We met some friends for lunch on Saturday at the Three Ways House Hotel in Mickleton near Chipping Camden, home of the famous ‘Pudding Club’, where we had a catch-up and a delicious lunch. The reason we chose Mickleton is so that we could enjoy our first visit to Kiftsgate Court Gardens in the afternoon. For anyone reading this from another planet, Kiftsgate is the famous house and gardens created in the twenties by Heather Muir, carried on in the fifties by her daughter Diany Binny and now in the care of her Granddaughter, Anne Chambers.
The world famous Kiftsgate rose, Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’, claimed to be the largest rose in England, is now grown by those select few with the vast space needed for it’s rampant but beautiful climbing and sprawling habit. The original rose planted in the 1930s is still going strong at 20 metres high and 25 metres long and now covering three trees in the Rose border.
On arriving at Kiftsgate you are greeted by several tables of plants for sale including, of course, the Kiftsgate rose whetting the appetite for later! The house and gardens stand high in the Cotswold Hills overlooking Malvern and the Vale of Evesham to the south west. Built in 1887 by Sydney Graves Hamilton, the design is a strange mixture of Victorian and Georgian with a grand Italian inspired high portico moved piece by piece from nearby Mickleton Manor.
The house was bought by Heather Muir and her husband after the first world war in 1918 and she set about terracing the hillside and installing stone paths and steps winding their way down the banks to begin what was to become one of the most famous and important gardens in England.
As everybody knows, Spring has been a month late this year so the gardens were not quite into their stride but nevertheless there was still lots of colour thanks to bulbs, magnolias and rhododendrons which were a surprise given the almost certainly alkaline conditions. It was the carefully planned colour combinations that impressed me most and reminded me that gardening is, after all, an art form. Colour, light and shade, shape, form and texture create pictures and images which, for me, are just as valid as anything painted by an artist.
It was subtle touches like this simple pot of lilac tulips against the green box hedging and grey paths that inspired me. Kiftsgate is literally next door to Hidcote Manor Garden which we will visit several times this year with our National Trust membership. It is always good to go back to a garden in different seasons and we will certainly be back to Kiftsgate for the roses in a month or so and again later in the year.
A truly elegant and thoughtfully created garden.