The visiting speaker for November was Mrs Anne Chambers from nearby Kiftsgate Court. The village hall was packed with members and visitors eager to hear about the history of the property and its famous garden.
The house itself was built in the late C19th by the then owners of Mickleton Manor. They transported whole chunks of the manor house, which they loved, up to Kiftsgate by means of a light railway. Heather Muir, Anne’s grandmother, bought the property in 1918. She knew little about gardening at that time, but with the encouragement of her friends, including Vita Sackville-West and Major Lawrence Johnston, from nearby Hidcote, she soon set about creating her garden. Anne Chambers is the third generation of gardening owners in her family, following on from her grandmother and her mother, Mrs Binny. She has no formal training in gardening but has picked things up as she has gone along. She is a hands-on gardener, being ably helped by her husband, Johnny, and two gardeners.
Her slides took us round the garden through the seasons. She was able to point out original plants which had been introduced by her grandmother and described changes which had taken place over the years. The famous Kiftsgate rambling rose was the result of an order being placed for Rosa filipes which turned out to be something rather different from the plant ordered. It will grow up to 15 feet a year, and fills the surrounding trees with its clusters of white flowers in summer. Not a plant for a small courtyard garden!
The garden continues to develop. Moving into the 21st century, the old tennis court has been turned into a most modern water garden with tall, eye catching metallic leaves that glisten with water from the fountains, reflecting in the pool below.
Following her talk, Mrs Chambers answered members’ questions. She was thanked by Joanna Spark for a most fascinating evening. Those of us who have not been to Kiftsgate will now have to contain ourselves until the Spring, when the garden reopens for 2008. Bill Bond-Williams was the lucky winner of the raffle, a season ticket to Kiftsgate Court Garden kindly donated by Anne Chambers.
(From the Chipping Campden Bulletin. Included with kind permission of Jeremy Green)