I first visited Painshill Park nearly thirty years ago. I remember it was a wonderfully derelict, overgrown place inhabited by ghosts from a glorious past. This was soon after the charity trust was set up in order to restore the 18 century landscape gardens and the work was really only just beginning. The water mill was restored and I may have even climbed up the Gothic Temple but the grotto was all closed off with just a tantalising glimpse through the under growth of what might be there. Since then I have visited a few times and each visit something had been brought back to life or reinstated. My last visit a few weeks ago was shortly after the restoration on all the follies and bridges had been completed including the Crystal Grotto and the Five Arch Bridge.
It is a strange place. Not really a garden but more than just a classically landscaped park. The best way to see it is with no idea of what to expect and each folly is a surprise. Bit like a favourite film or story, it's a shame you can never repeat that first naive experience.
As with all good gardens, each season has it's own character and atmosphere and Painshill Park is now as much about the planting as the follies. Much thought has been given to the original planting ideas formed by the gardens creator the Hon. Charles Hamiton and in summer there is colour and scent from a wide range of ornamental plants. The John Bartram Heritage Collection of North American trees and shrubs has been awarded full collection status by Plant Heritage (NCCPG).
Some gardens I visit purely for their plants, some for the overall design experience, but this garden is a good walk with some really weird and interesting things to see. The best bit is definitely the Grotto but I'm not going to ruin the surprise by describing here, just go and see it! For more information about creating a good autumn garden or even designing a folly contact me on 020 8767 1458