The secret gardens of Hampshire

PUBLISHED: 13:01 18 June 2014

Bramdean Gardens

Bramdean Gardens


From Hinton Ampner to Exbury, the beauty of Hampshire’s gardens is well known - but what about its hidden gems? Claire Pitcher selects five of the county’s rarer species

King JohnsKing Johns

King Johns House Gardens, Romsey

The garden that adjoins King John’s House in Romsey was started in 1990. The idea behind it was to create a period garden in keeping with the historical buildings on the same site. The oldest, King John’s House, dates from the 13th century and first belonged to Romsey Abbey until its dissolution in 1539.

All the plants in the first part of the garden were in cultivation before 1700 and this part of the garden was opened in 1995. When the Victorian property which now houses the Museum was purchased, a further garden beside the tea room was established in 2001 with a more, ‘Victorian flavour’.

The gardens provide a delightful green sanctuary in the heart of Romsey. Divided into two parts by a high brick wall, the north side of the garden is more informal, with an area of spring meadow planted with apple trees and a summer meadow bounded on one side by a stream. There is also a stone paved courtyard with a quince and a pentice which provides a shady seating area.

The south side is laid out in a series of gardens; there is a medieval style herber, as well as a series of beds well stocked with flowers of the period, including lavender, old roses and clematis. From here the path leads to a fountain courtyard and then to the tearoom in the Victorian garden - the perfect place for a quiet cream tea.

Pay a visit: King Johns House, Church Street, Romsey SO51 8BT; 01794 512200

Open: Daily, except Sundays, from 10am to 4pm

Admission: Entry to the garden is free but there is a charge for admission to the house and museum


Spinners, Boldre

This year is going to be particularly busy at Spinners as owners Andrew and Vicky Roberts are building their new home in the gardens. It’s an exciting year for the gardens as well, since they will be re-landscaping around the house so that it beds down into the gardens.

Spinners garden was created by Peter Chappell some 50 years ago, who used the original bungalow as a holiday home. He was a keen fisherman and seeing all the spinners scattered on the river bank, decided on the name for his new home. He tried out some plants in the bottom field and when one of them took he caught the gardening bug. Gardening then became his passion, the holiday home became a permanent home and he resigned from teaching. The garden was opened to the public and the nursery began to specialise in rare and unusual plants.

Andrew and Vicky took over five years ago after deciding to take the plunge during, what Andrew now calls, ‘a very expensive lunch’.

“We have a vision of where we want to go with the garden and it is only when we look back over the last five years that we realise we have moved forward a long way. Like Peter before us, the garden has us in its thrall,” says Vicky.

Visitors to the gardens should begin with the woodland walk, passing through the Dell taking in the Trillium and Erythronium beds and onto the woodland cottage garden. The second half of the garden walk takes you over the front lawn, past the herbaceous borders to the new pond and then into the small arboretum with specimens of Magnolia and Cornus. This leads you back to the nursery, where you can find many of the garden’s treasures for sale.

Pay a visit: Spinners, School Lane, Boldre, SO41 5QE; 01590 612196

Open: April to September – Wednesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm

Admission: Free to the nursery, £5 entry to the gardens. RHS members free individual entry and under 16s free


Stratfield Saye

Nestled in the heart of the countryside on the border of Hampshire and Berkshire is the elegantly intimate, Stratfield Saye House, home to the various Dukes of Wellington since 1817.

The grounds and gardens have a rather tranquil atmosphere and are home to a wide range of plants and trees. The American garden is named after the vogue for American shrubs in the early 19th century. This and the stunning rose garden were laid down in the time of the 1st Duke and restored during the past 25 years.

The Pleasure Grounds, which lie on each side of the house, contain many rare and interesting trees. Some of these were planted by Lord Rivers in the 18th century, by the 1st Duke and more recently by the eighth Duke since 1972. These include a number of ‘Wellingtonias’ which were named in honour of the 1st Duke on their introduction to this country in 1853, a year after his death.

The 1st Duke’s favourite charger, Copenhagen, was a chestnut stallion and he is buried in the grounds at Stratfield. The horse carried the Duke throughout the Battle of Waterloo. Copenhagen retired to Strafield and was often ridden by the Duke and his children until his death at 28. He was buried with military honours.

As well as the house and gardens, there’s the farm shop and riding centre to discover on the estate. There’s plenty to entertain for an entire weekend…

Pay a visit: Stratfield Saye, RG7 2BT; 01256 882694;
Open: 31st July to 25th August inclusive. Weekdays gates open 11.30am and weekends 10.30am. Last admission 3.30pm.

Admission: Adults £9 weekdays, £10 weekends. Seniors £8 weekdays, £9 weekends. Child £4 weekdays, £5 weekends. Garden ticket £4 weekdays, £5 weekends


The Manor House, Upton Grey

Thirty years ago this garden in Upton Grey, was nothing more than an unkempt jungle. What the current owners didn’t realise when they bought the property was that underneath the jungle were the foundations of a very special garden, indeed one that Gertrude Jekyll had designed in 1908 for a house belonging to Charles Holme, a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.

Gertrude Jekyll, was probably the most respected gardener of her time and her influence on the art of gardening is evident throughout the world today. She designed about 400 gardens but, because so few survive and only a handful are accurately restored, it is by her books and articles that she is best remembered.

The gardens at The Manor House are believed to be the most complete and authentic Jekyll garden in existence - a living museum of Jekyll design. To the south-east of the house lies the Formal Garden which is surrounded by one of Miss Jekyll’s favourite natural frames, yew hedging. The style here is more structured and disciplined and includes a pergola, festooned with climbing plants, which runs from the house to overlook the Rose Garden and the bowling and tennis lawns.

The Wild Garden shows the wide spectrum of Jekyll’s prodigious talents. It can be discovered by following the mown grass paths which meander through longer grass, rambling roses, bamboo, shrubs and a small copse of Walnut trees. These paths lead towards the pond which is surrounded by rocks and planted with indigenous and water-loving plants.

The orchard is home to some fine-tasting old varieties of apples and pears and the walls are planted with plums, a fig and climbing roses. Don’t leave without trying the cider pressed from the home-grown apples.

Pay a visit: The Manor House, Upton Grey RG25 2RD; 01256 862827

Open: Monday to Friday, 9am until 4pm (closed weekends and Bank Holidays) 1st May - 31st July

Admission: £6 (includes a printed guide and plant list)


Bramdean House, Alresford

Designed by Victoria Wakefield, the gardens at Bramdean are for real plantsmen, full of interest all year round, especially from April until October. The beautiful 18th century red-brick house is shielded from the road by a vast undulating cloud hedge of yew and box. Behind the house five acres of garden slope up through the exemplary mirror-image herbaceous borders, planted with over 100 genera reaching their peak in June with nepetas, geraniums, tradescantias, Clematix x diversifolia ‘Hendersonii’ and galegas, followed by yellows and then the russets of late summer.

The way forward towards dianthus and roses, leads to the wrought-iron gates of the walled kitchen garden, filled with a well-ordered abundance of fruit and vegetables, a special collection of old-fashioned sweet peas and a mass of herbaceous flowers. Beyond a second wrought-iron gate visitors will discover the orchard with its curving tapestry hedge of alternating box and yew, flowering cherries, and fruit trees under-planted with daffodils.

Visit the garden this month to tread through carpets of aconites, crocuses and other early bulbs.

Pay a visit: Bramdean House, Bramdean, Alresford SO24 0JU; 01962 771214

Open: NGS open days are on 15th June, 20th July, 17th August, 21st September. From 2pm to 4.30pm.

Admission: On NGS days it costs £5. Otherwise on weekdays it’s £7 and you have to visit by appointment

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