T’he Savill Garden in Windsor Great Park is certainly the largest and most important natural garden laid out and planted in this century. (It was first conceived fifty years ago). It owes its existence, mainly, to the foresight, imagination and perseverance of one man, Sir Eric Savill, at that time Deputy Ranger of Windsor Park. Sir Eric found a magnificent setting, with historic oaks and a romantic stretch of water, in which to lay out his garden. He was also fortunate in the continuing interest and enthusiasm of the royal family for the scheme. But the Savill Garden is in no way private or royal, for it is open throughout the year for the public to visit. It has become one of the great attractions for overseas visitors to Britain, and for gardeners from all over the world.
A natural garden, of which the Savill is such a good example, is, in the simplest terms, a garden planted in an area already well furnished with fine trees, where plants are set and then left to look after themselves. in woodland, for example, or daffodils in grass under cherries.
The Savill Garden, now half a century old, contains as fine a collection of (the acid soil in the Windsor area suits them well), magnolias and camellias as anywhere in the country. Primulas and lilacs are another feature in spring. In June and July the rose garden is bright with colour, and one part is set aside for those popular shrubs of today, ‘old fashioned’ roses – those with such evocative names as ‘Napoleon’s Hat’ and ‘Thigh of a startled Nymph’.
Besides the Savill Garden proper, which centres on a beautiful stretch of water, there is also the Valley Garden, where some of the rarest, tallest rhododendrons are to be admired. This is much larger (nearly 200 acres) and extends almost to Virginia Water; it is a later creation.
To the south-east lies the Kurume Punchbowl, a spacious natural amphitheatre which has been planted with sheets of azaleas in of different colours. For many weeks in summer the Punchbowl presents one of the most spectacular shows of colour in the world.
There is almost no time in the year when there is not something to see in the Savill Garden and the gardens adjacent to it. In spring the waterside is starred with primulas, as well as with our own native primroses and bluebells, which always seem to spring up by magic when trees are thinned. The rhododendrons follow, some of which may have been in flower since Christmas. In June and July, the herbaceous borders, all of 35 feet wide, blaze from end to end: these are of note to the gardener as they are planted not only with herbaceous material, which dies down in winter, but with some evergreen and silver-leaved shrubs to give form and some colour even in December.
An interesting and touching corner of the gardens is the area sheltered by a wall built from the bricks of London buildings destroyed in the blitz. Here grow many rare and tender plants which would hardly thrive in the open. Of this very special area of the Savill Garden it has been said, by the well known American garden expert, Lanning Roper, ‘Here beauty and life have become the by-products of destruction and death.’