Hanna Pechar Sculpture Garden
As lockdown eases, the Hanna Pechar Gardens is now open for bookings. With an appointment you will be able to walk around their lovely gardens with even more space to yourself.
As a garden designer I have always attempted to design a garden without the need for sculpture , being wary that sculpture might detract from the beauty of the plants. However, after my visit to the Hanna Pechar sculpture gardens recently I have realised that not only can a sculpture really enhance the beauty of a garden but the design itself can be influenced by a particularly powerful piece of work and plants be complimented.
Vicky Leedham first came across the gardens when she went there on a school trip in the early 90’s.
“I remember the founder, Hanna Pechar, being really scary, shouting out ‘ Don’t Touch’ in her Dutch accent! but years later, after I graduated from art college, I applied for a placement here. I am now co-curator and gallery manager and I love it. I am called the Queen of Everything as I do pretty much every role here!”
She beams with infectious passion over the glass desk in the simple office situated in the grounds of the sculpture park. “At any one time we have over 200 outdoor sculptures on display in our beautiful gardens. I and Anthony, Hanna’s husband, who designed the gardens over 35 years ago, select which artists we would like to exhibit including quite a few European artists”.
“Often I will go and visit them in their studios to get a better sense of their work. When the sculptures arrive, often driven in vans by the artists themselves, we get to work deciding where to put them and sometimes the daunting task of how to lift them! Compared to other artists, outdoor sculptors tend to be very down to earth so I really like working with them”
The history of the sculpture gardens is a testimate to having a vision and just going for it. Anthony Paul was a landscape designer and his wife Hanna Pechar was a political journalist living in London.They bought the little cottage and grounds near Ockley, Surrey and spent 5 years just clearing the jungle of weeds, restoring the ponds and planting architectural looking plant species.
They then canvassed the art world inviting sculptors to exhibit outdoors. “It wasn’t the fashion at the time for outdoor sculpture. Of course there were artists such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth but their work was usually both monumental and expensive.There was nothing particularly accessible for the average garden owner”.
“The sculpture is usually rotated on a two year basis, and we aim to exhibit at least 6 new artists every year. We have to make sure all the pieces can withstand the English weather. They need to be frost and wildlife proof and the works have to be substantial enough not to get lost in the garden setting.”
The gardens themselves are very beautiful with mature oaks, streams, undulating mounds and rivers and some majestic Japanese Acer specimens. “There are no signs”, explains Vicky, as “ we want people to explore the garden without a tick list, though we do provide a comprehensive map!”
“Our typical buyers are members of the public, some collectors, corporate clients and public art. I think the most someone spent in one go was £80,000. My internal jaw dropped! Some clients want a particular piece of sculpture that they have in their mind that they want for a special place in the garden. Then I try to find them the right artist. Other visitors are open minded about what they like and when they find something, decide where it could go.
Vicky shares the other activities they do in the gardens.
“ We have had a walking dinner tour, stopping off at canopy stations ending in a formal dinner on the lawn, lots of school trips, a creative workshops like print making and even yoga afternoons.”
Where to go in August
Visit the Hanna Pechar Sculpture gardens of course!
Booking from Tuesday to Sunday
Black & White Cottage
RH5 5QR (postal only – use RH5 5QU for SatNav)
Telephone: (+44) (0) 1306 627 269
What to do in August
Obviously keep up the watering in this sustained hot weather, especially with plants in pots and new plants.
Top up the mulch to retain moisture and keep weeds down
Keep pinching out your tomatoes and sowing new rills of lettace, radishes and spinach
Time to prune the bigger shrubs that have just finished flowering like Wygelia, Philadelpus, and Sprirea- cut out the old flowering wood back to new growth that next year’s flowers will bloom from them
Mow your lawn on a higher setting now to keep moisture in the grass to help mitigate against summer browning in dry spells
Apply a nitrogen feed if Red Thread fungus is taking over your lawn
Have a bit of a rest- things slow down in the garden now, and so can you.