Earlier this month I visited Mottisfont Abbey (National Trust) for the first time in a couple of years. As I used to spend a large part of my life there, it was a nostalgic visit in some ways! With two colleagues, I used to grow the herbaceous plants that were sold there. We grew almost all of the plants that grow in the gardens, apart from the roses, and visitors were always thrilled to find they could buy the plants that they’d seen growing there.
Anyway , there was still lots in flower in the gardens, although peak time for visiting there is June, when the majority of the wonderful National Collection of Old Fashioned Roses are in flower.
You enter the property by crossing the lovely River Test – teeming with large trout as we walked over the bridge, and with fabulous demoiselles flying around too.
There’s a gentle slope up past the house (also open) and the font, and through beautiful parkland with magnificent trees. Coming into the courtyard area, this tub was looking splendid. The Salvia, scented Pelargoniums and Verbena rigida were perfectly set off by the silver foliage.
In the courtyard are several beds of roses with herbaceous underplantings, and there are mixed beds along the old brick walls, with roses, clematis, agapanthus, lilies, geraniums…
A new feature to me was the cutting bed – to provide flowers for the house. Sweet peas, astrantias, chrysanthemums, and loads of dahlias!
The modern shrub rose Golden Wings is here, and my favourite rose, Rosa Francois Dubreuil. I could never walk past without enjoying its stunning scent, and its velvety red colour too.
Onwards through the doorway into the main walled garden, and at this time of year, I just love the blue haze of Agapanthus, Perovskia, Nepeta, Aster and Ceanothus that greets you as you enter – probably not what you’d expect in a rose garden!
Just inside the entrance is Rosa rugosa Rubra, showing both flowers, and its beautiful shiny hips at the moment too. I WISH the flowers were red rather than pink, but you can’t have everything it seems!
There are a great many Clematis to be found at Mottisfont – of course, they compliment the climbing roses so well, and scramble into the old apple trees to decorate their ancient boughs too.
In the furthest walled garden, a triangular shape, the paths are lined with different cultivars of Lavender. It’s lovely to see and hear the bees buzzing away so happily here – in fact, there are always lots of bees and butterflies in the gardens – a good place to get ideas for planting bee-friendly gardens!
Stachys byzantinus Cotton Boll is unusual, and you don’t see the prickly poppy, Argemone grandiflora, too often- perhaps not too surprising, as it’s a painful business harvesting the spiny seed pods!
Don’t these Sempervivums and Sedums look great growing on the tile roof? Last month I was looking at them in the mountains in Switzerland – not quite so high here!
This is Selinum tenuifolium – used to be called S. wallichianum. You’ll have to forgive me for going on about this but I do love it! The foliage is fabulous, a bright green, and soft and ferny, and the dark red, strong stems contrast well. Long-lasting white umbelliferous flowers are good for cutting too!
One last rose, Compte de Chambord, a Portland Rose dating from 1860, and smelling delicious! Those quartered flowers are just amazing, so many petals, and they’re certainly doing well in this funny old summer we’re having!
And as you exit from the gardens, you can’t help but be impressed by the stately Cynara cardunculus, with magnificent jagged silvery foliage early in the season, from which rise architectural stems with fascinating purple flowerheads, beloved of the bees. These aren’t the culinary variety, but I don’t think I could bear to cut them even if they were!
If you’ve never been to Mottisfont Abbey, I hope you’ll pay a visit one day. The Rose Garden is stunning in June, but there’s much more than roses there! The grounds are stunning too, glorious parkland with large trees, and the River Test running through, with a riverside walk. Now there’s a winter garden too, and there are events and exhibitions in the house too, although for me, the reason for going is always to see the gardens – but then you’d expect that, wouldn’t you?!!