BY ANNE CHAMBERS
Our centenary year has resulted in a wonderful season with record number of visitors, helped by the release of our book and the ensuing publicity. Later in the season the BBC Gardeners World programme on the television boosted numbers in August and September. Now we are closed and Philip has nearly finished cutting all the hedges and work on the garden can begin in earnest.
We have decided to take out the barberry hedge that my mother planted back in the seventies. It was the first thing one saw when you entered the garden and it was beginning to die back which is not surprising as it is fifty years old! However we are going to replant with the same berberis Rose Glow as we really like the structure and colour in that position. To add interest in the Spring we are also planting tulip Havran amongst the new plants as it all looks rather bare and small at the moment.
The dahlias have been fantastic this year, both in the garden and the kitchen garden where I have a cutting bed. They really respond to frequent picking and we have had bunches of dahlias in the house throughout September and October.
Vanessa Berridge, the author of our book and I were asked to speak at the Cheltenham Literary Festival last week. All rather daunting but it seemed to go well with an audience of over three hundred people. The feedback has been good and we also sold quite a few books!
Johnny and I are also going to America to lecture at the end of the month which is exciting. The Royal Oak Foundation have invited us and we are giving three talks in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. Then we will combine it with seeing our daughter Clare in Houston and wedding celebrations of our son Patrick in Mexico so lots to look forward to.
by Anne chambers
A very busy August mainly due to the Gardeners World programme which was shown at the end of July, some visitors returning after thirty years!
We managed to get away to Devon and Cornwall for five days which was wonderful and very relaxing. Whilst there we visited The Garden House at Buckland Monachorum which I must admit we had not visited for about thirty years! Lionel Fortescue the creator was a friend of my mothers and I remember him coming to stay here when I was a child. Now it is run by a Trust but the bones of the walled garden have not changed and are still very charming and full of good plants.
We also visited Iford Manor where Troy Scott Smith is now employed having left Sissinghurst after seven years. Again we had not been there for some time but now the next generation have taken over so lots of work in progress and it will be exciting to see the changes that will no doubt take place. We were amazed by the size of the lobelia tupa and have decided ours must be in the wrong place so will try some on the steep banks in poor soil and sun.
Our agapanthus all flowered very well this year and the agapanthus Queen Mother which we bought from Avondale nursery have been spectacular, such a vast flower and they have been out for weeks.
The season is drawing to a close, we have had a brilliant but hectic year and it has been wonderful to welcome so many people to the garden.
A final reminder! The vote for GOYA 19 closes at the end of September so, if you haven’t already done so, please click this link https://www.historichouses.org/goya2019.html , select Kiftsgate and vote for us as the Garden of the Year.
by Anne Chambers
What a difference a bit of television exposure makes! We have been incredibly busy after our brief appearance on Gardeners World. Luckily the garden is still looking good but most of the old fashioned roses have now finished flowering. One exception is Rosa Bengal Scarlet which rather like the other china rose mutabalis repeat flowers throughout the season and is such an lovely sight.
The astilbes have also now come into their own with the astilbe sprite hedge that my mother planted looking stunning and enjoying the wet days that we are experiencing now and then.
The yellow border is also performing well, it has a lull after the spring and then really sparkles in the late summer with crocosmia, heleniums and agapanthus adding to the colour scheme of orange, yellow and blue. The turks head lilies also add height and variation, but think I must add some more yellow ones next year.
I had a good week in Scotland with the Garden Club of America and the gardens were looking marvellous, much less dry than last year and luckily for us we only had one wet day which was a miracle!
We are off to Devon and Cornwall for a summer relaxing break next week, no doubt a garden or two and a nursery will be visited but it is mainly to catch our breath after such a busy year.
BY ANNE CHAMBERS
After a very wet June the garden has benefited and is looking spectacular. Everything, including the roses are in full flower and sadly now our task is dead heading to encourage re-flowering.
The lilies from Hyde and Co have been brilliant and work so well in a large pot as well as throughout the borders. The scent in the evening is overwhelming and although the regale are full out there are more varieties to come in succession throughout the month.
Also our blue and grey combination pots are looking good. I think the secret is to plant them with small specimens to begin with in May, otherwise they grow too large and begin to flop and break later in the season.
The four squares combinations seem to have worked well too with salvias, dianthus carthusianorum and aconitum carneum all contributing together with rosa Our Beth which is a particularly pretty shade of pink. The salvia candelabra have been flowering for weeks and are such an excellent addition to any border.
Because Philip, our lead gardener, has staked the delphiniums so expertly, they have remained upright and again are putting on a magnificent show with the Graham Thomas roses and lilies in the yellow border.
We had a visit from the BBC Gardeners World team last week. Rachel de Thame, who lives locally was the presenter and we spent a very happy and hot day walking round the garden. Hopefully it will be shown on BBC2 later this month but no firm date yet.
I am off to Scotland again with the Garden Club of America for a week of looking at gardens which is always fun and hoping we have a sunny dry week as we did last year.
by anne chambers
What a wonderful time of year, the whole garden smells of mock orange and other delicious scents. Every day reveals fresh blooms in each border and so much more to come. Anticipation is one of the joys of gardening and each year reveals a slightly differing canvas. Having had a beautiful May, June is providing us with much needed rain. Good for the plants but not so good for our visitors.
Johnny and I visited the Chelsea flower show this year, arriving at 8 am we had a wonderful two or three hours before it became incredibly crowded. Johnny who had not been for several years really noticed the absence of all the smaller nurseries in the marquee and presumably this is because it is now so expensive to exhibit there. We did however much enjoy the displays of all the stunning varieties and couldn’t help but admire the display of vegetables on Medwyn’s of Anglesey stand.
We particularly liked Chris Beardshaw’s show garden which had the most interesting planting and variety of plants.
What happens if you leave a few poppies to seed on the rubbish heap in the nursery ? You can quite see why it thrives in the poor soil of Afghanistan !
The planting on the banks, damaged by the branches falling two winters ago, has really taken off. Star at the moment is the echium Red Rocket that we bought in Yorkshire while visiting Newby Gardens. We are hoping that it will seed as it would be great to have it flourishing there.
The joy of the garden in June is so special and we are looking forward for the roses to flower so we can wander round in the evening and soak in the scent.
by anne chambers
Spring is finally here after a chilly spell after our hot Easter. Everything is looking so fresh and vibrant with all the different shades of green really shining in the sunlight.
I had a wonderful week in Houston with daughter Clare and David and grandson Jack who is now walking non-stop! They have got a lovely house in a very green area with parks and walks all close by. We visited a nursery to buy containers and plants for their roof terrace which was fun, a great selection of tender plants as it is so hot and humid there with lots of rainfall. The magnolia grandifloras were in full flower and looking stunning as were hedges of trachelospermum which seemed to grow everywhere. I was rather jealous as our tiny plant is still struggling to get going up the wall in the lower garden!
The tree peonies have flowered beautifully this year as have the deutzias, I think last summer’s hot weather ripened the wood and has really helped to make things flower particularly well. We look forward to seeing how the roses perform.
The rose that is full out now and looking stunning is La Folette which despite being tender and I associate with the South of France has covered the rooves of the garden loos and out-buildings.
We have had wonderful publicity for our book with articles in House and Garden, the Telegraph and the Financial Times, (all on our website). Vanessa Berridge and I spoke at the Chipping Campden literary festival and are going to the Winchcombe Festival and to Coton Manor to speak in June.
Lots of planting going on and we are now putting in the lilies from Hyde and Co as well as the dahlias that we dug up in the autumn. Off to Chelsea next week which I am much looking forward to as haven’t been for several years.
BY ANNE CHAMBERS
It has been an exciting start to the season with the publication of our book ( ‘Kiftsgate Court Gardens , Three Generations of Women Gardeners’ . ISBN 978-I-8589-4669-6 ) and a launch party at the Garden Museum in London. We had a wonderful evening with many friends and supporters. The museum is also hosting an exhibition on Kiftsgate until the beginning of June with beautiful photos and family letters and memorabilia from our archives.
It is still really cold at night and even during the day, but the garden is on the move and the bluebells are surprisingly early and nearly full out. It will certainly be a ‘bluebell’ Easter this year as the daffodils are almost over. I also noticed the first abutilon flower this morning and lilies and peonies are bursting through the soil.
We had a wonderful first visit to Morton Hall near Redditch, this week. It is a stunning garden and at this time of year their meadows are full of beautiful fritillaries and narcissus, a sight to behold. Anna Olivieri is a passionate gardener and has a keen eye for detail and colour which really shows in her attention to detail. They are having a Tulip festival at the beginning of May which will be well worth seeing. Do have a look at their website for details.
We also returned to the Laskett and lunch with Sir Roy Strong who showed us his garden and his latest creation, the Belvedere, built last year. We have seen the garden evolve over the last twenty five years and it is extraordinary to see what he and his late wife, Julia Trevelyan Oman, created and developed. While the original framework has remained, so much has been added it is always a thrill to see a new vista, a new statue, a new border and, over recent years the addition of plants! The Belvedere gives another perspective to his garden and looking down on all his marvellous topiary and vistas is a joy. A dutch friend gives Roy six hundred tulips each year and this is the result.
I am off to Houston Texas at the end of the month to see daughter Clare and family which will be a treat but then home in May when no doubt we will begin to get really busy again.
BY ANNE CHAMBERS
March is always a busy month for us preparing for our opening on 1st April. After the balmy weather of February we now have gale force winds and rain and much lower temperatures. However the garden is still advanced and the magnolias have been stunning this year.
We are also very pleased with a beautiful osmanthus yunnanensis which we bought several years ago at Pan Global, lovely glossy green foliage and a highly scented flower.
The other plant that has flowered incredibly well is clematis armandi which now covers the whole of the railings round the little pond in the lower garden. Anything that flowers early is always a joy and stands out against the bare winter scene.
We visited the Garden Museum in Lambeth for the opening of Emma Tennant’s flower painting exhibition which we much enjoyed. It is here that we too are having an exhibition to mark our centenary as a garden and also to coincide with the publication of our book ‘Kiftsgate Court Gardens, three generations of women gardeners’. The book has been written by Vanessa Berridge and the photographs were taken over two years by Sabina Ruber.
The exhibition starts on April 10th and goes onto June 10th so lots of opportunity to go and visit. The exhibition includes many letters over the decades from notable gardeners, a portrait of my mother by Aubrey Waterfield as well as one of Aubrey’s painted panels from in the house, and to round it off, a film made last year of the garden with a running commentary by me!
We have also been nominated for the newly reformed Historic Houses/Christies Garden of the Year Award for 2019. This year all members of the public are encouraged to vote online by going to their new web page at www.historichouses.org/goya2019.html so am hoping that lots of people having visited the garden will feel happy to vote for us.
BY ANNE CHAMBERS
Warmth is returning to the earth, the days are noticeably longer and the birds are breaking into song again. The crocus are in full bloom in the sunshine and have really spread in the white sunk garden and by the entrance gate.
Sadly Clare and David and Jack are now in Houston for a few years but seem to be settling in well and have found a house with a roof garden which I have been told I have to plant when I visit in April! However we had a wonderful week in Grenada with friends. Beautiful warm sea and very tropical vegetation. We visited several gardens including the Palm Tree Garden ( www.palmtreegardenslaura.com ) which was created by Lawrence Lambert around twenty years ago. He is a tremendous enthusiast and very green fingered and of course with their climate everything grows incredibly well and quickly.
Only six weeks till we open again on April 1st and as always Tom and Philip flat out cleaning up the banks and lower garden. The swimming pool has been emptied and has got to be repainted this year but luckily with the warm mild conditions it should dry out fairly quickly. We noticed unusual damage to the base of the lead urns in the lower garden. Our only surmise is that the local squirrels are using them for their manicure! Can anyone else come up with a possible explanation.
by Anne Chambers
Somehow December’s diary never got written and here we are in 2019 so Happy New Year to everyone. We seem to have been very hectic with a wonderful Christmas in Scotland with my sister and then Johnny’s seventieth birthday celebrations in Vienna and London with the family.
It is going to be another busy year with the publication of a book to mark the one hundred years since the family started to garden here. The Garden History Museum are kindly organizing a book launch in April with our publisher Hugh Merrill and then having a small exhibition in the Museum which will run until the end of May. Vanessa Berridge has researched and written the book and Sabrina Ruber has taken wonderful photographs over the past two years. Robin Lane Fox has written a preface and I have written a small piece for the end. All very exciting and can’t wait to see the finished article which is at the moment with the printers in China.
We have also now appointed new caterers for the tearoom, Cotswold Catering, to take over when we open in April. They are a well established organization with years of experience so we are looking forward to working with them and expect to maintain the very high standard which Lutti Bates achieved when she was in charge.
We are experiencing a very mild winter so far with the snowdrops already flowering, a contrast to last year, but the Beast from the East might be returning in February so winter is not over yet. The prunus incisa praecox is now in full flower, a beautiful tree covered in the palest pink/white flowers before the leaves appear.
We have just returned from a weekend in Kircubrightshire and visited the walled garden nursery at Cally in Gatehouse of Fleet. This used to be run by Michael Wickenden who sadly died two years ago. It has recently been bought by Kevin Hughes who used to work at Spinners Nursery before owning his own nursery at Heale House. He is full of enthusiasm but has a lot of work to do restoring the garden which has been neglected for some years. A very exciting project and it will be fascinating to return and see how he is bringing it back to its former glory.