful. They are part of the square garden, a large walled garden with a central Rose covered pergola and areas of gravel planting (proper 10cm thick gravel, no black liner underneath) a lawn and a wavy box hedge that looks like a giant Henry Moore sculpture. Inula hookeri is dominating the borders with a soft yellow. I couldn’t get enough of this garden and sadly I wasn’t allowed to take any photographs as this is not permitted on the grounds.

When I first entered the ground I was not sure if I liked the ‘garden’ at all. I asked myself ‘and where is the garden now’ ? Isn’t this flower bed a bit overgrown with weeds ? Where are the showy flowers, the perennials, the ornamental wildlife plants – where is the order? I had to get used to the sight and gradually, listening to our wonderful Swiss tour guide and head gardener Beatrice Krehl the idea behind the planting enfolded and it all started to make sense, it all started to become beautiful and special. I had to change my whole perception a garden.

It is disorganised and unkempt on first sight but has a fantastic atmosphere. A habitat for abundance of wildlife. My favourite new plants were Gillenia trifoliata with beautiful delicate star shaped white flowers, up to 1m high and Persicaria bistorta which has been planted into a meadow intermingling with grasses and other meadow plants. These are vigorous plants which are allowed to spread and multiply in an uncontrolled way.

Henk Gerritsen collaborated and shared ideas with Piet Oudolf  on many new concepts. Oudolf is famous for using new plants in new ways but at the same time aesthetically organised. In contrast to him Gerritsens ideas were far more wild and untamed. The gardens of Waltham place don’t look like anything I have seen before. I feel very inspired by the whole atmosphere this kind of gardening creates and will certainly review my ‘weeding regime’. I have now become curious and want to know more about naturalistic planting.

There are the most beautiful meadows and I’m tempted to go back and learn about meadow planting and maintenance and using a scythe on scything day.

www.walthamplace.com