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 Red Garden
This is the first garden visitors see on the approach from the Visitor Centre at the Animal Park 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 Festuca.
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 Temple Mound & The Temple of the Four Winds
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 clairvoyee cut in the yew coronet of the Crown Garden.
The Penstemon Terrace
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 a typical Edwardian style.
A grassy path leads on to the Penstemon Terrace which is protected by dark green yew buttresses and planted with peonies that blend with billowing sprays of starry Asters providing vertical structure and a foil to the informal drifts of Penstemons.
The Brick 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 Herbaceous Border
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 birdbath.
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.
The Crown Garden
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 sitting as a centrepiece.
The Japanese Garden
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 Elizabethan Walled Garden
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.
The Spring Garden
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.
The Secret Garden
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 Terrace Garden
The broad gravel walk has symmetrical rectangular beds on either side. These are planted with seasonal plants such as polyanthus, heuchera 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.