June's Featured Garden
Ask most gardeners what the name ‘Kiftsgate’ brings to mind and you will probably be told a rose – a very vigorous rose. For ‘Kiftsgate’ is a named cultivar of Rosa filipes, an aggressive but deliciously scented rambling rose, first named at Kiftsgate Court in 1951. However, Kiftsgate is far more than just one rose, it is a remarkable garden, created, developed and maintained by three generations of lady gardeners from the same family.
Heather Muir began work on the garden in 1920, creating a whole series of gardens and borders around the house, within which she paid particular attention to colour. Her feel for colour combinations was undoubtedly first class and by the 1950s Kiftsgate was a garden of much repute. ‘I regard this garden as the finest piece of skilled colour work that it has been my pleasure to see,’ wrote Graham Scott Thomas in the RHS Journal.
In 1954 daughter Diany Binny took up the baton and after an initial reluctance to alter her mother’s designs gradually began to add to, rather than change, the original garden. First came a semi-circular plunge pool, laid out on a terrace below a steep west facing bank, upon which she bestowed woody plants and climbers. In 1972 a further pool, complete with fountain (inspired by a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show) was added to the centre of the white sunken garden.
By 1981 her daughter Anne and husband Johnny Chambers were becoming increasingly immersed in the garden. During their tenure they have developed extensive gardens of tender plants on the sheltered west-facing bank, created a wonderful ‘millennium’ water garden and continue to maintain, enrich and indeed enhance the plantings within the original borders.
Today, the garden bears witness to a family blessed with three generations of remarkable gardeners. Besides the obvious continuity, there is a feeling of contentment, timelessness, indeed tranquillity, which settles over you within moments of entering the garden. It is a garden which is at peace with itself, where nothing jars the eye and the senses are set tingling by so much colour and fragrance.