La Seigneurie Gardens are some of the finest formal gardens in the Channel Islands but their history is under-recorded, like that of many of the buildings here. The land they occupy was bought by Seigneur Pierre Le Pelley III in 1835. The Walled Garden is aligned with St Peter’s church that was built in 1820 and the central arches framed a view of the tower, a scene now obscured by the new Island Hall.
The high walls give protection from the wind and, together with the mild micro-climate, allow many tender and half-hardy plants to thrive. The more unusual specimens are labelled, such as the Australian bottlebrush and New Zealand tea tree. Probably the oldest surviving feature of the original layout is the formal rose garden edged with box hedging. The circular rose garden and pergola are much more recent, designed by the late Seigneur Michael Beaumont in 2000, and are known as the Millennium Rose Garden. The rose varieties in both areas have been chosen for their repeat flowering and fragrance and many were supplied by David Austin Roses.
The Victorian glasshouse on the north wall shelters some long-established vines, both black and white table varieties. In the late 1980s it was rebuilt with great care taken not to disturb the vines or the original sliding Victorian ladder.
The flowerbed along the east wall is dedicated to white flowers and other beds within the walled Gardens are designed around colour themes. The fern arbours with fountains either side of the archway leading into the vegetable garden were designed and built by Michael Beaumont in 1989. The timber came from a 150 year-old holm oak that succumbed to the Great Storm two years earlier.
Other recent additions to the vegetable growing area have been the sensory and adjacent wild flower gardens. The sensory garden contains medicinal, scented and edible plants that visitors are encouraged to touch and smell. The wild flowers are a mixture of British natives and green manures.
A hedge maze, designed with children in mind, was planted by Michael Beaumont in 1991 at the far end of the vegetable garden. The hedge is Olearia paniculata, sometimes referred to as New Zealand holly. The castle at the centre was made of the same holm oak as the fern arbours. Small feet took their toll on the timber though and the original wooden structure was encased in stone a few years later.
The ponds were made by the monks of St Magloire Priory by damming the stream to form a reservoir for their water mill a little further down the valley. The monks would also have bred and kept carp in the ponds, these fish being a staple of the monastic diet. The well by the pond was first dug by the monks possibly as early as the 7th or 8th century. It has never been known to dry and the water is of excellent quality. The stone cap is another Victorian addition by Seigneur WT Collings who is also responsible for the ornate dove cote and the drawing room wing and tower on the Seigneurie.
An old building just outside the walled garden, known as the Chapel, now houses an exhibition on the history of Sark’s Seigneurs and the Seigneurie as well as being used for civil wedding ceremonies.
La Seigneurie Gardens are open from Easter until the end of October but visitors are welcome throughout the winter – simply leave a donation in the box at the gate.
For more information visit http://www.laseigneuriegardens.com/gardens.html