The Victorian Aviary Garden by Jonathan Denby and Philippa Pearson

  • 4 June 2021 4:56 pm


The Victorian Aviary Garden

Designers: Jonathan Denby and Philippa Pearson

Site: MA13

First time designers at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Jonathan Denby and Philippa Pearson have blended late Victorian period garden design details with a modern planting palette for The Victorian Aviary Garden..

The Design

The centrepiece is an ornate Victorian aviary which has been adapted to create an enchanting focal point and an informal outdoor room for relaxation, eating al fresco, reading and enjoyment of the garden. The two side wings of the aviary, typically used to keep exotic birds in during its Victorian heyday, are now open and planted with shrubs for year round interest. The aviary is typical of the grand designs from the late Victorian period and the design has been inspired by the elaborate Rococo aviary at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire.

The Victorian Aviary Garden forms part of a larger garden owned by a couple who appreciate the design details and garden fashions of the late Victorian period (1870-1901), a time when formal clipped hedge enclosures are blended with Renaissance-style ornaments and hardy planting. The garden is located in Cumbria where the sponsors South Lakes Hotels are based. Regional materials are used in the design including Cumbrian slate for paving and for the terrace’s traditional stone walls, typically found in this region of the UK.

The avian theme is reflected across other areas of the garden. Maggy Howarth has perfected the ancient art of hand-made pebble mosaic paving, combining it with modern techniques and imaginative contemporary design and is creating a bird-themed mosaic path.

Planting Style

Planting surrounding the aviary on the Cumbrian slate terrace is woodland edge style using a cool palette of green, white, soft apricot and pale cream with splashes of maroon. Plants include ferns such as Dryropteris crassirhizona and Asplenium scolopendrium and perennials including Anemone sylvestris, Bergenia ‘Adbendglut’, Digitalis purpurea ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ and Geranium phaeum ‘Album’ and ‘Sambor’. Trees add year round interest from foliage, flowers and fruit: Sorbus intermedia, Acer ginnala and Mespilus germanica (Medlar).

The formal layout of the lower terrace has two square box-edged borders set in lawn, a layout inspired by the late Victorian period but planting style for The Victorian Aviary Garden is modern and colourful. Topiary pyramids in the borders add height, structure and Victorian formality whilst a tapestry of colourful perennials and grasses create a ‘jewel’ like planting effect. Calamogrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and Stipa tennuissima blend with perennials including Asphodeline lutea, Astrantia major ‘Claret’, Iris ‘Jane Phillips’ and ‘Superstition’, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ and Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’. Aliums and tulip cvs are added into the mix whilst species pelargoniums are displayed in containers in the garden.

Jonathan Denby and Philippa Pearson met at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2009 where they had each designed a RHS Silver Gilt award-winning garden: Jonathan designed A Beekeeper’s Garden with Nicola Hills, Philippa designed The Sadolin Nature To Nurture Garden.


Jonathan Denby

Victorian gardening specialist, amateur gardener and hotelier Jonathan Denby owns a group of three family-friendly hotels in the Lake District, South Lakes Hotels. His own garden at Yewbarrow House in Grange over Sands, Cumbria is open for the NGS and last year raised £8,240 for the charity, a record for the county. The Yewbarrow House Gardens are one of the few ‘starred’ private gardens in the ‘Good Gardens Guide’ and have been featured in many books and publications, including ‘Country Life’, ‘The English Garden’, ‘Inspirational Gardens’ and ‘The Garden.’ The garden was featured in a BBC special in July 2009 and is due to be featured in a Gardeners World programme on coastal gardens in 2010. Jonathan is working with Cumbria Tourism for a garden at Tatton Park Flower Show in 2010.

Jonathan Denby and his family are committed to self-sufficiency. The kitchen garden at Yewbarrow House provides fresh organic vegetables, herbs and fruit for the table and for South Lakes Hotels. High Lowscales Farm, the family farm in the Duddon Estuary, free range rare-breed pigs, Herdwick Lamb and traditional tender meat to the hotels.

RHS Show history
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2009
A Beekeeper’s Garden – Silver Gilt medal
Philippa Pearson

Based near Cambridge, award winning garden and landscape designer Philippa Pearson takes her inspiration from the countryside and contemporary and classical architecture. Her design work covers many private gardens across the Home Counties whilst her Border Design By Post service offers a cost-effective garden design solution for clients across the UK. At the Brocket Hall estate at Welwyn, Hertfordshire where Philippa is Consultant Gardener, she has re-designed planting outside the Grade 11 listed Hall and implemented new planting schemes throughout the estate. Her bright and colourful perennial planting style attracts lots of interest from visitors, the media and photographers at RHS shows. Philippa has been selected to design the Girlguiding UK Centenary Garden at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2010.

Philippa also enjoys writing about plants and gardens and is the gardening writer for Hertfordshire Life and Essex Life magazines and has an organic gardening diary on the Soil Association’s website. She also contributes to Cambridge News, BBC Gardeners’ World magazine, Homebase Ideas and Gardening Living Club magazines, Cambridgeshire Journal and Garden Confidential.

RHS Show history
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
The Sadolin Nature To Nurture Garden – 2009 Silver Gilt medal
The Homebase Room With A View – 2008 Silver Gilt medal
The Sadolin Garden Of Regeneration – 2007 Silver Gilt medal (small garden)

Malvern Spring Gardening Show 2005
The Garden of Meditation – Bronze Medal (small garden)

Further information:

Stewart Landscape Solutions
Staplefords Farm
Suffolk CO8 5DT
Telephone: 01787 269920