Kiftsgate Revisted

Last week I wrote about visiting Hidcote Gardens in the Cotswolds with Victoria.  We also visited Kiftsgate Gardens – they are only over the road, well a 5 minute walk from each other.

Both gardens are high up on the Cotswold hills and consequently have far reaching views across the surrounding countryside. However, there is one striking difference whilst Hidcote uses the borrowed landscape with views along vistas to the surrounding countryside, Kiftsgate’s situation is far more dramatic.  Perched on top of the escarpment the house has an imposing position and looks very dramatic when viewed from the Lower Pond area.

I had visited Kiftsgate some years ago and loved it.  However, Victoria had not been before so wasn’t prepared for the steep sloping path down to the Lower Pond area.  I seem to remember the path being longer and more zig-zaggy on my previous visit but that is probably because I knew what to expect this time and was distracted by Victoria’s amazement at the drop.  I have to say that I would have planted the slope differently.  There are lots of shrubs etc but I would use lots of broad leaf plants to make the path feel more enclosed and then maybe some gaps so the view comes as a surprise.

When you get to the Lower Pond area it is amazing to look back up and see how drastic the drop from the house is (you can just see the houe in the top of the picture above)). There is a lovely Arts and Crafts summer house and half moon shaped swimming pool which was put in by the owners mother.  I thought it looked different from when I last visited and the website says that the pool was painted black a few years ago and I think it makes the pool look very smart and up to date.  We did comment that the location of the pool was really wonderful and if it was being built today no doubt it would be one of those infinity pools since the location lends itself beautifully to this.

After the slog back up the slope you enter the gardens created by the owners grandmother, who was a friend of Major Johnson of Hidcote.  As per Hidcote the garden is made up of a number of rooms each divided with the use of hedges.  However, it is on a much smaller scale than Hidcote.  The whole garden felt more intimate and friendly than Hidcote and I think that this is because the garden is still gardened by the creator’s family who live in the house as opposed to Hidcote where the garden is maintained by a team of gardeners.  I think there is more atmosphere at Kiftsgate despite the number of visitors which increased drastically at one point with the arrival of several coach loads of Japanese tourists.

The area which fascinated us most, as well as the slope, was the newish water garden.  This area was formally the tennis court and is surrounded by mature yew hedges.  There is a sculpture at the far end comprising of 20 gilded brozen philodendron leaves. The sculpture is a water sculpture and periodically turns into a fountain which is quite nice.  The pool is black and I presume they use that black dye in it as well.  It is quite stark but also quite effective and I found sitting there very restful.  I expect this was due to the combination of the high hedges blocking out any distractions and the limited colour palette of the water garden.

As ever we completed our garden visit with a cream tea which was very enjoyable and rounded off our Cotswold outing nicely.

I’m off now to Italy for a week but no doubt will bore you at length when I return with my holiday pics!!


8 Comments Add yours

  1. gardeningasylum says:

    I loved that modern water garden the best when I visited – those leaves are the perfect accent! I remember the owner was selling plants at a card table and I wished I could bring something home to the states. Hope you have a lovely time in Italy:)

  2. Edith Hope says:

    Dear Helen, I am most interested to read of your visit to Kiftsgate and your detailed review of the garden. The garden has never quite resonated with me, quite unlike Hidcote which I regard as a masterpiece.

    The discipline and restraint in both design and planting at Hidcote are, for me, far more satisfying than the wayward,haphazard borders of Kiftsgate which never seem to be contained or controlled, either in terms of colour or form,in order to direct the eye.

    The semi-circular pool is,certainly in my view,the best part but only now that it has a black painted liner rather than the garish turquoise blue rather reminiscent of a municipal pool that it had previously.

    I do hope that you have a wonderful time in Italy and wish you a safe return.

  3. Victoria says:

    I’m so glad you didn’t provide a photographic record of my tentative steps across the stepping stones!

  4. Anna says:

    We visited both Kiftsgate and Hidcote a good few years ago now and I would really like to return. As you say Kiftsgate is a family garden which has been shaped by women. I was slightly miffed that we just missed seeing the ‘Kiftsgate’ rose in flower- bad timing on our part. Have a great holiday. Ciao!

  5. Barbarapc says:

    With only a week and a half in England – managed to see so many gardens, but neither of these – yet another reason to save my pennies and return….

  6. Catharine says:

    Hello PG – enjoyed the visit to Kiftsgate of the monstrous rose. Who is Victoria? I have read a garden blog or 2 today and there is always a victoria.

  7. Swamp Thing says:

    Nice story…keep on posting !!

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