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How one of the first female garden designers came to Upton in the 1930s and changed the face of the gardens forever.
The daughter of a Swansea doctor, the ninth of ten children, Kitty Lloyd-Jones was a pioneer amongst female garden designers. Kitty gained a diploma in Practical Gardening from the Royal Botanical Society, going on to become one of the first women to take a degree in horticulture from Reading University in 1924.
At first, Kitty found it difficult to obtain work at a time when professional women gardeners were rare, but gradually built up an impressive network of wealthy clients and friends, despite her lower social standing.
Upton before Kitty
Before the Bearsteds the garden’s main purpose was to provide food for the house, with few thoughts of pleasure and recreation. Arriving with fresh ideas, enthusiasm and ample resources, Lady Bearsted set about improving the garden for leisure and pleasure. She commissioned a young garden designer, Kitty Lloyd-Jones, to advise on designs and planting.
Coming to Upton
Kitty’s letters to Lady Bearsted between 1931 and 1934 survive and her informal, chatty style shows how she formed close friendships with her clients.
In July 1931, Kitty sent a long letter to Lady Bearsted outlining her suggestions for re-designing the gardens.
‘The two bare places where the greenhouses were pulled down are certainly rather difficult’, wrote Kitty, ‘But I have an idea which I would like to think about. There is plenty to get on with at the moment and this could be done during the winter. I thought I’d better mention that this is being considered because Tidman said you were most anxious to get something done there this year and I was afraid you would think we’d forgotten it.’
Kitty stayed at Upton for a few days at a time when she designed plans for the garden, itemised the work to be done with the Head Gardener, Mr Tidman, and wrote lists of suggested plants for Lady Bearsted to approve.
The Bog Garden - showing the 1930s style
This area was an overgrown marshland. When Kitty first mentioned this site in her letters to Lady Bearsted she said, ‘Perhaps we could begin to clean the piece below Tidman’s house (Bog Cottage). Not ‘till the spring probably because it is wet there in winter – with the other jobs really done I feel we can begin something new, don’t you?’
This ‘something new’ became the enchanting Bog Garden. A natural spring comes into the garden in the far corner, to the left of the cottage, through a grotto known as Monks’ Well. This was used to feed the series of streams which now flow through the bog garden.
See Kitty's influence today
When you visit the gardens you can see her influence in many areas - the soft planting, strong colours and fashionable style.