|First view of the terrace at Kiftsgate Court in early summer|
Gloucestershire has more than its fair share of glorious gardens and if you're making the pilgrimage to Hidcote Manor, you must also visit Kiftsgate Court. It's a very different garden, but shares wonderful views over the Vale of Evesham, and is a tribute to the three generations of women gardeners who've made it what it is today. And it's right opposite Hidcote Manor, so a must see if you've made the effort to see Lawrence Johnston's garden, which has received of a £3.5 million makeover in the last decade.
|The wide border at Kiftsgate Court|
Kiftsgate was built at the end of the 19th century and provides a magnificent backdrop for the gardens created there in the last 90 years. It has a Georgian front with a high portico, which can be seen from various parts of the garden and is still used as a family home, but unlike so many other properties where the house dominates the landscape, it's the gardens here at Kiftsgate that will make you gasp. And at this time of year, most of the garden is in bloom - from the moment you walk in and are greeted by the magnificent roses, to the glorious white garden; the rose border; and the lower garden overlooking the Vale of Evesham towards the Malvern Hills (below).
|View over the half-moon pool and the Vale of Evesham|
The garden was originally planted by Heather Muir in the 1920s. She had help from her closest neighbour, Lawrence Johnston of Hidcote, but Kiftsgate has stayed in private hands and has been cosseted by two further generations of women gardeners, so retains a sense of intimacy and charm and feels like a family home. You'll find the famous 'Kiftsgate' rose (Rosa filipes 'Kiftsgate') in full bloom if you visit in June and July, although current owner Anne Chambers likens it to a "triffid" if kept unchecked!
Leaving the heavenly scented formal gardens behind, you'll find yourself in the sheltered Lower Garden with its half moon swimming pool overlooking the Malvern Hills (above) - and as you wander through the huge Monterey pines, you'll find many exotic plants including echium and agave, sheltered from winter frost on the banks leading down to the pool. You'd be forgiven for thinking you've walked into an entirely different climate here, because it's so different.
And don't miss the amazing Water Garden (above) - a modern masterpiece commissioned by the present owners, where 24 swaying bronze leaves designed by sculptor Simon Allison reflect in the black water of the rectangular pond, complete with stepping stones inspired by the moat at Sutton Place. This is a place to sit and reflect on what you've already seen in this amazing garden. But do make sure you don't miss the Lower Garden (below) even if it is a steep climb - there are many tender and unusual plants here.
Kiftsgate Court is open from May to end of July five days a week from 12.00-18.00 and during August from 14.00-18.00. Check website for opening times outside main season. Closed Thursday and Friday. Admission is £7.00 for adults and £2.50 for children. Free to HHA members.