Good taste is a quality which is difficult to achieve, and not easy to define -but in the garden at Bampton Manor the good taste of the owner, Countess Miinster, is everywhere apparent. And the garden owner who wants to improve his own blessed plot will come away full of ideas as to how to do it, new ideas for planting plans-new and telling juxtapositions of plants-and for plants themselves.
For example, almost every garden, in the spring, has a show of wallflowers. These are a tradition in British gardens, and, incidentally, the envy of American gardeners, as they do not prosper in America, where the winters are too cold for them. But the wallflowers most British gardeners plant, are usually the traditional brown or yellow, or occasionally a ‘Persian carpet’ mixture of different colours, and very effective and pretty they are. At Bampton Manor, however, more thought has been given to the choice of the originalpackets; and the wallflowers there are in colours which, in their novelty, surprise and delight the eye – pink, rose-coloured, and pale lemon-yellow. That is only one example of how the garden at Bampton Manor is planted with just that subtle difference which is the evidence of taste.
Bampton Manor and its garden lie almost completely surrounded by the pretty old village of Bampton, and presiding proudly over the garden scene is a feature which is well outside the garden walls, the slim fifteenth-century spire of St Mary’s Church. Most fortunately placed, the spire can be seen from almost every angle of the garden, and acts as what in the eighteenth century was called an eye-catcher. No garden could have a more effective one.
Above:Beyond a neatly-laid terrace of stone and pebbles, are twin trees of the fastigiate cherry P. serrulata erecta — in Japanese Amanogawa.
The garden at Bampton Manor is divided into sections, each with its own colour scheme and its own character. The expectant visitor, on arrival at the gate, walks up a short drive, with a miniature lake to his right. In spring this is surrounded with early iris and the clear goldof king cups (Caltha palustris), and in summer with the jungly vegetation of giant rhubarbs (Rheum atropurpureum), rodgersias, Saxifraga peltata, and other plants to provide a lush and exotic effect. Red and white float on the water’s surface, and a willow weeps the days away by the water’s edge.
From the drive, to the left, the tall trees are underplanted in spring with daffodils and a myriad of scarlet tulips, which grow happily in the grass, showing their flowers year after year. Beyond lies a circular white garden planted only with white flowers and shrubs, including willow-leaved pear (Pyrus salicifolia), with silver foliage. In the centre of this round enslosure, of which the walls are of closely clipped yew, a perfect background for white flowers, is an elegant white temple of wire, curtained in summer with white clematis
Marie Boisselot, and underplanted, in the crevices of the paving, with the unusual white willow herb, Epilobium glabellum.
Near the Manor itself are twin herbaceous borders which make a fine show from May till the first frosts. Here, as everywhere in the garden, taste and knowledge of plants have been shown in the planting – pink bergamot, tobacco flowers, gypsophila Bristol Fairy, white and blue galega, verbascum Pink Domino and many other favourite flowers make a haze of gentle colour for months on end. These borders are on the exact axis between the front door of the Manor with its Gothick porch, and the church spire. They have been described by experts as among the best herbaceous borders in the country.
Passing down the broad grass path between them, the visitor reaches an open area, planted round the edge with loosely grouped shrubs, the best varieties of each, among which are the spreading Eupatorium ligustrinum,
Elstead,(Philadelphia microphyllus) and the crimson-budded rock rose, corbariensis. Nearer at hand are a group of old shrub roses, which, growing in rough grass, have made fine plants 8 or 10 feet high and are laden with flowers in June and July. Among the finest specimens are handsome bushes of Fantin Latour, Rosa mundi, Charles de Mills, Tuscany and Tour de Malakoff.
There is another part of the garden at Bampton devoted, in the main, to roses. This lies under the classical east facade of the Manor itself. . . but it is a rose garden with a difference.there are in abundance, both hybrid teas in bush form and grown as standards. But the difference lies in the fact that they are underplanted with silver and grey aromatic plants which give the garden a uniquely rich, upholstered look – and do away with those areas of bare earth which disfigure so many rose gardens. The ground-covering and, incidentally, weed-suppressing, plants used to achieve this effect are silver and gold thymes, santolina (the white leaved lavender cotton), senecio (well named greyii for its are the colour and texture of grey velvet), phlomis, and for some muted colour, the mat-forming campanulas. The rose garden at Bampton Manor is as successful a conception as can be seen in the length and breadth of Britain.
There is another aspect of the garden at Bampton Manor which is worth recording, and which makes it doubly interesting to the garden visitor. Often, while visiting famous gardens, the visitor sees plants he would like to have himself. But if they are unusual varieties (as many of the plants at Bampton are) he is posed with the problem of where to get them. At Bampton the answer, nine times out often, is, ‘Just through the gate into the kitchen garden,’ for it is here that Countess Miinster raises, grows and sells many of the most effective plants in her garden.
So the visitor to the garden at Bampton Manor comes away, not only with some envy in his heart and some new ideas in the back of his mind, but also with some of the plants he most admired in the back of his car.
OPEN Weekdays for sale of plants and on several other days every summer for special charities.
LOCATION Entrance gates on left of Bampton to Witney road leaving Bampton village.