Just a few minutes outside of the Yorkshire Dales lies Levens Hall, one of the only great houses in England to preserve its antiquated topiary garden, which dates from 1694.
Topiary gardens were all the rage in England during the 1600's, but they fell out of favor and disappeared in the early to mid 1700's as "Capability" Brown brought his naturalistic style of landscaping to the great estates.
The fact that the fictional mansion in my novel, Seldom House, has an aging topiary garden is one of several clues that the house's fortunes are not what they once were (or are being invested elsewhere). Clearly, someone went to great effort during the 1600's to renovate and decorate the place, but it has fallen into disuse for almost a hundred years before Tabby's arrival. The furnishings I mention in the text were, for the most part, the fashion in the Jacobean days—Restoration at the latest.
These ancient and obese topiaries just amazed me. They're like fertility symbols, very close to the earliest days of pagan religion and our most primitive ideas of ourselves.
Monstrous in every sense of the word!
Seldom House's topiary garden is much smaller than this one, and the topiaries are closer together. That's because the setting of Seldom House is so inhospitable even to this style of garden (much less to flowers or trees) that the plants have had to be protected from the elements by a high wall and close proximity to the house.
The gardeners at my fictional Seldom House are careless. That's how the topiaries there have grown so far out of shape. Tabby finds none of these pretty little border hedges there, either.
The topiaries block a lot of the view; no wonder the dead maid can tease Tabby with brief glimpses as she walks among them.
This is the sapling with leaves like children's hands that tickles Tabby's neck.
And the trees that grow inside the garden have twisted old branches like these.