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Kiftsgate Court gardens

PUBLISHED: 10:53 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 08:56 21 February 2013

Gilded bronze philodendron leaves sparkle in the sunshine in the New Water Garden

Gilded bronze philodendron leaves sparkle in the sunshine in the New Water Garden

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 Johnson 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.



Against the house, the magnificent large-leaved Magnolia delavayii covers a wide expanse of wall, while wisteria and Rosa 'Blairii Number Two' wrap themselves around the pillars of the Georgian portico. In a sheltered corner, acacia and a Banksian rose thrive.



Rosa 'Phyllis Bide' is a recent addition, seen growing in another garden and chosen because its flowers - a mixture of cream, yellow and pink - complement the Cotswold stone.



"One has to go around other people's gardens as you still get ideas about different plants."



In one corner there is a bed devoted to red - one of the few places the colour is found at Kiftsgate.



"We don't have red borders here," says Anne. "We didn't want to compete with Hidcote."



In summer the red comes from roses 'Lilli Marlene', 'Frensham' and 'Europeana' and there is also purple cotinus, heuchera and Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'.



The sunken garden was originally designed to be white - following the example of Sissinghurst - but over the years other colours have crept in. Sheltered by tall hedges and the house, it is a peaceful retreat, filled with the scent of daphne in winter.



Many of the plants are small treasures that would be lost in the main borders - trilliums, dianthus and gentians. There are big clumps of 'Hidcote Giant' lavender, several deutzia, alliums, agapanthus and Rosa sericea 'Heather Muir', which has single, white blooms.



"It always flowers really well and early."



In the centre is a fountain, bought by Diany Binny at Chelsea and made in the Pyrenees. The gently falling water adds to the tranquil atmosphere.



A deep hydrangea border provides late summer interest, along with asters, toad lilies, rodgersia, Japanese anemones and hostas.



Also at its best later in the year is the yellow border with its splashes of contrasting blue and orange. Height comes from golden and purple-leaved acers and elaeagnus. There are delphiniums, hemerocallis and agapanthus, the late-flowering Kirengeshoma palmata, with its yellow blooms, and Hypericum olympicum 'Citrinum', whose lemon flowers are far daintier than those of its more commonly grown cousin. Nearby, ligularia and hostas make a tapestry of foliage under the trees.



"Leaf colours are sometimes more important than flowers because they go on much longer. We take them for granted but they punctuate things."



The wide border is a mixture of shrubs and perennials from weigela and buddleia to geraniums and campanulas. Actually two borders either side of a sinewy grass path, it is a glorious kaleidoscope of colour.



"It has a rather wiggly path," admits Anne. "I quite like things growing over."



Indeed, she believes the relaxed feel of Kiftsgate is due to the female influence on it.



"People say it's a much more feminine garden than Hidcote. It's not as straight and rigid."



Among the curiosities of the wide border is the Dictamnus albus purpureus - both the white and purple forms are found throughout the garden. Known as the burning bush, its flowers have an aromatic oil and its oddly shaped seedheads give autumn interest.



"You have got to think early and late," Anne comments. "We've got bulbs in spring and later on hydrangeas and anemones."



One plant that gives a long season of interest is Hydrangea zanthoneura wilsonii, whose creamy white blooms last from June to September. A magnificent specimen is set against a tapestry hedge, the flowers contrasting with the holly, copper beech and yew. This area has slightly more acid soil and is home to azaleas and rhododendrons.



The famous Kiftsgate rose is found in the rose border, where it engulfs three trees. Bought in the 1930s by Heather Muir as a moschata rose, it was later identified as a vigorous form of Rosa filipes by rose expert Graham Stuart Thomas and named after the garden. In the meantime the nurseryman had died and so there is no record of the rose's parentage.



Today it is 20m high and 25m long and would be much bigger if it were not hacked back annually.



A low hedge of Rosa mundi, planted by Heather Muir, edges the narrow brick path through the rose border. Some have reverted to plain crimson but the effect in late June is still stunning. Behind, roses are grown on frames, adding height and allowing an underplanting of phlox, geraniums, penstemon and salvias to extend the season of interest. A smaller path, edged with Astilbe 'Sprite' makes a decorative feature.



At one end a clipped arch of whitebeam frames a statue by Simon Verity, commissioned by Diany Binny. Ferns and grasses add texture to this green retreat.



The land at Kiftsgate falls away steeply on one side to a valley below and Heather Muir's inspiration for tackling this came from the gardens of the South of France - a favourite winter destination in those days. Once thickly wooded, today the bank is one of Kiftsgate's most memorable features, with terraces and huge pines creating a feeling of the Mediterranean in the heart of the Cotswolds.



Narrow, steep paths lead down past plants clinging to the soil on narrow terraces under Scots and Monterey pines.



"The bank is very dry and steep and quite hard work. You plant two things and one dies. You have to keep on battling."



Drought tolerant plants, such as ceanothus, rosemary, pittosporum and cistus, all do well, while lower down the warm microclimate allows echium, agave and even bananas to thrive.



There's a summerhouse halfway offering wonderful views and a choice of tiny paths.



"It's not an old person's garden," Anne admits. "You've got to be quite agile."



The garden opens out into an expanse of lawn hemmed by a ha-ha overlooking fields. At its centre is a half-moon swimming pool, introduced by Diany Binny, and now painted black so that it fits the garden setting better. The sheltered borders around it are home to many tender plants, including olearia, Euphorbia mellifera and abutilon.



Each generation has put its own mark on Kiftsgate and Anne's main addition has been the new water garden. Once the tennis court, it is a lesson in simplicity and elegance. Tall yew hedges surround a rectangular pool of black water, punctuated only by a smaller rectangle of 'floating' grass and white stepping stones. At one end, water cascades from gilded bronze philodendron leaves on stainless steel stems, sculpted by Simon Allison. It is the perfect contrast to the colour-filled borders elsewhere.



Part of Kiftsgate's charm is the sense of history that envelops it. Several of the plants date back to the garden's early days and all three women have developed it while respecting what they have inherited.



"There are things from my grandmother, my mother and us. Each generation has put in plants that have lasted the course."



Kiftsgate Court is near Chipping Campden, adjacent to Hidcote Manor Garden. It is open on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday during August and September from 2pm to 6pm. It is open for the National Gardens Scheme on August 13. Admission is 5.50 adults, 1.50 for children under 16. For more information, call 01386 438777 or visit www.kiftsgate.co.uk


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 Johnson 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.



Against the house, the magnificent large-leaved Magnolia delavayii covers a wide expanse of wall, while wisteria and Rosa 'Blairii Number Two' wrap themselves around the pillars of the Georgian portico. In a sheltered corner, acacia and a Banksian rose thrive.



Rosa 'Phyllis Bide' is a recent addition, seen growing in another garden and chosen because its flowers - a mixture of cream, yellow and pink - complement the Cotswold stone.



"One has to go around other people's gardens as you still get ideas about different plants."



In one corner there is a bed devoted to red - one of the few places the colour is found at Kiftsgate.



"We don't have red borders here," says Anne. "We didn't want to compete with Hidcote."



In summer the red comes from roses 'Lilli Marlene', 'Frensham' and 'Europeana' and there is also purple cotinus, heuchera and Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'.



The sunken garden was originally designed to be white - following the example of Sissinghurst - but over the years other colours have crept in. Sheltered by tall hedges and the house, it is a peaceful retreat, filled with the scent of daphne in winter.



Many of the plants are small treasures that would be lost in the main borders - trilliums, dianthus and gentians. There are big clumps of 'Hidcote Giant' lavender, several deutzia, alliums, agapanthus and Rosa sericea 'Heather Muir', which has single, white blooms.



"It always flowers really well and early."



In the centre is a fountain, bought by Diany Binny at Chelsea and made in the Pyrenees. The gently falling water adds to the tranquil atmosphere.



A deep hydrangea border provides late summer interest, along with asters, toad lilies, rodgersia, Japanese anemones and hostas.



Also at its best later in the year is the yellow border with its splashes of contrasting blue and orange. Height comes from golden and purple-leaved acers and elaeagnus. There are delphiniums, hemerocallis and agapanthus, the late-flowering Kirengeshoma palmata, with its yellow blooms, and Hypericum olympicum 'Citrinum', whose lemon flowers are far daintier than those of its more commonly grown cousin. Nearby, ligularia and hostas make a tapestry of foliage under the trees.



"Leaf colours are sometimes more important than flowers because they go on much longer. We take them for granted but they punctuate things."



The wide border is a mixture of shrubs and perennials from weigela and buddleia to geraniums and campanulas. Actually two borders either side of a sinewy grass path, it is a glorious kaleidoscope of colour.



"It has a rather wiggly path," admits Anne. "I quite like things growing over."



Indeed, she believes the relaxed feel of Kiftsgate is due to the female influence on it.



"People say it's a much more feminine garden than Hidcote. It's not as straight and rigid."



Among the curiosities of the wide border is the Dictamnus albus purpureus - both the white and purple forms are found throughout the garden. Known as the burning bush, its flowers have an aromatic oil and its oddly shaped seedheads give autumn interest.



"You have got to think early and late," Anne comments. "We've got bulbs in spring and later on hydrangeas and anemones."



One plant that gives a long season of interest is Hydrangea zanthoneura wilsonii, whose creamy white blooms last from June to September. A magnificent specimen is set against a tapestry hedge, the flowers contrasting with the holly, copper beech and yew. This area has slightly more acid soil and is home to azaleas and rhododendrons.



The famous Kiftsgate rose is found in the rose border, where it engulfs three trees. Bought in the 1930s by Heather Muir as a moschata rose, it was later identified as a vigorous form of Rosa filipes by rose expert Graham Stuart Thomas and named after the garden. In the meantime the nurseryman had died and so there is no record of the rose's parentage.



Today it is 20m high and 25m long and would be much bigger if it were not hacked back annually.



A low hedge of Rosa mundi, planted by Heather Muir, edges the narrow brick path through the rose border. Some have reverted to plain crimson but the effect in late June is still stunning. Behind, roses are grown on frames, adding height and allowing an underplanting of phlox, geraniums, penstemon and salvias to extend the season of interest. A smaller path, edged with Astilbe 'Sprite' makes a decorative feature.



At one end a clipped arch of whitebeam frames a statue by Simon Verity, commissioned by Diany Binny. Ferns and grasses add texture to this green retreat.



The land at Kiftsgate falls away steeply on one side to a valley below and Heather Muir's inspiration for tackling this came from the gardens of the South of France - a favourite winter destination in those days. Once thickly wooded, today the bank is one of Kiftsgate's most memorable features, with terraces and huge pines creating a feeling of the Mediterranean in the heart of the Cotswolds.



Narrow, steep paths lead down past plants clinging to the soil on narrow terraces under Scots and Monterey pines.



"The bank is very dry and steep and quite hard work. You plant two things and one dies. You have to keep on battling."



Drought tolerant plants, such as ceanothus, rosemary, pittosporum and cistus, all do well, while lower down the warm microclimate allows echium, agave and even bananas to thrive.



There's a summerhouse halfway offering wonderful views and a choice of tiny paths.



"It's not an old person's garden," Anne admits. "You've got to be quite agile."



The garden opens out into an expanse of lawn hemmed by a ha-ha overlooking fields. At its centre is a half-moon swimming pool, introduced by Diany Binny, and now painted black so that it fits the garden setting better. The sheltered borders around it are home to many tender plants, including olearia, Euphorbia mellifera and abutilon.



Each generation has put its own mark on Kiftsgate and Anne's main addition has been the new water garden. Once the tennis court, it is a lesson in simplicity and elegance. Tall yew hedges surround a rectangular pool of black water, punctuated only by a smaller rectangle of 'floating' grass and white stepping stones. At one end, water cascades from gilded bronze philodendron leaves on stainless steel stems, sculpted by Simon Allison. It is the perfect contrast to the colour-filled borders elsewhere.



Part of Kiftsgate's charm is the sense of history that envelops it. Several of the plants date back to the garden's early days and all three women have developed it while respecting what they have inherited.



"There are things from my grandmother, my mother and us. Each generation has put in plants that have lasted the course."



Kiftsgate Court is near Chipping Campden, adjacent to Hidcote Manor Garden. It is open on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday during August and September from 2pm to 6pm. It is open for the National Gardens Scheme on August 13. Admission is 5.50 adults, 1.50 for children under 16. For more information, call 01386 438777 or visit www.kiftsgate.co.uk


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