Creating a Kitchen Garden at Mottisfont
Thanks to everyone who donated to the Walled Garden Appeal, we’re creating a new Kitchen Garden in the area formerly known as the 'Frameyard'. We're working on the garden at the moment, to be unveiled in autumn: you can see the work in progress when you visit.
The new design reflects Mottisfont’s medieval history and the garden’s productive past, returning food production and sustainability to the heart of our gardens for the first time in over 30 years. This ambitious project is the result of our biggest ever fundraising campaign to date, and has been made possible by the hard work of volunteer gardeners.
Just as former owner Maud Russell commissioned famous garden designers to celebrate the house’s history, this innovative new garden is bespoke to Mottisfont’s story.
The walled gardens are now world famous for displaying the National Collection of old-fashioned roses. Until the early twentieth century, however, these gardens were used for the production of fruit, vegetables and flowers - just as the monks of the original priory would have grown.
" I wanted to design a garden that was innovative yet reflective of Mottisfont's medieval past - and of course the Frameyard's fascinating productive history."
Everything planted in the Kitchen Garden will be culinary, medicinal or edible. The garden also provides a more fitting introduction to the historic rose collection; but while the majority of Mottisfont’s roses only flower once a year, in June, this new garden provides year-round interest.
The Kitchen Garden is laid out in a formal manner, with a series of raised beds surrounding a central dipping pond which follows the same pattern as an original feature. Constructed of brick and flint to echo colours and materials found elsewhere at Mottisfont, the beds are planted with mixed vegetables, edible flowers, herbs and roses, with evergreen borders.
All the vegetables planted here are heritage varieties, and have been grown at Mottisfont from seed. We recycled all its soil when creating this garden, and used our own compost.
The use of water reflects Mottisfont’s origins as the site of a spring. Eight standard apple trees will be planted around the dipping pond to reflect the eight sides of a font, representing baptism and new life. Single-tiered ‘stepover’ apples have also been trained on the pergolas surrounding this area, so the centre of the garden will be awash with apple blossom in spring.
Running the full length of the garden are two wooden pergola walkways reminiscent of cloisters, crafted from re-purposed Hampshire chestnut. The pergolas open up onto each of the dissecting pathways with gothic-styled archways, and will be draped with climbing gourds and vines.
Their brick and flint supports include pieces of stone from Mottisfont’s ruined abbey, and from the 19th-century kitchen garden.
The central point of each walkway will form an arbour decorated with four varieties of climbing rose, based on Graham Stuart Thomas’s choice of companion roses.
Rose hedging will be planted to lead you into these arbours: using rugose rubra, which will display floral abundance in summer and plump, sculptural hips in autumn. This planting mirrors the entrance to the central garden. It’s a variety of rose that was first produced in the late nineteenth century, when the Victorian kitchen garden had its heyday.
The result of this planting is a rose walkway which leads you into and frames the entrance of the central and north walled gardens, which host Mottisfont’s famous rose collection.
The Kitchen Garden will also be planted with a further fourteen different types of rose, representing each different group, from gallicas to albas – providing an introduction to the hundreds of varieties you’ll find in the adjoining gardens.
The design includes space to relax. The refreshment kiosk has been reinstated in the corner of the garden, with seating under the shade of a giant Indian bean tree, which has been left as a favourite feature of the former garden; and there will be small areas of lawn to spread out a picnic blanket.
The history of the Kitchen Garden
This newly-restored area has seen many transformations over the years. The historic footprint dates back to at least the seventeenth century. A hothouse and greenhouse were installed here in the early nineteenth century; a detailed account in The Gardener from 1869 illustrates the acclaimed productivity of this area.
In the early twentieth century, all the freestanding glasshouses here had been demolished, with only glass frames against the north wall remaining. The gardens were generally still cultivated, however. Records show that the walled gardens continued to function as kitchen gardens throughout the Second World War, producing fresh produce for Mottisfont and the neighbouring community.
Maud Russell gave Mottisfont to the National Trust in 1957, but she continued to live in the house until 1972. She retained the walled gardens as her private space, and continued using this area to produce vegetables.
But it was in a poor state, and once Mrs Russell relocated in 1972, this area was initially converted into a car park, whilst the other walled gardens became the home of an eminent rose collection.
During the early 1970s, Graham Stuart Thomas did recommend that a collection of tea roses and climbing roses be planted to improve this area, but these plans were never fully realised.
The visitor car park moved in 1985, and this area was used to accommodate café and retail outlets. In recent years, it has served as simply a stopping place for refreshment and convenience before entering the celebrated rose gardens.
Now, it’s been re-instated as a new, welcoming space for visitors, a garden that echoes Mottisfont’s history.