Whilst visiting the Cotswolds in late May / early June we returned to one of the National Trust’s most exciting garden for plantsmen, Hidcote Manor. But more about that particular garden later. Within walking distance of Hidcote is Kiftsgate. The fact that it has been created and designed by women intrigued me. As a fan of Gertrude Jekyll I was interested to see what ideas other women could bring to a garden. Bought by Heather Muir and her husband after the Great War the garden was inspired by Hidcote and what Lawrence Johnstone was doing there. But it is a unique garden, not least because of the steep banks to the south of the house and marvellous views over the surrounding countryside; creatively designed and planted over the years by Heather, her daughter Diany Binni and granddaughter Anne Chambers.

Colour plays a large part in the design and forms a rich tapestry. Immediately next to the house and tea-room is Four Squares and Terrace, where a sundial forms the central point. The design is formal and edged by box, but the planting is not. Clumps of showy peonies, roses and honeysuckle mixed with salvia shock you with their beauty and fragrance. On the terrace with views towards Bredon and the Malvern Hills are two large terracotta pots filled with tulips in the spring. As spring was very late this year (2013) they were still blooming. You are then led along the Wide Border with its colour scheme of pinks and purples to the sunken original White Garden where the planting is no longer completely white. Paths lead you through to the new Water Garden which is very different in style being much more contemporary. The twenty-four stainless steel stems are topped with gilded bronze leaves moulded from a philodendron. They sway in the breeze and water drips from the leaves providing a soothing and relaxing tranquil spot in the busy garden.

The steep slopes have been made into terraces and steps lead down to the Lower Garden with views over the Vale of Evesham. Here you find more exotic planting which gives it a Mediterranean feel and there is a half-moon shaped swimming pool. Climbing back up the steep paths to the terrace you are glad to make your way to the tea-room for a glass of something cool. For more information click here.

(click on a photo to accompany me on a walk through this extraordinary garden)

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15 thoughts on “Kiftsgate Court Gardens: three generations of women gardeners

  1. So much to love, Jude! The smiley face of the white cistus always makes me smile back, and that pink peony shot is beautiful. Other favourites are the fountain and that lovely pool. 🙂

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    1. I agree, doors in walls always attract my attention (though I think this particular one led to the public toilets) Glad I found this gem of a garden. It probably gets overlooked because Hidcote is practically next door, but it is very different and again the planting is sensational.

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  2. I’m working my way through your Garden Portraits – what a delight! I visited Hidcote and Kiftsgate many years ago in late May. I was disappointed in Hidcote – it had a very sad institutional feel to it (at that time, at least) but was unexpectedly delighted by Kiftsgate. It had retained more of a personal garden feel, in the details, the plantings and the layout. Perhaps it was that feminine touch 🙂

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    1. Hi composerinthegarden, thanks for visiting my blog and wandering through the gardens with me. Hope you enjoy them! I also think Kiftsgate is a much more natural feeling garden and enjoyed it very much. I rather like Hidcote when the crowds have gone. It’s like Sissinghurst in that respect – too many people. Although I love the Jeykll design with the feeling of outdoor rooms and colours planted in contrasts or tones, I am beginning to find the formality of such planting rather constricting. Visiting Sissinghurst again recently I was struck by how little it had changed over several years. I like to see gardens develop and be reinvented rather than kept almost like a museum. Anyway that’s just my opinion. I still enjoy having a nosey around to find out what plantings are being used and new design features. Perhaps it is the plantsman’s garden that is more interesting now. Great Dixter is rather good in that respect.

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      1. I’ve only been to Sissinghurst once, found it dazzling, but I know what you mean by the museum feel. I grow less impressed by formality – it seems out of keeping with the informality of modern life – and more impressed by the quirky and personal. How lucky you are to be within visiting distance of so many great gardens, though. I look forward to exploring more of them through your eyes 🙂

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