Cranborne Manor Garden

One of the first gardeners in England to achieve international fame was John Tradescant (d. 1638). Two well known plants are named after him: Tradescantia virginiana, the spider flower, an old-fashioned herbaceous plant; and Tradescantia fluminensis, ‘wandering Jew’, a trailing indoor plant with white and green striped leaves, often to be found on office-workers window sills. It is on record that John Tradescant made the original plan for the garden at Cranborne soon after the present Manor was built by the Cecil family in the seventeenth century.

The garden at Cranborne Manor retains much of John Tradescant’s original layout, two still-existing features of which are the Bowling-alley and the Mound, a fashionable feature of Jacobean Gardens; the latter is now planted as a garden of old roses, with such telling names as Pale Pink Moss, Variegata di Bologna, Fantin Latour and Gypsy Boy.

Cranborne Manor garden is essentially English. Roses flower everywhere over a fragrant undergrowth of herbs such as lavender, rosemary and rue. One particular corner is a favourite of Lady Salisbury, a passionate and well informed gardener, who herself works for long hours among her flowers. This favoured part she calls’. . . the Sweet Garden; for it is largely a herb garden and full of flowers and savours, and clothed even in winter because of the numbers of evergreen and evergrey herbs: it is delicious to work in, as the various scents cling to one throughout the day.’

Another favourite part of the garden is the North Court, which has newly been planted with white flowers, with some touches of cream and apricot.

The Manor itself is the dominating feature of the garden at Cranborne, and from every angle its pearly grey walls, hung with pink and yellow roses, make a perfect backdrop. The north and south facades of the house are embellished with two classical porches, and there is good reason to suppose them the work of the great architect Inigo Jones, who is known to have worked at nearby Wilton. The north porch is the most elaborate and giving, as it does, on to the flower-filled terrace, seems as integral a part of the garden as a gazebo or summer house might be. The porch is strongly Italianate in feeling, and above each of its four pillars is a gaping mask, ‘perhaps more grotesque than beautiful, which adds an endearing light-hearted touch to architectural nicety’.

Cranborne Manor Garden

Recently another and quite modern attraction has been added to those already enhancing Cranborne. This is an extremely efficiently run Garden Centre, where many of the very special plants the visitor admires in the borders can be bought. Silver-leaved plants, such as artemisia, santolina and senecio, so popular with gardeners today, are a speciality.

One last remark about Cranborne might add to the interest of the garden, especially to visitors who are not exclusively garden-conscious. The terrace (one of the four, incidentally, to survive from the very early seventeenth century) was the scene, in the well known film, of Tom Jones’ departure from home to make his fortune.

OPEN First weekend each month April – October (Saturdays all day, Sunday 2 p.m.-6 p.m.). Also open on Bank Holiday Mondays, ioa.m.-6 p.m. LOCATION 10 miles north of Wimborne on Salisbury road. .

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