A Conversation With Our Gardeners
Any country house hotel in Gloucestershire would be deemed incomplete without a sweeping estate and inviting landscape. One cannot deny the impressive escapism provided by such gardens; The Cotswolds is renowned for its beauty and the gardens at Lords of the Manor are a credit to the hard work and dedication of our gardeners, Meg and Gerardo. We thought it would be best to let them speak about the gardens in their own words…
How did your careers bring you to Lords of the Manor?
Meg: I’m from The Forest of Dean but I worked in London for a while as an Art Director. I first got involved with gardening whilst helping my mum and aunty; I got hooked and applied for a horticultural internship with the National Trust. I learned at Daffrn Gardens before joining Compton Castle in Devon and then became Head Gardener at Tintinhull Gardens in Somerset. I met Gerardo who was a Head Gardener at a hotel in Bath, and we decided that it would be great to work together.
Gerardo: I also took a career detour into gardening. I used to be a colour technician at a prestigious hair dressers in Bath. In search of a different kind of career, I began gardening for the council and later spent 5 years with Head Gardener Andrew Wilson at Lucknam Park. I also spent time at National Trust properties such as Montacute House and Lytes Cary – people always remark that they stole me for my hedge cutting skills!
Meg: As a couple who are both gardeners we wanted to find a gardening job where we could work together. The position came up to work in these gardens and the Cotswolds is idyllic so we jumped at the opportunity.
How would you describe the gardens?
Gerardo: Most parts of the gardens here were designed by Julie Toll, who is a 7 times RHS Chelsea Gold winner. She has such a deep knowledge of plants and works with the environment in a sustainable way. It’s a joy to work in a garden in which the designer understands the ethos of ‘Right Plant, Right Place’. In warmer weather much of the daily life of the hotel takes place out of doors – from drinks on the lawn to afternoon tea in the Walled Garden. And the huge picture windows mean that the view outside always makes for a cosy feeling inside, especially in autumn and winter.
Meg: The Cotswold evergreen backdrop accentuates beautiful colour combinations in the borders, with the right mixture of formality and natural design. In the Walled Garden box hedging separates the different garden areas, enclosing cut flower borders, formal lawns, a dry Gravel Garden and Herb Garden. The walls are lined with espalier apples and pears, as well as climbing roses. The garden at the front of the hotel flows down to the River Eye and two waterfalls, where you can cross the bridge and take a walk around the lake. The Bog Garden overflows with stunning moisture loving plants. It has a beautiful Swamp Cypress in the middle and Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera) along the water’s edge.
Which are your favourite seasons and why?
Meg: This is our first year at Lords of the Manor, and when we arrived it was September – the borders were in full flower. In spring it’s always exciting to see the bulbs popping up all over the garden, the first crocus and Winter Aconites (Eranthis Hyemalis) around the base of many trees and snowdrops sprinkled all over the gardens. But we very much look forward to the summer here, when the Dry Garden and Herb Garden come into their own.
How do you work with the Kitchen at Lords?
Gerardo: Head Chef Charles Smith loves having a choice of natural and very local ingredients to pick on the kitchen doorstep! In fact, the chefs can be seen regularly picking herbs – their favourite of which is thyme. Our plan is to plant more thyme, rosemary and oregano in the herb garden for the chefs to use for months on end.
Meg: We also have plans to develop the Courtyard Garden which is right by the kitchens. We hope to plant mints in the surrounding borders and develop a small herb and vegetable garden in the central beds. This year we will trial some chilli peppers, basil and tomatoes in the glasshouse, and begin working with the Charles to produce his favoured micro-leaves. We also have many edible flowers around the garden, one of which is the Calamintha, which Romain, the pastry chef uses to garnish desserts.
Is there a secret corner of the gardens that you wish more guests discovered?
Meg: The lawn at the front of the garden curves down and so it’s well worth heading that way to see what’s hidden down by the River Eye. If you take the path made of large stepping stones, you will come across an ice house with a small natural spring bubbling up inside it. If you follow the stream through the bog garden you will find huge Opuntia ferns at the bottom, a bamboo grove and Lysichiton (Swamp Lantern). The Bog Garden is also home to copious amounts of Candelabra Primulas and dotted with specimen trees. It peaks in the summer months.
If you could take one flower or plant home, which would it be?
Gerardo: We would definitely take home the Euphorbia Schillingii which lives in the Dry Garden, specifically in autumn. The stems lose all their foliage and turn a beautiful burnt orange colour which complements the deep red crab apples and dark purple Sedum (Hylotelephium) flower heads. It also contrasts perfectly with the light purple and silver Perovskia and Hebe flowers. A brilliant example of Julie Toll’s experienced eye and skill for putting the best plant combinations together.
There is a chance to have a tour of our wonderful gardens by Meg herself on Friday 30th March! Now that the weather has cheered up, we have organised the first date this year for our garden tour and luncheon. For just £25 per person, you can enjoy a personal tour and two course lunch with a glass of wine.