They dream of finding an abandoned house in a wild garden and then plan in great detail what they will do with it. They are Isabel and Julian Bannerman. I have visited one of their gardens, Hanham Court near Bath, which was their home for many years and can say that they made that reality a dream. We visited this year when the garden was open under the National Garden Scheme, our first visit after settling into our hotel in Cirencester for a week of English gardens and could not have asked for a better start to our holiday nor a more wonderful garden in which to spend an afternoon.
After reading their book, Landscape of Dreams, I can see that they repeated their dreams very successfully and beautifully in many other locations. Not all were abandoned houses in wild gardens but the gardens certainly benefited from the Bannerman attention. Yes, they dream and they dream big so that some may say their treatment of gardens may be over the top but I can only say that I found them imaginative, flamboyant, exuberant and places of great beauty.
They dream on a big scale, they plan on a big scale, they build on a big scale and garden on a big scale but they work on houses and grounds which accommodate such grandness and all seems in scale and appropriate. It is a dream world; it can appear crazy at times but it is beautiful.
Most will have heard of their contribution to the Prince of Wales garden at Highgrove, the stumpery being most publicised. We visited Highgrove during our week in England and felt it was one garden which confined their creativity, cramped their style and left their creations rather claustrophobically jammed too close together. However, a commission for the Prince of Wales does open many doors and, while it was not their best work, it may well have been most to their advantage.
There is an account of their work at Highgrove, along with fourteen other gardens, and their garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1994 each well illustrated with photographs and details of the site, their proposed plans, subsequent discussions, the progress of the work and the completed projects. We are introduced to the clients, made privy to the interaction between client and designers and given details of the ups and downs of the projects. Indeed, the book might be described as the designers’ notebook or diary and it is a very enjoyable read.
The Bannermans do the British garden perfectly with follies of architectural salvage, faux-stone garden features recreated in green English oak, rose-clad buildings and lavish plantings. They create the dream English garden wonderfully and we can enjoy the dream in this dream of a book.
And their dream goes on since they moved to Trematon Castle in Cornwall and this garden is also described in the book: Landscape of Dreams, The Gardens of Isabel and Julia Bannerman, Pimpernel Press 2016, Large-format Hardback, 297 pages, ,£5, ISBN: 978-1-910258-60-6