Cliveden, a garden visit, part 1


Cliveden is a National Trust property nestled on the Buckinghamshire/ Berkshire border, near the town of Taplow, its set in 375 estate of formal and woodland gardens, that gently slope down to the River Thames. The house itself is leased to a hotel company and is now a 4 star hotel, looks very nice inside I must admit, could never afford to go but that’s the delight of the modern world via the website. To arrive at the gardens, you like the owners, drive up the main drive way, past the delightful gatehouse, up the main drive, stopped soon after to buy the ticket/show pass etc and along a winding driveway, though the wooded park area, with delightful ponds, set away from the drive, up to the car park and this is where the love/hate relationship with the garden started. You parked into the old walled garden, the area that for centuries have been the productive area for the house, providing all the fruit, veg and cut flowers for major banquets, events and day to day life and now this historic horticultural area is now used not to show off the techniques and skills of those past gardeners but to park our cars! To be fair to the garden team, they have coated the walls with some excellent trained fruit trees and other underplanting, the inforamation and shop area had also been well planted but nevertheless what a waste of such a space.

Moving on after visiting the toilets, we moved down to the Japanese themed garden, laid out by Lord Astor1st in around 1893, this beautiful pond was set off with a pagoda, brought from Paris in 1900, by Lord Astor. It featured in the Paris exposition universerelle 1867 and is set off with an abundance of plants including Gunera appearing from its winter slumber, flowering cherries filled your eyes with their blossom, wisteria’s starting to bud up into their scented lake is also full of carp including some ghost carp, great fun watching them slinking though the stone bridges In all beautifuly planted and maintained! Right next to this, was the yew maze, planted originally at the same time as the Japanese garden but sadly it had been neglected and was replanted in 2011 and it thicking up nicely and really a great maze and fun to get around!

After this area, we had to go back past the car park to get to the next part of our visit, again it seemed what ever part of the garden you wanted to visit, you had to go past the car park, part of me feels this shouldn’t be the case, the centre of the garden to me, should be the main house itself, so you are experiencing it the way it was designed. Any way off the soap box, we walked up to the main house, past the herbaceous borders, designed by the great Graham Thomas, where the garden team, were spending time putting in the twig structures to support the plants, my favourite way both for an artistic view point and supporting the plants, the borders themselves were well laid out and maintened again to a high standard. Not a lot of plants in flower in the time but a massive mulberry in the middle next to it, not too sure on the age but looked pretty old.

From here, we walked around to the house and up to the terrace, where to be honest my breath was taken away by the view that hit my eyes! The parterre was just truly a spectacular feast for the eyes, the one of biggest parterres in Europe, then the backdrop behind, view for miles and miles all across to london (I think!) just finished it off! The Parterre it covers approx 4 acres in size and was designed and laid out in around the 1850s by the head gardener, John Fleming under the Duke of Sutherland. It was on a site of an older one laid out in the 1720’s. Sadly this was overgrown and lost by 1850s. The current planting of bedding with middle sections of shrubs including azeleas, was dreamt up by John Fleming back in 1850’s as was credited in pioneering carpet bedding in the uk. The National Trust decided to go back to the orinigal plan in 2010,  removing the hideous looking mess of Senico ‘sunshine’ and Santolina that didn’t do this beautiful box parterre the justice it deserved! The spring bedding this year was wallflowers, polyanthus, pansies with a blend of yellow pansies at the semi circular bed, starting light in colour ending dark, this area is the only part left from the orginal layout of the Earl of Orkney and was designed to train his horses. The Yew pyrimids were added by the National Trust in 1972

Part 2 will be following shortly…………….

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