In 1973 the recently married Roy Strong and Julia Trevelyan Oman
purchased The Laskett, an early Victorian house midway between Hereford and Ross-on-Wye, set in the corner of a four acre triangle of land. Garden fever seized
them early on and with little money and labour at their disposal, but with a cornucopia of ideas, they set out to make the garden you see today. It was one that
was inspired by the great gardens of the pre-1914 era, by Italian gardens like the Villa Lante and by those of Tudor and Stuart England. As a result strong
architectural structure abounds, underpinned by the emphasis on
dramatic vistas and on surprise as a central concept.
Herefordshire is apple country and the orchard with its collection of unusual varieties was at the heart of Julia's garden making, as well as the kitchen garden which together supplied the house with fruit and vegetables. Roy's fascination with early gardens accounts for the amazing topiary, the knot garden and the parterres, all lovingly clipped by him in the early years.
The garden was paid for piecemeal by their labour in the arts, so there's a Victoria & Albert Museum Temple to mark Roy's directorship and an arbour in honour of the Royal Ballet's great choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton, two of whose most famous ballets Julia designed. An armillary sundial in the Jubilee Garden from Sir Cecil Beaton's garden at Broadchalke recalls Roy's friendship with the photographer while a crowned column presides over the lime avenue in commemoration of both Elizabeth I and II.
Julia died in 2003 since when the gardens, after 30 years, needed radical pruning and thinning out to ensure their future in the new century, so hedges have been re-cut, the planting updated and vistas to the surrounding landscape opened up. The result has been to endow the Gardens with renewed energy.
The whole garden is maintained by two gardeners four days a week;
Philip Teague and Shaun Cadman.