Winterbourne’s broad terrace was employed successfully by architect, JL Ball, as a means of transitioning from house to garden. Ball prescribed a typically understated treatment of the retaining wall and in particular the small verandah which links projecting cross wings on either side: ‘the ceiling and walls inside the verandah to be whitewashed and the oak beams, posts and fascia to be left clean from the plane.’
Gravelled for much of the Edwardian period, the Terrace was later paved with crazy paving in the 1930’s. Later still, University of Birmingham horticulturalists, taking advantage of heat projecting from the exterior of the house and a south-eastern aspect, planted the terrace with exotics, including a chusan palm in the centre, and annual bedding displays.
Today, the chusan palm, having outgrown its original planting position, has been re-located to the Asian section of Geographical Beds whilst the carpet style bedding has now been replaced with more informal potted displays in keeping with the gardens original Arts and Crafts ethic.
Harry Wheelock purchased Winterbourne in 1919 where he and his family, including his nine children seen here seated on the Lower Lawn steps, remained for six years. Although the family made no significant changes to the garden, they certainly enjoyed their time within it; formal lawns were utilised regularly for games of tennis whilst many summers were spent sleeping beneath the shelter of the nearby verandah.
Behind the seated Wheelock children, it is possible to see the Lime Walk; an avenue of pleached lime trees (Tilia) leading to the Terrace. These trees were planted by Winterbourne’s original owners the Nettlefold family. The upper branches of the limes are trained together whilst the lower ones are pruned bare to provide shade in summer and framed winter views following leaf fall.
By the 1990’s only one tree remained. Left untrained it came to dominate the south-west corner of the Upper Lawn. Fortunately, by this time the irregularly shaped Irish yew trees, planted by John Nicolson following the Wheelocks departure, had long established, replacing some of the vertical linearity lost when the Lime Walk was removed. The avenue was reinstated again in 2011, this time using Tiliacordata ‘Greenspire’.
Winterbourne’s final private owner, John Nicolson, was responsible not only for the sentinel Irish yew trees, but several garden features including the Japanese Bridge which allows safe passage from one side of the Rock Garden pool to the other.
In the 1930’s much of the fervour surrounding grand herbaceous borders, resulting from Arts and Crafts sensibilities, was replaced with a greater appreciation for individual plantsmanship, spurned by the commercialisation of new varieties introduced at the turn of the century. A great many of those plants arrived from Asia and their influence can still be seen in the Rock Garden today where Japanese maples, azaleas and rhododendrons provide spring and autumn colour.
So well established are some of these plants that the Japanese Bridge is no longer visible from the far side of the Rock Garden, its view obscured by several mature rhododendrons. Also significantly larger is the red oak (Quercus rubra) which appears directly in front of the bridge in all three photographs and now stands as one of the tallest trees in the garden.