This handsome garden in the Cotswolds has treats in store for visitors this month. Owner Anne Chambers reveals the triumphs and tribulations of her famous, historic plot.
Interview: Louise Curley
What are the challenges of gardening at Kiftsgate? The garden was already established when we moved here, but like every garden it doesn’t stand still and plants come and go. Keeping the trees and large shrubs under control is an annual job, and adding new plants and varieties is essential to keep the garden vibrant and fresh. With more visitors grass paths get worn and have to be replaced.
Is it difficult planting on The Banks? They’re the trickiest part of the garden – very steep, difficult to plant and establish. One can only really plant there up to May as it then gets far too dry. We don’t have a watering system in the garden and getting plants established takes time. They’re mostly Mediterranean plants which like the dry conditions, but if we have a very cold winter we can lose tender plants. Also, the needles from the Monterey pines have to be cleared each year and it’s difficult to feed the soil here because of the slope.
How do you maintain the garden’s plant collection? Propagation is very important not only to sell plants to visitors but for our own use. It means we have a ready supply of our key plants and old varieties that are now unobtainable. Visitors love to see something unusual in the garden and to be able to buy it from us.
How do you keep the garden feeling fresh? We have designed two new areas, the latest using the soil excavated from the Water Garden, which we made into a mound. A perennial wildflower meadow has been created and we’ve replanted the fruit trees in the orchard adding Gloucestershire varieties of apples and underplanting with a mix of spring bulbs such as tulips and camassias.
What jobs are you doing in the garden this month? June, funnily enough, is not a very busy time in the garden, but it is hectic with visitors coming to see the roses. At the end of May/June I usually give the phlox and asters a Chelsea chop, which works well and stops them getting too tall and leggy. I also prune the deutzias around this time. I cut out all the flowering stems and old thick stems so when I’ve finished there is very little left. They always perform really well and flower beautifully each May. Exochordas are also pruned after flowering and radically reduced in size at this time of year.
Do you have any tips on keeping roses looking their best? We prune the roses very hard and tie them into differing shapes with the use of bamboo canes and iron hoops. We still have the felicia roses that were planted by my grandmother which perform really well and are pruned by me in January/February. We’ve given up spraying for blackspot as all the effective sprays have been withdrawn from the market. It also depends on the summer weather as to how healthy the roses look, but we feed the roses in the spring to give them an extra boost.
READ MORE Subscribe to our digital issue