Hadspen Garden – some contexts


‘Flowers, where is the garden’

For a number of years, I have been interested in doing a project about Hadspen Garden near Castle Cary in Somerset.  This garden no longer exists – it is ‘unvisitable’, ‘erased’.  The garden remains in memory, photograph, trace, writing and publication, and perhaps most significantly, through the plants and cultivars that gardeners from Somerset (and from much further afield) acquired from Hadspen to plant in their own gardens.


My starting point for this commission is in the way that Hadspen Garden – this most influential garden at the heart of Somerset – has travelled out, into and through other gardens, seeding and growing outside of the original walled estate to exist in a different form, throughout Somerset and beyond.

Hadspen was a place where gardening met colour and form.  It was a brilliant garden, a sanctuary and a tonic, a world to itself, a place of plant designing, growing and breeding, run by Canadian gardeners Nori and Sandra Pope. I visited the garden many times between 2000 and 2005, and bought many plants from there, some of which I still have growing in my garden in Somerset, as well as ‘split’ plants passed on to friends over the years, and transplanted to other gardens across England.  Hadspen has produced many of its own cultivars including Astrantia ‘Hadspen Blood’, Dicentra spectabilis ‘Goldheart’, Hosta ‘Hadspen Blue’ as well as Anemone hupehensis ‘Hadspen Abundance’.  

The garden closed in 2005.  I’ve pulled together some contexts and mapped an incomplete history of the garden here.   The recent past of Hadspen is a horticultural ‘hot potato’ – fascinating, contentious, opinionated.  I am interested in how these perspectives can influence the work I make, particularly in relation to the cultural and political contexts of gardens such as Hadspen.


From April to July 2013, I am researching, collecting, sifting ideas, thinking, cultivating, writing to and meeting people who were connected to the garden.

I’m interested in the plants, in the craft of the cultivation at Hadspen, in time, and how time affects both the gardener and the garden, in relation to experience and presence, and to self-seeding and planting cycles.

I don’t know what form the final work will take, but it might manifest as a ‘multiple’ work such as a book or paper work, an online digital piece, and perhaps a ‘planted’ or physical work of some kind – the form and material will emerge directly from the research.

I have been taken by something Mary Keen wrote in the Telegraph in 2012 in relation to ‘a garden never lasting’ …

“There is an exemplary no-dig patch and until very recently Penny Hobhouse had a plot where she sowed opium poppies collected in Kabul. Now they seed all over the garden in shades of coral and raspberry pink and blackest purple. I suspect they may continue at Hadspen for hundreds of years, like Reseda luteola, the plant Romans used for its yellow dye, which surfaced after the excavation of a Roman site near Cirencester. It is, in the end, the seeds of former crazes that remain in gardens long after the designs their owners planned are blurred with wilderness.”

In their book, ‘Planting with Colour‘ The Popes write about the comfrey, a favourite of Eric Smith’s, that had self-seeded and proliferated at Hadspen well after his time at the garden.

dicentra goldenhart


First shoots of Dicentra spectabilis ‘Goldheart’.

April 2nd 2013