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Kiftsgate Court gardens

PUBLISHED: 10:42 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:46 20 February 2013

Three generations have shaped the memorable gardens at Kiftsgate Court. Words and pictures by Mandy Bradshaw

Mention Kiftsgate and most gardeners think of the rose that bears its name, a beautiful but rampant monster that is reputed to be the biggest in England. Yet there is more to this Cotswold garden than mere roses. Arguably overshadowed by its famous neighbour Hidcote, Kiftsgate Court nonetheless shares some of its characteristics - strong design and inspirational planting.

The garden's history is dominated by women: started by Heather Muir nearly 90 years ago, it was passed to her daughter Diany Binny and today is cared for by her daughter Anne Chambers.

Anne, who runs Kiftsgate with her husband Johnny, explains that it is a task that she took on gradually, learning the ropes as she worked alongside her mother.
"She would say 'Come and watch me prune this or do that'. We learned by watching her.

"None of us had any proper training but we learned from one another."

When Anne's grandparents bought Kiftsgate just after the first world war, there was no garden and it is not clear that Heather Muir ever intended to create one.

"She met Lawrence Johnston and, being a neighbour, went around Hidcote and saw what he had done," explains Anne. "I think he encouraged her."

Starting around the house, she put in paths and hedges to create smaller areas, along the lines of Hidcote, always working by eye and putting nothing down on paper.

Much of the planting was colour-themed and this has been used as a guide by the subsequent generations. Near the house, four, square beds around a sundial have a mixture of mainly pinks and mauves. Roses and peonies are underplanted with sedum, salvias and penstemon and there is deutzia, dicentra and geranium. The effect is of an abundance of plants restrained only by the clipped low box hedges.

You can read the full version of this article in the August issue of Cotswold Life, on sale now.

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