4 – Rock Gardens, Walled Gardens and Ferneries

Pulham’s Rock Gardens

James 2’s portfolio of ‘satisfied clients’ increased steadily to the point when he decided to bring his son, James 3 (1845-1920) into the business in 1865 to form James Pulham and Son.   More than 40 of their most prestigious rock gardens are described in Pulham Rock Gardens, including those at Sandringham and Buckingham Palace, Highnam Court, Madresfield Court, Friar Park, Dewstow, Merrow Grange, Abbotswood, Batsford Arboretum and many more.   The work they did in parks – and private gardens that have since become parks – such as Dunorlan Park, Belle Vue Park in Newport, Monmouthshire, and Ross Hall Park in Glasgow, is also examined.   It is therefore difficult to select just two pictures from the many that appear in the book, but two contrasting examples are shown in Fig 4.1.   One is of a section of the massive and spectacular rock garden at Madresfield Court, and the other is of the beautiful, picturesque double waterfall at Abbotswood, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire.


Fig 4.1  –  The Rock Garden at Madresfield Court (1877) and the double waterfall at Abbotswood (1901)

 Pulham’s Walled Gardens


Fig 4.2  –  Walled Gardens at Highnam Court (1847), and Ponsbourne Manor (1858)

 One of James 2’s earliest garden landscaping assignments was at Highnam Court, Gloucester, where one of the features was the wall for a walled garden.   This is shown on the left of Fig 4.2, while the right-hand picture shows the gateway to the walled garden at Ponsbourne Manor, near Hertford, where the Pulhams worked in 1858.   Both walls are standing strong and secure to this day, as are also similar walls on other estates where the firm are known to have worked.

Pulham’s Ferneries

A number of Pulham’s ferneries are also described in the book, but the two illustrated here in Fig 4.3 are the ones at the Swiss Garden, Old Warden, and at ‘The Acacias’, Reading – now part of Reading University.   Ferns thrive in sheltered – and often quite dark – conditions, and the important thing to note about the rocks against which they climb is that it is generally a very porous ‘tufa’ rock that is somewhat like pumice stone in character, and was obviously the product of a very special Pulham ‘recipe’.


Fig 4.3  –  Pulham Ferneries at Swiss Garden, Old Warden (1876) and ‘The Acacias’, Reading (1891)

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