The 30 acres of Spetchley Park Gardens were developed in Victorian times and have remained mostly the same since then. The original owners were the Berkeley family and the gardens have remained in the family, who have, over the years, added to the collection of plants from around the world.
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The Georgian Berkeley mansion, dating from the beginning of the 19th century, was the work of John Tasker, a London architect. It is not the first house on the property. That was a moated Tudor one, belonging to the Lyttleton family, then the Sheldons, and finally to the Berkeley family in 1605.
This home was burned to the ground by a group of Scottish Presbyterians just before 1651, and, as a consequence, the stables were turned into a home. In 1811 the Bath stone house now on view was built. Spetchley Park and Berkeley castle are owned by the same Berkeley family due to inheritance of Berkeley by Spetchley owner.
Spetchley is one of three original English gardens that opened to the public for the National Gardens Scheme in 1924. Ducks, geese, peacocks, and squirrels grace the grounds. The deer park is home to red and fallow deer.
The gardens consist of several types: formal, informal, herbaceous, woodland, and exotic. They vary from the typical English garden to that found in the Mediterranean lands. Composer Edward Elgar stayed at the Gardenerís cottage when visiting the family and used the sound of the wind in the pine trees in the Dream of Gerontius, regarded as Elgarís finest choral work.
Garden sections include:
The Horse Pool: named for the horses on the estate that once used it. Here are magnolias, hydrangeas, and Judas trees.
The Melon Yard: this main garden entrance with its three-sided brick walls is home to olives and pineapple-scented flowers (Cytisus battandieri), crocus, narcissus and tulips, double-flowered pomegranate, and the original greenhouses.
The West Border: roses, tree peonies, camellias, climbing hydrangea, clematis, Virginia creeper, and Osmaronia cerasiformis.
The South Border: very Victorian with its irises, peonies, mulleins, clematis, vines, wisteria, climbing roses, and Chinese gooseberry. Also in this border is the maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba), and the Xanthoceras sorbifolium. Statues of Adam and Eve are located here, but strangely dressed in 17th century clothing.
The Fountain Gardens: enclosed by clipped yew hedges, there are four gardens here around a fountain. The 36 beds contain acers, honey locust, tree peonies, butterfly magnolias and spruce, and more.
The Rose Lawn: the 17 beds are surrounded by cedars. Here also are wisteria, Berberis Montana, and a conservatory with a cut-leaved beech.
The Cork Lawn: in the centre is an old cork oak. Here is a Root House, a type of English garden architecture, and a swamp cypress.
The Long Walk: crocus and primrose bloom in the spring while in summer the Turkís cap lily shows its colours. Trees in the walk are the acer, sorbus, cornus, medlar, and weeping silver lime. Look for the marble statue of Apollo.
The Garden Pool and New Lawn: replete with daffodils in the spring; willow, scarlet oak, prunus, sorbus, and malus are other plants in this section.
The Copse: rhododendrons, azaleas, meconopses, and primulas bloom in the spring and early summer. Acer cultivars lend their colour in the autumn. Pines dominate on the eastern side.
The East Border: Lilacs in the spring; roses in summer; a hybrid with both laburnum and broom branches
The North Border: cut-leaved walnut; shrub collection; Chusan palm.
The Kitchen Garden: tender and semi-hardy shrubs, plants, and alpines.
The Millennium Garden: semi-tropical, part Italianate garden within the kitchen garden; late summer colour; fountain, sunken garden, rill.
Spetchley Park Gardens
Spetchley Park, Worcester
Worcestershire WR5 1RS
Two miles east of Worcester on A44, from the M5 off jct 6 or 7
Tel. 0 1905 345106
Open: garden-April-end Sep, 11am-6pm, Wed-Sun and BH Mon; in Oct 11am-4pm Sat and Sun only; last admission one hour before closing; deer park same hours as garden except closed in June
Web: Spetchley Park Gardens
Old Laundry tea-room serves light lunches and afternoon teas; picnic area; plant sales; car park; guided tours of garden by prior arrangement
Photos and text © by Barbara Ballard