Bridget Elworthy – building a blooming business from an English manor house
New Zealander Bridget Elworthy is one half of the Land Gardeners, an enterprising duo who have built a blooming business in the heart of Oxfordshire. Bridget and her business partner Henrietta Coutauld spoke with Catriona Gray for Town & Country (UK)’s December issue at their picturesque base of operations.
“The moment you see Wardington Manor, set off the road in a quiet village near Banbury, you can tell that it is home to keen horticulturalists,” writes Gray. “Clipped yew-trees stand guard on the newly mown lawns, late-flowering borders bloom in the autumn sunlight, and the house’s honeyed stone walls and mullioned windows are largely hidden beneath a vast wisteria that blankets the façade in a riot of greenery…stretching out in front of me is an avenue full of dahlias, masses of them, in shades of pink, purple, cream and apricot, leading to a weathered stone urn flanked by topiary. It’s an almost impossibly romantic sight.”
Wardington Manor is home to Bridget Elworthy, who lives here with her family, and the countryside headquarters of the Land Gardeners, a company she founded with her friend and fellow plantswoman Henrietta Courtauld in 2012. Here, they grow exquisite cut flowers that supply a weekly delivery service to private clients and professional florists in London.
Elworthy and Courtauld have been friends for years, having met when their now teenage children were at the same nursery. They discovered they had a lot in common – both had started out studying law, before realising their true interest was horticulture.
“A little over a decade ago Elworthy came across Wardington and immediately fell in love with the Jacobean house and its beautiful Arts and Crafts plasterwork. The old borders and walled garden had gone to seed or been grassed over, but she found out that 60 years earlier, the manor’s former chatelaine Lady Wardington had grown cut flowers on a grand scale here, supplying them to fashionable London florists such as Constance Spry and Pulbrook & Gould. After moving in, Elworthy set about restoring the herbaceous beds, before joining forces with Courtauld to form the Land Gardeners.
“Inspired by the estate’s history, the pair’s aesthetic is quintessentially English, and they aim to provide a desirable and sustainable alternative to imported varieties. Other commissions soon followed, and the next few years saw them providing everything from buttercups to adorn the table of a state dinner to decaying brambles for the Alexander McQueen ‘Savage Beauty’ exhibition at the V&A.”
Elworthy and Courtauld are also working with farmers in England and New Zealand introducing their Climate Compost project – looking at how high quality compost can be made on a farm scale, and exploring ingredients that improve the health of the land – creating beautiful, healthy plants, gardens and farms brimming with biodiversity and life – all founded on healthy soil.
The Land Gardeners: Cut Flowers by Bridget Elworthy and Henrietta Courtauld (£39.95, Thames & Hudson) is out now. The Land Gardeners (www.thelandgardeners.com).
Original article by Catriona Gray
Photo by The Land Gardeners