“The Spirits of the Air live on the smells
Of fruit: and joy, with pinions light roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees,”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o,er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight: but left his golden load”.
Autumn. William Blake (1757-1827)
Kiftsgate Court was built in 1887 by Sydney Graves Hamilton, owner of nearby Mickleton Manor. Mr and Mrs J. B. Muir bought the property in 1918. It is still occupied by the same family, the garden now being in the care of Anne Chambers. It was opened to the public for the first time in 1971.
Undoubtedly Heather Muir was helped and inspired by her friend Major Johnson from Hidcote, the garden up the road. Kiftsgate has been planned with great care and thought, every plant placed with a definite pattern of contrast to its neighbour. In 1951 Mr Graham S.Thomas stated in a RHS Journal “I regard this as the finest piece of skilled colour work that it has been my pleasure to see”.
At least two roses here are noteworthy. Rosa mutabilis, was described in the ‘Dictionary of Roses’ by S.Millar Gault and Patrick M.Synge as “a very magnificent specimen on a wall at Kiftsgate Court, which grows up to the roof, is about 20ft high and as much wide, this rose was one of the finest roses I have ever seen, absolutely covered with flowers of varying colour and maturity”. Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ was planted in 1938 by Heather Muir, the present owner’s grand-mother, as Rosa moschata and it was not until 1951 when Graham Thomas saw it, that it was named Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’. The family claim it is the largest rose in England, being 80ft x 90ft x 50ft high. It is a memorable sight in mid July, covered with panicles of white blooms, each consisting of 300-400 flower heads. The ‘Dictionary of Roses’ states, ‘it is superb, cascading down in great white showers and no other rose can surpass it’.
Time has not stood still at Kiftsgate. An elegant modern water garden was added in 2000. The Twenties tennis court was excavated and a black-walled pool filled to a depth of 90cm. The clean lines of the new stone edging and lawn echo the formality of the original surrounding yew hedge. A specially commissioned fountain by Simon Allison, who cast his fountains from actual plants, now animates the scene. It consists of a double row of 24 slender metal stems, holding aloft gold-plated bronze casts of Philodendron mamei. Water is pumped up the stems to flow gently over the leaves.