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Iford Manor, near Bradford-on-Avon

Listed under Gardens in West Country, United Kingdom.

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This stunning small garden — only 2.5 acres — shows off the combination of formality with the softening effects of plants as well as any Jekyll-Lutyens garden. Harold Peto created the gardens at Iford Manor from 1899 to his death in 1933. The gardens are known as Italianate, but current owners believe Roman would be more accurate. Peto saw formality in the land that slopes toward the River Frome; he carved out terraces and shipped Roman antiquities (or had them reproduced) from Italy to decorate the landscape. He knew the importance of repetition. Stand at one end of the Great Terrace and your eyes are drawn down the straight path by the repeating forms of columns, pedestals, and plants, including a Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) and Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens).

As with many fine formal gardens, the edges become blurred to help with the transition from formal to natural. At Iford, you can wander up into the woods toward the King Edward VII column, but be sure to also admire the boxwood trees. We are so accustomed to seeing neatly clipped boxwood hedges, that we don’t realize that Buxus sempervirens is actually a small, graceful evergreen tree.

It’s a charming garden, and the perfect place for summer concerts. The current owners, working with local arts groups, host summer chamber concerts and opera in the Cloisters, a structure built in 1914 by Peto, who used many various bits of antiquities in the small building.

Written by  Marty Wingate.

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