Every gardener knows that when you take on a new plot it’s best to wait before making any drastic changes. Only with time can you fully assess what you’ve inherited, what’s good, what needs replacing and how things can be improved. One year into her new job running the National Trust’s Snowshill Manor Garden, Vicky Cody is starting to put some of her ideas into action.
She’s no stranger to working in a garden with history, having previously been at Hidcote Manor Garden, and is busy researching notes from previous gardeners, old photographs and documents to make the best choices about new plants and designs.
One discovery was that the area known as Well Court was used by Charles Wade, who created the Arts and Crafts garden in the 1920s, to showcase a collection of lupins.
“I came across some old black-and-white photographs that showed lots of lupins but we don’t have any now,” says Vicky.
That has now been rectified and masses of dark purple lupins are going to be added to the existing planting.
“I want to weave them through like tapestry,” explains Vicky, who manages the garden with her colleague James Evans and a team of volunteers. “I’m looking forward to seeing it.”
In the Armillary Court, she is hoping to achieve a more unified feel: one side has tall asters and hemerocallis while the other is more low-growing with nepeta and Lathyrus vernus.
“There are some nice plants in here but no continuity.”
Again, Vicky is planning to research what was there in the past before planning a new planting regime.
Some areas have already undergone changes, most notably in the kitchen garden. Once an allotment-style single planting area, it has now been turned into a series of raised beds, cleverly designed to cope with the sloping site while a new second entrance means there is now a better route around the space for visitors.
Borders around the outside will be filled with different climbing beans, rhubarb for structure, and flowers including dark dahlias and sunflowers; cut flower posies are going to be sold alongside surplus fruit and veg.
As well as being easier to manage, Vicky is hoping that the raised beds will make what is already one of the most popular parts of the garden more appealing.
“It’s pretty much the only place in the garden where people stop and talk,” she says. “Vegetables can be attractive and productive.”
Other alterations include introducing wild flowers, such as red campion and scabious, to Piper’s Path that runs to the restaurant, and introducing more to the orchard, where the number of mown paths has also been increased.
In the long borders that run next to the orchard a giant cardoon, Cephalaria gigantean and achillea are among the plants that have been divided and replanted to give more cohesion and drumstick alliums and cerise Byzantine gladioli have been introduced.
“When it is all grown up, it’s pretty wild. It’s not a contrived border. With the orchard and the hills in the background, it’s quite natural looking.”
Some of her plans are more long term. Elder Grove, long replanted with viburnums, is again in need of rejuvenating and Vicky is hoping to return to elders underplanted with hellebores and ferns. Wolf’s Cove, a miniature fishing village, awaits the rebuilding of its walls before restoration work can continue on the tiny buildings. Pointing to thick box hedges at the back of the village, Vicky comments that they would have originally been bonsai-style and will need replacing.
And it’s this knowledge of the past that underpins the changes at Snowshill Manor Garden.
“The history is always in the back of your mind. It’s not your garden. You’re just looking after it for a very small period.”
• For details of Snowshill Manor Gardens opening times and admission prices visit Snowshill Manor