Asthall Manor. ‘On Form’

Asthall Manor

Every year, ‘The Women Who Weed’ go off on a garden- visiting jolly. This year our destination was the Cotswolds. This June has been one of the best rose seasons for years and I can’t think of a better place to enjoy it than the Cotswolds. Roses and the wonderful old honey-coloured Cotswold stone walls are a marriage made in heaven. J.P. Priestley wrote about Cotswold stone: “the truth is that it has no colour that can be described. Even when the sun is obscured and the light is cold, these walls are still faintly warm and luminous, as if they knew the trick of keeping the lost sunlight of centuries glimmering about them.” I can’t think of a better description.

Asthall Manor

Our first port of call was the photographer, Andrew Lawson’s garden which had us ‘oohing’ and ‘ahing’ with delight as it was a perfect marriage of wonderful design and perfect planting. This was the hors d’oeuvre and the next day was dedicated to enjoying the amazing  ‘On Form’ biennial sculpture exhibition at Asthall Manor. This is the UK’s largest stone sculpture exhibition which in itself would be a treat, but for a gardener it is the wonderful setting of the grounds of Asthall Manor which is the icing on the cake. This was the home of the famous Mitford family and for those of us who have read the books of Nancy or Jessica, we have abiding images of  Farve hunting his children round the grounds, Muv’s faith in the Good Body to heal itself and the Hons Airing Cupboard headquarters.  If you haven’t read Nancy’s Pursuit of Love you have a treat in store. Asthall Manor is the fictititious ‘Alconleigh’ and Farve is thinly disguised as the xenophobic Uncle Matthew who thought that ‘abroad is unutterably bloody and foreigners are fiends’ and most of his daughters’ friends were ‘sewers’.

I don’t believe ‘Farve’, Lord Redesdale was a gardener, but the new owners have had the grounds designed by the celebrated garden designers, Julian and Isobel Bannerman who designed Highgrove gardens. They are obviously designed to be at their best in June for the sculpture exhibition. There are so many roses that a rose freak like me was in absolute heaven.

I love the way these two are grown together, an idea I will copy.

The next one is a bit of a mystery. My friend has it in her garden and has never been able to find out its name. We were delighted to find it here, but the head gardener didn’t know its name either. Any ideas? It is a little gem and each frilly flower is a combination of pink, yellow and white.

As there are roses climbing on every wall we asked the gardener how they cared for them. I was intrigued to learn that starting at the beginning of September they go round the walls removing all the leaves and this stops diseased leaves falling on to the ground and causing problems for the following year. This does seem very work intensive and indeed she told us it takes them until the following March to complete the task. But the roses are bursting with health and vitality.

As well as roses climbing the walls, I was taken with this way of training philadelphus.

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’

And I have never seen phygelius growing like this either.


Other planting ideas that took my eye were these frothy peonies growing with astrantias.

Peonies and astrantia.

The colour of this clematis is the perfect match for the centre of Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’.

And I love the idea of growing frothy Crambe cordifolia which I featured last week as one of my top ten June blooms with Geranium psilostemon.

Crambe cordifolia and Geranium psilostemon

The garden has so many lovely features.  There is a gorgeous courtyard with this amazing little water feature.

I love this box parterre which is on a slope so you can see it properly.

And these stone steps on the side of it going up to the wild flower area.

Wild flowers are a feature as you look across the lovely view towards the Windrush valley.

There are man made- mounds that you can climb on which are a nod to Jencks and his Garden of Cosmic Speculation.

I loved the naturalistic swimming pond.

Even details like this fence hiding the compost heap was something I would love to copy.

The beautiful twelfth century church is right next to the house and some of the sculpture  is exhibited there too.

Asthall church

I loved quite a lot of the sculpture and the beautiful garden showed it off to perfection. I couldn’t help thinking that some of the lovely pieces would give my garden rather a classy look. But there was nothing much under £2000. The Pianist is endlessly indulgent about the fact that I am incapable of leaving the house without coming back with plants, but a £2000 bit of sculpture would be pushing his tolerance rather. Besides there were four of us in the car and nobody would fancy sitting with one of these pieces on their knee the whole way home.

By the entrance and our last glimpse of the garden was this magnificent lime tree in full bloom.

Under it there is a message which I rather liked and makes all my descriptions redundant.
‘When one is in the sphere of the beautiful, no explanation is needed.’

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33 Responses to Asthall Manor. ‘On Form’

  1. Wonderous, thank you for sharing the garden. Remove all the rose leaves? Still digesting that…

    • Chloris says:

      I know, it’s the sort of thing you can only contemplate if someone is paying you to do it. And even then I’d want a £1.50 a leaf. At least.

  2. janesmudgeegarden says:

    How beautiful. Thank you for the tour. I remember a terrific TV show about the Milfords and Farve with his trenching tool! I rather fancy a couple of those doves for my garden….

  3. Beth says:

    What a glorious garden to visit — so glad you shared it with us! Best, -Beth

  4. jenhumm116 says:

    What a lovely tour, thanks for sharing.
    Can you remind me the name of Andrew Lawson’s garden? I went there years ago and would love to return but couldn’t remember the name/location. Thanks

    • Chloris says:

      Andrew Lawson’s House is called Gothic House, I think the village is called Witney. I think he opens for the National Garden Scheme, we were lucky that a friend arranged a private tour with his gardener. The garden is amazing, I didn’t post any pictures because without asking his permission this would be an invasion of his privacy.

  5. Ali says:

    I love all the sculptures. What a lovely garden.

  6. Kris P says:

    Your post is further proof that there are no gardens as wonderful as English gardens. I would have been in heaven. However, I was daunted by the description of the work entailed in caring for those climbing roses!

    • Chloris says:

      Indeed, you would have been in heaven Kris. I wish you could have been there, you would have been a very welcome new member of the ‘Women who Weed’.

  7. Indie says:

    Wow, beautiful! The roses are amazing. How interesting that they trained a Mock Orange up like that! I never knew you could do that. I really love their compost fence.

  8. mrsdaffodil says:

    I don’t know which I admire more: the buildings or the gardens. When we have travelled in Europe and the UK and then come home, I find things look a bit raw and slap-dash here.

  9. hb says:

    I am amazed at the Phygelius growing up the wall: must try this!

    The roses are glorious, as is the rest of it. Thank you for sharing your photos and comments.

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    Beautiful gardens – wish we had similar here. I suppose the climate helps!

  11. Cathy says:

    What a beautiful and inspiring garden! I also love that wooden panel to disguise a compost heap, and the peony and astrantia combination is heavenly. The climbers are amazing too – I had no idea a Philadelphus could be trained to grow up a wall… Thank you for sharing this lovely spot in the Cotswolds. 🙂

  12. Brian Skeys says:

    Beautiful tour Chloris, on our doorstep and I had never heard of the garden,one for the 2020 diary.

  13. What fun! There’s nothing like a garden jaunt to move the mind in a million new directions. I’m reviewing a preliminary itinerary for Ireland this morning but my heart is still full of East Anglia; nothing could have been more inspiring. The compost fence is “just right” for your garden and hopefully the Pianist would be on board. I used to find modern pieces jarring when imposed on historic or traditional homes and gardens, but some of these works sit quite comfortably for me.

  14. WOW! Those roses! Especially that white climber in the third pic.

  15. snowbird says:

    What a lovely description of Cotswold stone! Visiting such wonderful places always has you thinking creatively, I always come home thinking I’ll copy an idea or planting combo. Such delightful roses, I simply cannot imagine removing all the leaves though, I can’t even keep the garden weeded! I have a rose similar to the nameless one, it’s Rose Cornelia, a hybrid musk rose. It has the same type of roses in those

  16. germac4 says:

    I really enjoyed your tour of Asthall Manor, not only for the glorious garden, but a reminder of all the books I have read about the Mitford family…..especially The Pursuit of Love…and Farve! How could you forget him?
    Many thanks for an interesting post (read on a rather chilly winter’s day in Canberra, Australia….the joys of blogging)

  17. Wow and double wow! I can’t even begin. Your final quote says it all.

  18. rusty duck says:

    Well that was rather lovely! Makes me wish I had more (any) walls which would take a nail.

  19. smallsunnygarden says:

    So much beauty, so many pictures of spacious and mature plantings to sigh for… 😉 And that froth of peony and astrantia is perfect.
    I hope you don’t mind, I’m posting a link here to what was originally my June Favorites post – only just posted now thanks to internet problems, but I decided I was going to get it up no matter what…:

  20. Cathy says:

    Oh what a lovely post, Chloris. The Sunday Times had a feature on these sculptures at the same time as this post, so I had had a preview but it was good to see more of the plantings. There are a couple of the sculptures I fancy too… And I can see I have some reading to do as well 😉

  21. Amanda Clowe says:

    I love these type of gardens – with the impressive architecture as a backdrop to a delightful array of planting. I’ve recently visited Old Wollerton Hall ( of David Austin rose fame) It was charming and I highly recommend it…Similar to the above but on a smaller scale.
    I would love to send you the photos of your garden from this years open day – but cannot find your email. Please see my blog at
    Best wishes x

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