Sofias Country Gardens
Blenheim palace gardens
I miss travelling. Who doesn't? So I resort to looking at pictures from better times, when visiting other countries was possible, and in doing so I came across pictures from two years ago when I had the joy of visiting Blenheim Palace. I've been a fan of stately homes since long before Bridgerton. In fact, most of my life I've had a fascination of these enormous relics from past times that are so beautiful yet vastly expensive to keep. I remember reading Jane Austen as a young girl and how my imagination ran wild. Yes, I grew up before the internet at a time when the tv was on only in the evening and the only entertainment for most of the time was reading actual books. There was no shortcut to look things up; for pictures I'd have to go to the local library and order in books that might contain images of what I was looking for. Yet I was lucky. If there was any information I needed I could always call my Grandmother who was like an encyclopaedia. "Hang on a minute," she would say from the other end of the line while lighting a cigarette and pouring a cup of tea or a small gin depending on what time of day it was, "yes... It was like this..." and then she would be able to tell me all about it. For some reason she was particularly fascinated by the life of Consuelo Vanderbilt, who was married to the 9th Duke of Marlborough between 1895 and 1921 and lived at Blenheim Palace during that time, so visiting the place was like ticking off one more thing from my bucket list.
Blenheim Palace was built between 1705 and 1722, and is one of Englands largest and grandest houses. It sits centered in an enormous park that was designed in the 1760's by Lancelot "Capability" Brown - who is perhaps one of the finest and most well known garden and landscape designers ever and considered by many as the founder of English landscaped garden design. Anecdotes have it that his nickname Capability was due to his fondness of encouraging the owners of the estate that their property had "capability of improvement". Today the park is registered as a site of specific interest and the palace is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The park consists of not only landscaped surroundings, but also several gardens within the garden. To the right of the Palace the Formal Gardens lie stiff and impressive in front of the Great lake, but if you follow the path along the river you get to the beautifully delicate Rose Garden. It sits in a circular walk with slender cast iron hoops covered in climbing roses, and symmetrical beds of roses leading to the statue in the center. A typically Victorian rosarium, it was commissioned by the 7th Duke of Marlborough who was a keen plantsman with a true passion for gardening and plant hunting.
The park itself is continuously planted with trees to accompany the grand specimens already in place. In fact, it is home to some of the oldest woodland in Europe, with ancient Oaks dating back to the 12th Century. Blenheim is also home to the second largest symbolic maze in the world, planted with an astonishing 3000 yew hedges, and covering an area of about 4000 square meters. As part of Blenheim Art Foundation a collection of contemporary sculptures are on display in the park, including George Baselitz’s Untitled (below) which is a response to Antonio Canova’s sculpture The Three Graces (1814-1817) that is placed on the South Lawn.
To my great joy it seems as if the current stewards of Blenheim have caught on to the plight of our insects, and so there is also a Lavender Garden that is specifically set out to enhance the native butterflies. Then there is the Secret Garden which was created by the 10th Duke of Marlborough, and subsequently restored in 2004 by the 11th Duke in honour of the Battle of Blenheim tercentenary celebrations. As the name implies, it lies a bit to the side hidden by trees and shrubs in a tranquil oasis of winding paths and naturalistic style borders. A world of its own, it was perhaps the part of the garden that I enjoyed the most.
Meanwhile, back at home, I shall continue to dream about future travels. Wishing you all a lovely week!