Kiftsgate Court, Gloucestershire, UK

Rose of the Cotswolds

Review: Angela Collins

Garden visiting and moules mariniere, go hand in hand – you know it is time to go visiting gardens when there isn’t an R in the month.

And so it is that I find myself standing in the forecourt of Kiftstgate Garden – one of England’s greatest gardens – and it takes me back 31 years to when my sister was asked by the Late Diana Binny, “Are you mad?” after picking up not one but two Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ to plant in her own garden.  She meekly put one back.  The one she kept now flourishes over two trees, one ruined building and has its beady eye on her house.

In the rose borders today this lovely Kiftsgate rose resides along with burgundy-coloured Rosa ‘William Shakespeare’, pink Rosa ‘Tour de Malakoff’, and every rose you have ever wanted.   It is a thing of wondrous beauty during June, and most of July inspiring three generations of great (and necessarily energetic) lady gardeners: Heather Muir, Diana Binny and the present and devoted owner of the garden, Anne Chambers – along with her husband Johnny.

Taking the garden into the 21st century, the Chambers have turned the old tennis court into “modern abstract” green space enhanced by Simon Allison’s leaf sculpture.   It is a lovely spot in which to collect one’s thoughts in between exploring the plants.

As you enter the main garden a line of Pennisetum ‘Red Buttons’ greets you tantalisingly as if to say, “This isn’t all about roses, this garden”.   We know.

Kiftsgate is a timeless garden where zillions of perennials rest on the shoulders of roses and shrubs that you desire, but know will take time and patience to establish.  Be brave, plant that Itea ilicifolia next to Garrya elliptica and you will be rewarded by a clearly happy marriage as they scrabble together.  Plant all or one of those amazing hydrangeas you see in The Bridge Border.  (Namely, Hydrangea aspera, Hydrangea xanthoneura wilsonii and Hydrangea paniculatum.)

If I was allowed to take home only one shrub it would be Deutzia setchuensis corymbiflora which was looking wonderful in the White Garden.  But so was the Buddleia crispa in The Four Squares. Tricky.

And the trees?….Hoheria Lyalli and Hoheria Glory of Amlwych.  The rose would be the Rosa ‘American Pillar’ which languishes on top of a low wall under the Palladian pillars of the house.  And the smattering of perennials in my basket would be Geranium pratense plenum violaceum, Phlox ‘Mrs. Millie van Holboken’, Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Paradise’ and all the penstemons,  still looking wonderful after a broiling July.

Roll on September, when we can eat mussels AND go to more gardens.

Not to be missed

The view through the pines to the half-moon pool below.   If you have strong ankles and cloven hooves walk down the steps to the pool and enjoy the view to the Malvern Hills and walking back up the steps some of the best planted banks in England.

Quibble

I was too late for lemon cake.

Other gardens nearby

Hidcote Manor and Sezincote.

How to get there

Kiftsgate is three miles from Chipping Camden.  Follow the brown tourist signs to Hidcote and Mickleton.