Garden Portrait: Hestercombe Edwardian Formal Garden

When I visit a garden I do so for several reasons – to have a walk in a beautiful place and to admire the planting schemes. When I was without a garden for ten years I used to dream of what I would do when I eventually had one again, filling folders with photos of borders and flowers for inspiration. So when we stopped at Hestercombe although we headed into the landscape garden first to have a good long walk around the grounds,  what I was mostly looking forward to was the Edwardian garden designed by one of my favourite garden designers.

Hestercombe’s Edwardian Garden, designed by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens, was completed in 1908 and is world famous.  The restoration of the gardens began in the 1970s and was completed by 1980.

There is a large Dutch garden at the east end of the site, with intermingled perennials such as China Rose, fuchsia, and dwarf lavender. Daisy strewn steps led us up  whilst cherubs played their instruments above the terrace and on the urns in the garden.

The beautiful Orangery is now often used for weddings and was indeed being set up for one on our visit. They had a perfect day for it.


We continued through into the East Rill terrace through pillars and walls cloaked in clematis and fragrant wisteria.

Here we were faced with the view of the Great Plat – a great sunken parterre laid out with geometric borders edged with stone and ringed with luxuriant bergenia.This formal garden epitomises Lutyens’ classical style with Jekyll’s planting scheme softening the hard lines. It is stunning.

The East and West Rill terraces frame this garden each with a 43-metre rill that runs from a hemispherical dipping pool fed by a water spout to a rectangular water tank at the southern end of the garden.

One of the hemispherical dipping pools

A 70m long oak Pergola runs the length of the Plat and encloses the garden at the bottom allowing it to remain linked to and be part of the surrounding countryside.

Doorways and archways through the walls lead you up and down steps to the various parts of the garden.

And at the bottom is the Pergola, a wonderful walkway full of roses and clematis and those magnificent views.

West Rill Terrace and Pergola

Much of the Formal Garden is built of the grey siltstone: the paving is of morte slate, and also the walling, which is laid in narrow courses with lime mortar raked well back to give the impression of drystone walling.

Great Plat

A third terrace, the Grey Walk, borders the northern edge of the Plat.

The House, the Victorian Terrace and the West Rill hemispherical dipping pool

Leaving the pergola we continued along the West Rill towards the Victorian terrace and the house, which affords the best views over the garden and those distant Blackdown hills.

Victorian Terrace

The magnificent Daisy Steps were designed by Lutyens to link the formal garden and the earlier Georgian Landscape Garden.

Daisy Steps

And now we were back at the entrance and ready for a decent lunch in the Stables courtyard before continuing on our journey home.

Jo’s Monday Walk

48 thoughts on “Garden Portrait: Hestercombe Edwardian Formal Garden

    • I have three blogs! 😂 But this one has taken a back seat for a while. The only gardens that I have visited for years have been in Cornwall, so posted on the Cornish blog.

      • Wow! That must keep you busy. I have missed travelling about and garden visiting throughout the pandemic. Apart from fairly regular visits to Beth Chatto, I haven’t visited any gardens.

  1. What an enjoyable garden tour! I haven’t been to visit a garden in ages but this felt as if I was having a happy wander around there of a sunny summer day – just what’s needed on a chilly and damp November morning. 🙂

      • Sounds good, especially the heat! We visited there but it was way back in 2006 (I think). A return visit is long overdue -actually, any garden visit is long overdue!

  2. Well…this – is – a garden! Wonderful walk! I have a dream to go to England just to visit some of your fantastic gardens. I have a friend who is a real garden freak, and she and I have talked about going together. I’d have to have a list of some gardens where there maybe is a tour to go.

    • So many beautiful gardens. You need to pick an area you would like to visit and then make a list of the gardens. Kent has lots of amazing gardens. As does the Cotswolds, Cornwall and Norfolk. If you look on my Gardens Around the World page you will find a list of gardens from different regions.
      https://smallbluegreenflowers.wordpress.com/gardens/
      And of course there are day coach trips to a lot of the famous gardens from London e.g. Sissinghurst and Hidcote. As well as some tours that cover several gardens over a 3 – 4 day holiday though these can be quite expensive. If you drive it is cheaper to have a base and drive yourself to the gardens.

      • Thank you so much for this list, Jude! Much appreciated! I will consult my friend too, but none of us are good drivers on the “wrong” side…

  3. Whenever I see images of old/ancient gardens such as these with their manicured lawns I wonder, in the absence of any sort of lawnmower, the incredible effort it too to keep those lawns so perfect!
    As much as I love my own lawn I always pull a face when I have to haul out the mower!

    A lovely walk.

    • Well this formal garden wasn’t created until 1904 when there were lawnmowers. I guess sheep were used to keep parkland grass short, and still are! I don’t mind mowing, but hate edging lawns.

    • Thanks for the follow Suzanne. This blog has been somewhat neglected over the past 18 months since we haven’t left Cornwall. Hoping to change that next year, but who knows! Meanwhile enjoy your wanderings around Auckland – have you visited the Botanic Gardens there in Manurewa? Unfortunately I never got to see them, though I did enjoy the Winter Gardens in Auckland Domain.

      • Much of the Covid cases are out towards South Auckland and because of Les I can’t really wander too far away. Not much wandering just a small footprint this time around. I used to live in Auckland when I was a wild free woman 😉

  4. What a wonderful garden, Jude – we haven’t had a visit to anywhere in the SW for years and need several concentrated garden visiting breaks to remedy this!

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