The Grove Hotel – Watford

Three crafts – art, design and fine horticulture

I consider it part of my job to occasionally venture out from my Somerset garden design practice so last weekend I visited The Grove Hotel in Watford.   I first visited the garden soon after it opened about 10 years ago but what exciting changes have taken place since then!  Set in a leafy corner of Hertfordshire, this young garden has taken on an impressive air of maturity.

The original specimen trees with their gnarled bark and the old kitchen garden walls with their fan trained fruit are an important backdrop to the garden however the site has been completely redesigned to create a luxury hotel with 227 rooms complete with an 18 hole golf course.  This means 100’s of users on a daily basis, structure is everything in a garden of this sort. 

Car parks are screened at eye level with hedges and from upstairs windows with topiary and pleached hornbeam. 

Downstairs bedrooms rooms and outdoor seating areas are offered a suggestion of privacy using crisply clipped yew where the play of light and shadow add further interest.  Formal and relatively low maintenance these living walls soften the harsher architecture.

Box, hornbeam, yew and Magnolia are all used to create shelter, backdrops, illusions of seclusion, frame views, sub division of space, they direct your eye, hide surprises, edge paths…  Herbaceous perennials are used boldly in blocks, possibly more for their foliage than for their flowers, fresh shades of green against dark structural yew.  Splashes of colour enliven borders as flower come and go whilst the seasonal sculpture exhibition set within the garden beds and borders add drama and fun.

This is not a cheap garden, specimen plants have been used, there is permanent irrigation hidden within the beds and the horticultural skill and maintenance is excellent.

Gardens designed by Michael Balston