Orange October at the Gardens of Easton Lodge – pumpkins and Japanese gardens
Jill Goldsmith, a trustee of the Gardens of Easton Lodge near Dunmow, looks ahead to its last open day of the year...
The gardens turn orange in October, with pumpkins ripened and trees turning to their autumn hues – and there will be lots of fun for visitors on Sunday October 17.
Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes, and visitors will be asked to guess the weight of the biggest.
Visitors will also love the tromboncino squashes and the birdcage gourds, which have fought their way up large A-frames to enjoy the best of the limited sunshine we have had this year.
In October the final flushes of flowers in the Italian garden and walled kitchen garden are a joy: the dahlias, roses and fuchsias usually still look stunning while the asters and sedum are providing nectar for the last butterflies.
Autumn also brings many interesting fungi on the deadwood around the glade. And, of course, the trees are starting to turn yellow, orange and red.
The Japanese maple is one of the stars of the show. This tree is a county champion – we do not know when it was planted, but it is likely the oldest in the county as it is the tallest and has the biggest girth.
The scarlet oak is another firm favourite, as it frames the top of the Glade, with leaves turning from yellow to a deep red.
The Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Trust’s archivists will be displaying records of Harold Peto’s Japanese gardens at the venue.
When Peto brought ideas from his travels in Japan to the Countess of Warwick’s gardens in 1902, when she commissioned him to redesign her gardens, it was really novel. The first book in English about Japanese gardens was published in 1893 and many of the well-known Japanese gardens in the UK were established after the Japan-Britain Exhibition of 1910.
Peto’s designs included a tea-house, which extended over the lake, lanterns and pagodas in garden areas around what we now know of as the Glade. Unfortunately, most of his Japanese heritage at Easton Lodge has been lost over the years, but his inspiration lives on and visitors will see how the volunteers are using it in bringing the gardens back to life.
Visitors can enjoy a range of stalls as well as music by local folk duo Karen and Tony. Trust volunteers will provide hot bacon, cheese or hummus rolls and a wide selection of home-made cakes plus tea, coffee and cold drinks.
The gardens, at Little Easton near Great Dunmow, are open from 11am to 5pm, with last entry at 4pm and gates are locked at 5.30pm. Tickets can be bought in advance through the gardens’ website and Facebook page or direct through Trybooking. Visitors can also pay on the gate. The entrance fee is £5.50 for adults, free for children under 16.
The gardens are Historic England grade II registered. They remain one of the most important of Harold Peto's creations and the only one in the East of England.
His designs include the sunken Italian garden and its 100ft long pool with water lilies, a treehouse and a glade with Japanese rill and other features which leads down to a trout lake. The gardens of Warwick House, which are also open on Sunday open days, surround what was Easton Lodge. They include majestic trees and colourful borders as well as a pavilion in Peto’s style.
The Countess of Warwick brought her colourful life to her gardens, entertaining guests there regularly and lavishly, including the Prince of Wales – who took her as his mistress before he acceded to the throne as Edward VII – and leaders and members of the Labour Party and trade union movement.
After her death in 1938, the estate was requisitioned the following year by the War Office and an airfield built for use by the US Army Air Force and then the RAF in the Second World War.
Subsequently the gardens fell into disrepair: pleached limes grew tall, the squirrels planted additional trees and wildflowers took hold. The trust has brought the gardens back to life, leaving some areas for nature while restoring order elsewhere, this year completing restoration of the balustrade around the lilypond in the Italian garden and giving home to a new statue of an elephant, a reminder of the many and varied exotic animals that the Countess kept at Easton Lodge.
The trust’s volunteers maintain the gardens and make them open to the public on nine Sunday open days from February to October and on open Thursdays from March to end November.
Further information is available on the gardens’ website at www.eastonlodge.co.uk. To enquire about volunteering or arranging a private group tour, email email@example.com or call 01371 876979 and leave a message.