A tranquil, peaceful and intimate spot, the gardens are beautifully situated in undulating Dorset countryside, with a lake, canals, broad sweeping and formal gardens. The lovely 35 acre formal gardens were created by the Hanburys between 1915 and 1922 within the existing framework of an eighteenth century Capability Brown style parkland setting and the vestiges of a Victorian garden. The formal gardens are set on a number of axes – the main north/south axis leads from the Red Garden, through the Mediterranean Border, to the Double Herbaceous Border and the main east/west axis leads from the Brick Garden, along the Terrace Border, and the south front of the Main House. On either side of these axes are small areas of self-contained “compartments” or “rooms”, partitioned by hedges of crisply cut yew or box, which form the main structure of these gardens. Each of these has a central feature, such as a pool, or statuary or a theme, such as Penstemon Terrace or Rose Garden. Each garden has a distinct character of its own and the carefully orchestrated planting and plant associations, designed to give colour throughout the year, all unite to ensure an overall pattern and harmony together with the subtle blending of the formal with the informal.
This is the first garden visitors see on the approach from the Visitor Centre and was designed in the classic Italian Renaissance style, as at “La Mortola”, by the Hanburys. In the 1930s the beautiful formal lily pond was edged with Portland stone flags, interplanted with hummocks of thyme and dwarf festucas. Large terracotta pots and amphorae filled with geraniums were placed in Mediterranean fashion at the corners of the pool. At one end there was a delightful summerhouse and the steps leading to a viewing mound and Greek temple at the other. The lily pool was framed by eight beds neatly edged with dwarf box and exuberantly plated with colourful shrubs and perennials. The four beds closest to the pool were planted with mop head standard fuschias underplanted with mounds of scented silver foliage plants. The outer L-shaped beds were closely planted with plants with striking foliage and flowers such as Kniphofias, Iris germanica, Nicotiana, Heuchera etc. Lady Hanbury used lush plantings of colour and scent to great effect at “La Mortola”, especially red. This garden would be planted in a similar manner with warm, bright Mediterranean colours. Today red is still the dominant theme of this garden. The view from the curved viewing area, facing the road, looks north across the park, down a magnificent avenue of copper beech planted for King George V Silver Jubilee in 1935. This avenue lacks an eyecatcher or focal point at the end – this may be due to Sir Cecil Hanbury having a serious car accident in that year and his death in 1937 halted any further development of the gardens. The deep pool has spreading lily pads of stunning crimson Nymphae ‘escarboule’ and yellow N. Chromatella waterlillies shading the fish and a striking planting at the temple end of the Umbrella plant Cyperus alternifolius a relative of the Egyptian papyrus reed. The picturesque summerhouse is smothered in Wisteria sinensis with twining silver grey ‘sinuous’ stems twisting anti-clockwise from a statuesque gnarled trunk. The summerhouse, with its curtain of fragrant lilac mauve flowers, provides an idyllic shady retreat to contemplate the view across the pool to the temple. The seat and a Canadian maple were given as a memorial to a Canadian pilot of a Lancaster bomber, Flight Sergeant Paul Barske R.C.A.F, who was killed in action in 1943. The surviving crew were all Canadian, except one who became a student at Kingston Maurward. In 1993 the garden was restored and the approach to the temple was redesigned and re-laid with curved Portland stone steps. The Victorian style box ‘lawn’ and yew edging were also planted at this time, which, when they mature, will restore the garden in the spirit of the original Hanbury garden. A mature Southern beech Nothfagus dombeyi (1980), growing unusually well in chalky soil, spreads its branches over the garden and frames the view from the Temple Mound.
This was originally built as the sighting mound for surveying during the construction of the Georgian House. Visitors who climb up to the Temple have a wonderful panoramic view of the gardens and the Dorset countryside, virtually untouched since Thomas Hardy’s time. From this raised mound the full beauty of the formal gardens, the structure and the ‘rooms’ or individual gardens can be seen . The view down from the croquet lawn is in line with the diamond shaped clair-voyee cut in the yew coronet of the Crown Garden. The temple was constructed from original drawings by Weymouth College masonry students from Portland Stone (1991-5) as a memorial to Ralph Fitzau (1908-1983) and replaces the similar one taken to “La Mortola” by Lady Hanbury in 1938. In 1914 Kingston Maurward was bought by Cecil Hanbury, the son of Sir Thomas Hanbury who had purchased “La Mortola” on the Italian/French border on the Mediterranean. Thomas developed “La Mortola” into the renowned “living museum of flora” visited by Queen Victoria and other royalty and notable figures of the day. In 1903 he presented the 60 acre site of the new garden at Wisley to the Royal Horticultural Society as a trust. Meanwhile Cecil established a student exchange at Kew. Today following a period of decline and neglect “La Mortola” is known as the Hanbury Botanic Garden and belongs to the University of Genoa .
There are two half hardy beds on either side of the steps to the Red Garden These are planted with a variety of tender perennials, scented geraniums and Euphorbias to provide a wide variety of flower and foliage in typical Edwardian style. A grassy path leads on to the Penstemon Terrace which is protected by dark green yew buttresses and planted with paeonies that blend with billowing sprays of starry Asters providing vertical structure and a foil to the informal drifts of penstemons. The penstemons form one of the two National Collections held by Kingston Maurward, the other being tender Salvias. Here the visitor can compare and admire varieties from red penstemons ‘Chester Scarlet’ to purple P.’Sour Grapes’, from salmon pink P.’Pennington Gem’ to pink P.’Fanny’s Blush, blue P.’Margery Fish’ and white P.’Osprey’. The border is a kaleidoscope of colour from June right through to October. All the plants are grown at Kingston Maurward from overwintered cuttings and planted out each year. At the end of the terrace the visitor can descend the stone steps to the Rainbow Garden.
This Garden lies at the intersection of the two main north south and east west axes. It is a completely enclosed circular garden with neatly clipped box edges geometrically arranged in crescents around a central bed divided by brick paths and surrounded by high yew hedges. The statues are of Henry III, Richard III, Charles II and Queen Anne and originate from the Palace of Westminster (1840). The circular seat depicting a rising sun, half concealed in a velvety yew arbour was designed and made at Kingston Maurward from trees on the estate. One of the pleasures of a summer’s day is to sit there and contemplate the vista along the Terrace Border axis to the Main House.
Dark velvety green, clipped yew hedges and pillars of yew topiary frame the entrance and lead the visitor from the Brick Garden down the steps into the Herbaceous Border terminated by a stone bird bath. This is the traditional English double herbaceous border densely planted with a rich variety of herbaceous perennials and in true Victorian/Edwardian style was originally designed to be in full glory and a riot of colour in July and August when the owners were in the country. Today the vast number of species grown (over a hundred) and the careful layering and graduation from front to back of this rich mixture of plants ensures a long season of interest and a continuous performance of flowers from April to October. The double borders are flanked by tall hedges of handsome dark green yew which provide an impenetrable backdrop and the perfect foil for the luxuriant floral display in the foreground. The borders are punctuated by tripods of voluptuous carmine ‘American Pillar’ roses which complement and add vertical structure to the design. At the back of the border, structure is provided by plants with architectural and feathery foliage such as the spectacular two metre high silver and purple giant cardoon Cyanara cardunculus, the tall spheres of the purple globe thistle Echinops ritro and the huge mustard discs of Achillea filipendulina ‘Gold Plant’. These combine with white clouds of Crambe cordifolia, graceful plumes of Artesimia lactiflora, primrose yellow Cephalaria gigantea, deep yellow Belgian sunflower Helianthus multiflorus ‘Triomphe di Gand’ and golden coneflower Rudbeckia ‘Autumn Sun’.
This is the heart of the Edwardian Garden created by Lady Dorothy Hanbury and was formerly the Hanburys’ Rose Garden before the roses were removed due to rose sickness. It was named the Crown Garden to represent the clipped coronet of yew planted in Edwardian times with an ornamental stone well as a centrepiece. The early summer displays of traditional Edwardian cottage garden plants in softly blended hues of pink, blue and mauve of foxgloves, aquilegias, Canterbury bells, sweet williams, Dianthus barbatus, Geranium sanguineum lancastriense, mallows Lavatera olbia ‘Rosea’ and ‘L Barnsley’ – all cottage garden favourites! In the inner circle wrought iron hoops festooned with clematis varieties provide vertical accents which mirror the wrought iron decorative arch over the ‘well’. Shrubs of note are the aromatic evergreen Tasmanian Winter’s Bark shrub Drimys lanceolata, fragrant Itea ilicifolia and the beautiful ground cover Clematis heracleifolia ‘Wyvale’ with blue scented tubular flowers in late summer; an evergreen laburnum Vestia foetida from Chile which needs a sheltered spot, an unusual aromatic prickly ash or toothache tree Zanthoxylum americanum whose acrid tasting bark and berries were used by North American Indians to cure toothache, climbing albutilon vitifolium and Lonicera syringantha planted against the backdrop of yew. The ‘well’ is planted with tender plants in the same pastel colours as the perennials in the rest of the garden – half hardy apricot Diascias, grey green Helichrysum petiolaris Limelight, blue Felicia amelliodes etc. Visitors should note the diamond shaped claire-voyee, providing a view through to the Temple, dating from the Hanbury era which was rediscovered by the head gardener during restoration of the yew hedge in 1991.
The charming Japanese Garden lies adjacent to the north shore of the lake. There is a feeling of intimacy and harmony in this small garden. The garden contains two stately Chusan palms Trachycarpus fortunei, dating from the beginning of the century, a mature Magnolia denudate – the ‘Lily Tree’, which is smothered in fragrant white cup shaped blossoms in April, bamboos and dwarf rhododendrons (Blue Bird). Japanese maples include Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’, A.p. ‘Senkaki’ – the Coral Bark Maple and the crimson A.p. Atropurpureum. The stream running through the garden is surrounded by moisture loving plants. In summer the elegant, white, waxy swathes of arum lilies Zantedeschia aethiopica, Aspidistra elatior and the shiny leaves of the hart’s tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium. In the shrubbery at the edge of the garden the sweetly scented Clerodendrum trichotomum with its bright blue berries, dwarf lilac Syringa microphylla ‘Superba’, the intriguing lanterns of the ‘Golden Rain Tree’ Koelreuteria paniculata and the Hoptree Ptelia trifoliate add further autumn interest. The symbolic Japanese stone lanterns – Tachi-gata, a pillar lantern and a snow view lantern Yulimi-gata stand at the entrance and exit to the garden. Tsububai, the hand washing basin, is used in ritual Japanese tea ceremonies. Beyond the Japanese Garden the visitor passes the lakeside Grecian Temple, faced in Portland stone but still showing the original Georgian brick fabric.
The observant visitor will note that the Elizabethan builder did not use a spirit level when building the wall and let the courses of brickwork follow the slope of the land! The walled garden was built at the same time as the Elizabethan Manor House and was originally used to grow fruit and vegetables for the household. The previous function of growing fruit and vegetables has now been superseded by a more decorative purpose. It is laid out as a demonstration garden, exhibiting both practical and ornamental forms of horticulture. The garden is divided into rectangular beds radiating from a central circular bed with wide turf paths defining the areas, similar in design to a French potager or a Victorian kitchen garden. Visitors can see types of immaculately cut demonstration hedges ranging from deciduous purple plum, forsythia, snowy mespilus Amelanchier Canadensis, beech and hornbeam to evergreen pyracantha, Berberis x stenophylla, Lonicera nitida, privet and Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’. An eclectic range of demonstration beds feature hardy and half-hardy annuals, perennials, everlasting flowers and shrubberies for different purposes and locations, dahlias, chrysanthemums and sweet peas. At the south end of the garden there are plants for shady north walls, the shrubby salvias from the National Collection, such as S. reptans, S. lyrata, S.bulleyana, tall S nemorosa and S. somaliensis. Other salvias are displayed at the Visitor Centre and the Balustrade Garden, with the least hardy under glass in the cool greenhouse. Trees and shrubs with beautiful spring flowers include from China the fragrant, heavenly bells of the wintersweet Chimonanthus praecox, Sycopsis sinensis, winter honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima, Viburnum farreri with pink stems and scented flowers and Cornus mas – the Cornelian cherry. In autumn displays of chrysanthemums, asters and dahlias predominate. Shrubs with berries provide further interest with the deep purple berries of Callicarpa bodinieri and russet foliage and rich blue flowers of the Ceratostigma plumbaginoides. Around the walls are planted a variety of climbers ranging from the appropriately named winter flowering Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ and scarlet Chaenomeles x superb ‘Nicoline’ on the east facing wall, to Chanomeles speciosa ‘Nivalis’ and Akebia quinata on the west facing side. The south facing wall supports tender Fremontodendron California Glory, Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’, and deep blue Californian lilac Ceanothus Veitchiarus. A south facing lean-to greenhouse formerly a vinery, is home to tropical plants and trees. Banana palms from the Balustrade Terrace winter here beside fragrant grapefruit, orange and lemon trees which bear fruit! A graceful weeping Kashmir Cypress Cupressus cashmeriana grows on the west facing wall. Bird of Paradise flowers Strelitzia regina and Angel’s trumpets Datura x candida mingle with Lantana camara ‘Rose Bouquet’, and ‘Professor Raoul ‘. The orange Clivia miniata and tubular bells of Justicia rizzini should interest the house plant grower, while passion flowers Passiflora racemosa, ‘Cup and Saucer’ plant Cobaea scadens, Plunbago capensis and the cented Jasminum polyantheum grow against the walls.
The Crown Garden leads out from the east side to the Spring Garden, a more informal garden with attractive specimen conifers underplanted with low growing shrubs and ground covered herbaceous perennials. There are beds for lime hating plants which would not normally grow in Kingston Maurward’s alkaline conditions with magnolias, camellias and azaleas. In keeping with the ‘natural’ woodland appearance of the area, grass is allowed to grow longer under the trees with ‘rides’ mown between the beds for walking and many varieties of naturalised wild plants growing in taller grass. The visitor will find summer meadow flowers of bird’s foot trefoil, campion, ox-eye daisies, speedwell, buttercups, clovers etc. In Spring one of the delights this area are a wonderful display of drifts of primroses, violets, wood anemones and crocus underneath the trees accentuating the impression of a woodland glade. In the autumn the grass is carpeted with ephemeral mauve autumn crocus Crocus speciosus and the pink and white hardy cyclamen Cyclamen hederifolium.
The yew hedge on the east side of the Herbaceous Border is traversed by an arch with a path leading directly through the hedge to the Well or Crown Garden, a natural ‘wild’ area to the left and an Old Rose, Lilac and Iris Border to the right. The wild garden contains a picturesque seat romantically hidden by a curtain of weeping cherry Prunus autumnalis pendula. Adjacent to this in turn is the Secret Garden, the ‘Giodarno Segredo’ of Italian gardens, with its throne like stone seat hidden from visitors by intimate yew hedging!
The croquet lawn is let to Kingston Maurward Association Croquet Club and must be one of the most picturesque venues for this unusual game. Cascading over the rock walls are cushions of rock roses, helianthemum, aubretia and dwarf hypericum, entwined with spreading hummocks of Aylyssum saxatile ‘Gold Dust’ and rampant pink flowered Oxalis Floribunda. The deep blue flowers of Ceratostigma plumbaginoides and the red Centranthus ruber (red Valerian) appear through the rocks and everywhere the enchanting pink and white starry flowers of the Mexican daisy Erigeron karvinskianus ‘Profusion’ are abundant. Trimming the yew hedges and topiary in the formal gardens is a full time job for the gardeners throughout the whole of August!
The broad gravel walk has symmetrical rectangular beds on either side. These are planted with seasonal plants such as polyanthus, heuchara and doronicum in winter and subtle plantings of tender perennials in summer including verbena, diascia, argyranthemum, alonsoa and nemesia. It leads to an impressive, wide flight of Portland stone steps, giving a wonderful prospect over the Balustrade Terrace to the left and the beautifully manicured lawn, sweeping dramatically down to the lake, on the right with the ‘borrowed landscape’ of rolling Dorset countryside in the distance. These steps, which feature in an early nineteenth century etching of the house, were probably constructed during the’jardin anglais’ Capability Brown landscape period in the eighteenth century and were extended by the Hanburys. They are flanked on either side by classical urns and Italian balustrading swathed in curtains of Vitis vinifiera purpurea and Vitis coignetiae. This broad Lower Terrace dates from the building of the Georgian House and was used as a promenade and seating area from which to view the lake. In Edwardian times there were large wooden tubs of ornamental trees placed along the entire lower terrace in between seats. These are in the process of being rebuilt by horticultural students.