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May 22 2012

Magic sisters realise Chelsea Flower Show golden dream

The all-powerful Brontes sweep rivals aside as Yorkshire gets its long-for top medal at last

They tried ever so hard once, and got silver. Then they tried ever so hard again, and got silver again. But this year the Yorkshire garden at Chelsea has finally achieved its ambition, and been awarded a Royal Horticultural Society gold medal.

That's what the biggest and brashest of England's counties naturally expects; (actually – interesting fact - historic Yorkshire also contains England's second-biggest county: the West Riding on its own beats Devon, Lincolnshire and other such rivals). But the organisers made the mistake of not enlisting the magical powers of the Mighty Sisters until now.

In 2010, the garden was themed on rhubarb and custard, picking up the lore and legend of the 'rhubarb-growing triangle' between Wakefield, Pontefract and Leeds. Last year, a rather architectural construction of drystone walls and the like drew on Yorkshire Artists, with references to David Hockney, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

But at last, this year, Charlotte, Emily and Bronte appeared in a dream to Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire which organises the garden, and said: "Daft ha'porth. It's us you need."

So it has proved. The massive metropolitan cliché mill grinds out unswerving descriptions of the sisters and their moors as wuthering and howling, but we who live here know better. Charlotte herself wrote of Emily after her death and how:

There is not a knoll of heather, not a branch of fern, not a young bilberry leaf, not a fluttering lark or linnet, but reminds me of her

And Emily carolled in one of her perhaps less original poems:

May flowers are opening
And leaves unfolding free
There are bees in every blossom
And birds in every tree.

Anyway, Verity arose and his staff carried out the ghostly instructions, recreating the 'Bronte bridge' which crosses the Bronte beck by the Bronte waterfalls on the way to Top Withens (aka Wuthering Heights) above the sisters' home village of Haworth. They also crammed in a goodly stock of plants, making the composition more garden than artificial construction. Although the Brontes were not actually very good gardeners themselves, as the Guardian Northerner recently described, they would surely have approved.

Verity says:

The garden has had a non-stop stream of admirers since The Chelsea Flower Show opened but this was the ultimate goal, taking gold back to Yorkshire. This is the third time we've entered and we're delighted to be going home with a gold medal for the first time. We hope to convert thousands of well-wishers into tourists over the course of the week.


 
Tracy Foster, the garden's designer from Leeds, worked closely with the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth throughout the project, describes how the garden tried to source materials from nearby, including boulders from Dove Stones moor:

The stone is beautiful. We have deliberately not cleaned it so it has aged naturally and it is of the period when the girls would have been walking around the Yorkshire Moors and writing their novels. The stone still has its original lichens and mosses attached which look just perfect in the garden and really give a sense of the beauty and bleakness that epitomise the wonderful moorland landscape.


She is properly over the moon, deservedly:

My first Chelsea and I get gold, it doesn't get much better than this! I'm so proud of what we have achieved. I hope the high profile medal inspires more people to come to Yorkshire to see for themselves the landscape that brought gold to the garden.


 
Always good at linking things, Welcome to Yorkshire has just unveiled a gardens campaign which highlights some of the best gardens to visit in Yorkshire. You can also see three films here which the Guardian Northerner team made last year of the progress of the Art of Yorkshire entry.
 


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November 15 2009

Anthony du Gard Pasley obituary

Garden designer, writer, teacher and lecturer

The landscape architect Anthony du Gard Pasley, who has died aged 80, was a skilled and highly respected, yet largely unnoted, designer responsible for the creation of many large private gardens in Britain, Switzerland, southern France and other parts of Europe. His control of space, combined with an extensive plant knowledge, allowed him to create significant gardens for his clients. Recognisable by his monocle and perfectly groomed moustache, which he insisted "should always turn upwards, thereby giving a pleasant countenance", he was a stickler for detail, for instance matching the colour of his potted hyacinths to the linings of the curtains at his French windows.

Anthony's grandfather was a successful inventor and engineer, his father a metallurgist. His parents lived near Sherborne, in Dorset, where Anthony grew up, although he had been born in Ealing, west London. After first sharing a governess, Anthony was educated in London, at King's College school, Wimbledon. He joined the army to complete his national service but always wanted to be a garden designer.

Through his father, and at the suggestion of the garden designer Milner White, he became a paying pupil of the landscape architect Brenda Colvin in Baker Street, central London, then for two years moved to the shared office of Colvin and Sylvia Crowe at 182 Gloucester Place. After this he moved on to the design department of the landscapers Wallace and Barr, learning for three or four years what did, and did not, work.

Although they had very little work, Colvin and Crowe then asked him back as an assistant to work mostly on gardens. The Colvin practice had such clients as the Astor family, Stowe, crematoriums in Salisbury, and schools in Hertfordshire. On retiring to her country home, Filkins, Colvin, author of the groundbreaking Land and Landscape (1947), wanted Pasley to join her, but he declined and instead became the first associate of Sylvia Crowe Associates, whose practice work was mainly on new towns, roads, power stations, and, with Michael Laurie, work for the American air force. Pasley saw Crowe's 1958 book on design principles, Garden Design, through to the publication stage, before she widened out into the realm of roads and power, and he became a member of the Institute of Landscape Architects.

By the time the Gloucester Place practice closed down in the 1960s, Pasley had built up his own clientele, working out of his home in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. He lectured at the polytechnic in Regent Street, at the Northern Polytechnic (now subsumed into London Metropolitan University), at the School of Architecture, Canterbury, and as a freelance lecturer. The garden designer and writer Susan Jellicoe encouraged him to write for Country Life, the Observer and Architectural Review.

In about 1972 he had begun teaching at the Inchbald School of Design in London with John Brookes, whom he had worked with in Gloucester Place. He continued with his own practice, bolstering up his income with writing and giving lectures, these accompanied by slides and delivered with never a superfluous word, while building up capital by decorating and selling his own houses in Tunbridge Wells. Among the gardens he designed that on occasion are open to the public are Old Place Farm, in Kent; Parsonage Farm, in West Sussex, and Pashley Manor Gardens, in East Sussex.

Pasley was on the panel of judges for the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show gardens, was an active member of the Garden History Society, and after moving to Scotland, joined the Royal Caledonian Society. In 1983, he was instrumental in helping me set up the English Gardening School based at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London.

Anthony was a very private person, always impeccably dressed, whatever the weather, in thorn-proof tweed plus-fours, cape or kilt, and with a mischievous sense of humour. The last 17 years of his life were divided between homes in Groombridge, near Tunbridge Wells, and Moffat in Scotland. His other interests were interior decoration, book collecting, architecture, opera and travel, and latterly, cruises. His books were Summer Flowers (1977) and, with me, The English Gardening School (1987).

• Anthony du Gard Pasley, garden designer, born 10 August 1929; died 2 October 2009


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