Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Kiftsgate Court Gardens

A garden created by three generations of female gardeners. It straddles the top of a Cotswold escarpment, and then runs down into a valley with views across to the Vale of Evesham.

This stunning white Coopers Burmese rose - R. Laevigata 'Cooperi'  reaches up to the top of the property. 


















In 1920 the gardens at Kiftsgate consisted of a paved formal garden at the back of the property surrounded by a field and wooded banks leading down into the valley. The then new owner, Heather Muir, decided to change the layout of the garden with help and inspiration from her lifelong friend Lawrence Johnston.


She decided that the garden would be developed organically, rather than planned on paper. 
It has a distinctly feminine feel almost in direct contrast to the more masculine lines employed by Johnston in his own garden at 
Hidcote Manor. 
During the 1930s the steep banks were tackled and the steps to the lower garden were put in place along with a delightful summerhouse taking advantage of views to the west. 
Having spent 30years establishing the garden Heather was succeeded by her daughter, Diany Binny, who was then succeeded by her daughter, Anne Chambers. Anne has continued to develop the garden over the past 33 years - between them all they have nurtured Kiftsgate for over 100 years.  
Anne established this contemporary black water garden on what had once been the tennis court. She continues the family tradition of seeking out new and interesting plants to compliment the colour schemes established by her grandmother when she originally laid it out.
I love the elevations in this garden with their expansive views, but maintaining a garden like this is hard work and not for the faint hearted. 














Crinodendron hookeranum - Lantern tree - native to Chile 



The garden has plenty of Nepeta Walker's Low - catmint plants scattered throughout the borders. I mention this because I too purchased a large number of the same plant a few weeks ago, mainly as a deterrent to our deer, who are not supposed to like them. However, with its spires of lavender-blue flowers amid fragrant grey-green foliage, Nepeta makes a perfect foil for other flowers in the border, and importantly is loved by bees. 

45 comments:

  1. It is interesting, but not at all surprising, that a garden created and tended by three generations of women would evolve in quite different ways from one designed by a traditional male head gardener. And the results are spectacular! What pleasure it must have given you to visit, Rosemary.

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    1. I really loved this garden - at every turn there was a different vista and often a surprise too.
      Sorry I mislead you re: Lawrence Johnston - he was not a head gardener, but the owner and creator of another great British garden at his home Hidcote Manor which is a near neighbour of Kiftsgate.

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  2. Dear Rosemary, thank you for this beautiful report about Kiftsgate. I have been there once with my friend Anne, long ago.
    So lovely!
    Now I will send your post over to my Daughter in Love & my son, because the house they bought here in Bavaria is beautiful, it has a terraced garden, which the before owners made changed into Japanese style (even a little brook with real water which you can put on with electricity; a fish pond and lots of grass and stones and little azaleas - they spent a fortune on that, and it is lovely - but not what you dream of when you love English gardens.
    And if you do not have much time because of the triplets it is a lot of work (at the moment the Flying Dutchman and I helped - but my back grumbles, and I envision plants like nepeta and lavendula and, and - a lot of work too, but step for step it might be changed, or better, as it is a huge terraced garden: integrated (? included?)
    I am curious what will emerge.

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    1. Dear Britta - lovely to hear from you.
      The garden in Bavaria sounds lovely - I actually do like and admire Japanese styled gardens, and we nearly bought a property once with both the house and garden done in a Japanese style.
      A terraced garden is not the easiest to do and most people do tend to consider them not to be child friendly, but that is not really true as children are far more agile on their feet than we grown ups. Kiftsgate garden has seen plenty of children pass through it - Heather's children, Diany's children and Anne's too.

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  3. Another glorious garden, perfectly captured by your camera. Roses seem to be looking especially colourful this year.

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    1. It is really a very special garden to visit - its situation is really lovely.

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  4. Just gorgeous! And I bet the scent is heavenly!

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  5. Hello Rosemary, There seem to be so many different areas in this garden. Do you know how many acres it comprises? Sometimes when I see elaborate gardens like this I wonder about the price tag, even when it has been distributed over generations. I had trouble just keeping the grass cut at the houses I lived in--I cannot even imagine starting a garden on this scale!
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I haven't shown all of the different areas here, but I think that it must be at least 4 - 5 acres.
      I understand that this garden is all done by Anne, her husband, and two full time gardeners. They all must work very hard each and everyday to keep it looking as it does.

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  6. What a stunning garden. I imagine the Kiftsgate rose which grew so splendidly in my last garden was named after this one.

    Definitely a garden where you would need some help, but what stunning views and plantings . . .

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    1. Yes, Rosa filipes 'Kiftsgate' is named after the one in this garden. The one at Kiftsgate is claimed to be the largest in England, it produces huge growth every year and three trees have been smothered by its spreading habit. In early to mid July it is a remarkable sight when it is covered in panicles of white blooms resembling a cascading waterfall amongst the trees. However, you have to be very careful with this rose especially in a small garden as it can be a real thug and take over completely.

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  7. Your post brought back some lovely memories of our trip to the Cotswolds, mostly spent in beautiful gardens. I have planted Nepeta this year for the first time.

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    1. I don't know why I have never planted Nepeta in the garden previously, but I am delighted with the small plants that I purchased a few weeks ago. They are already fully grown, flowering prolifically, and making an attractive impact in the garden

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  8. What wonderful gardens. It is amazing that it is looked after by just four people.

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    1. I was surprised that they coped with all of this garden with just two extra helpers.

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  9. Certainly a beautiful garden, love the seats of blue handy to sit on when walking around that garden.

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    1. The blue colour compliments the flowers in the garden.

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  10. The gardens are spectacular, but how many staff would have to work there to maintain the quality? Keeping the paths cleared from the trees, flowers and bushes on both sides would be the first task each week.

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    1. I was really astonished to learn that the gardens are cared for by the owner, her husband, and just two full- time gardeners.

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  11. Best time to see it as well. Plenty of plants in bloom there.

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  12. Such a wonderful place to visit, especially this month with all the roses in bloom. I love the ponds and metal leaves. Also the nepeta. Mine has done really well this year. B x

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    1. It's a garden that has lots of surprises around each corner which I really like.

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  13. Oh, how divine! But what a job for the four busy pairs of hands to keep it looking so magnificent! I love the mix of old and new, and the black water garden looks amazing. I'd never seen the Chilean lantern plant before; what pretty flowers.

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    1. The Chilean lantern tree is unusual. It grows to about 8m tall and is quite bushy. It prefers an edge of woodland setting to give it both shelter and shade.

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  14. Dearest Rosemary,
    Fabulous looking gardens and excellent photos!
    BUT it is way too romanticized by stating that 3 generations of female 'gardeners' created this garden.
    Looking at images of Heather Muir, I can assure you that she never actually did the back breaking work involved in this 6 acre or 2.5 hectare sized garden, also on different levels.
    Like you stated, it is not for the faint of heart!
    Heather's hands looked too fine for ever having tackled such works. Sure, she will have had her 'design' and input in creating the lay out, but there it ends.
    Why all of a sudden giving credit to women? It is the back breaking work of real men who accomplished such gardens of Eden, where we now can walk and photograph.
    We only have 1.2 hectare and both of us did the back breaking work ourselves but no longer can do that. So we have a crew of about 5 coming in regularly.
    Sure, working with roses and growing and breeding new varieties is a possibility and certainly not undeserving. But her hands don't show calluses or anything from real gardening.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - there is a certain amount of truth in what you say depending on how you interpret the word 'create'. Even if she did not do the backbreaking work there is no doubting in my mind that she was the designer and creator of this her own beautiful garden.

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  15. Hello, Rosemary. The garden made up of the dreams and ideas of successive three women touches my heart. The white roses climbing the wall show unstrained vigorous beauty. You have shown us many beautiful gardens which expands both horizontally and vertically. Maybe because you like climbing? Thank you for sharing this fabulous garden.

    Yoko

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    1. Hello Yoko - This vertically challenged garden would be far too steep for me to be able to cope with but I particularly like the fact that this garden gives you wonderful vistas too from so many different advantage points within the garden. I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing it.

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  16. All just so beautiful - that white rose, wow! Makes me feel bad moaning about all the work needed to keep my little 1/4 acre looking neat and tidy!! Gardening is hard work no matter whether a postage stamp plot or several rolling acres I guess - and it's definitely not for the faint of heart, and does get harder as we age of course.
    Interesting about your deer - we can't get rid of the one who seems to have made our 5 houses around the cul-de-sac its new home, day and night. It seems lonely and may be a male rather than female so could have been kicked out of the herd. One neighbor says its eating all the peaches on her tree - even though she has a dog who barks at it but doesn't seem to stop its munching!
    Enjoy your weekend dear - hope is sunny and bright. 90F here today then rain coming back next week.

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    1. Dear Mary - today we are celebrating some rain. It has been so hot and dry that we are both worn out watering all of the pots and borders - are we ever satisfied? it's either too hot, too cold, or too wet.
      I am definitely on a garden theme currently. I picked up a garden visits deal in the BBC Gardener's World magazine which gives 2 for 1 in hundreds of gardens up and down the whole country. Next week we shall cross over the border into Wales for the day and visit a new to us garden there.
      There are so many animals in our garden and in the neighbours too currently, it seems to have all happened during the Pandemic. One neighbour has a huge badger sett now under a very large tree in his garden.

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  17. Amazing garden and lovely photography. The shadows and the sunlight makes these look like paintings. So wonderful that generation after generation kept it all going and improving it along the way.

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    1. I am so pleased that you enjoyed seeing the garden Janey.

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  18. A fabulous garden , a true paradise on earth.

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    1. That's a good description Jane - paradise.

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  19. What a beautiful garden. The Burmese rose is astounding. My last home had a very long garden. I had a David Austen rose that would have rambled the entire length had I not been brutal with pruning. It was a beauty and would like another one but I can't remember its name!

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    1. If it was white then it could well have been Rosa filipes 'Kiftsgate' which David Austen does sell.

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    2. Thank you Rosemary but it was pink. I will do some research.

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  20. What a lovely place! What a garden! LOVE every picture...
    Best wishes for a lovely summer week!
    Titti

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    1. Enjoy your summer too Titti - it is rather alarming to think that we have already reached mid-summer today💚

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  21. What a beautiful place. I hope it goes a hundred more.

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    1. Anne does have a daughter, and I have wondered whether or not she will take it on.

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