Mottisfont's Kitchen Garden
Celebrating its first anniversary this autumn, our innovative new Kitchen Garden embodies Mottisfont’s medieval history and productive past. Everything planted here is culinary, medicinal or edible, designed to educate and inspire. In early autumn long pergolas are covered in colourful hanging gourds.
Raised beds are bursting with colourful produce: a mix of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. Surrounding a central water feature, the beds are constructed of brick and flint to reflect materials found elsewhere at Mottisfont.
All the vegetables planted here are heritage varieties, and have been grown at Mottisfont from seed. Look out for squashes, pumpkins and beetroot in autumn, and fragrant herbs such as lemon balm, thyme and mint.
Growing produce here returns food production and sustainability to the heart of our gardens for the first time in over 30 years. A continuous harvest of salad and other seasonal gems from this garden have been used by our own kitchens to create tasty dishes.
You can pick up some produce of our own, too: a daily harvest of vegetables, herbs and cut flowers is offered to visitors for a small donation, which helps raise funds for our garden apprentice scheme.
Alongside vegetables and herbs, edible flowers such as viola tricolor and pelargonium provide little pops of colour. Cream, yellow and orange sunflowers stand tall against the red brick walls, including the giant 'Sunzilla' variety. These will all offer up winter food for birds once the flowering season has passed.
Under the gourd walk
Running the full length of the garden are two cloister-esque wooden pergola walkways crafted from re-purposed Hampshire chestnut. These are draped with vines and strangely-shaped gourds through the autumn, planted with over 20 varieties including crown of thorns, speckled swan and small spoon.
The speckled swan varieties in particular have grown to enormous sizes, with our largest weighing just under 5 kilos.
We plan to harvest a selection of the gourds for decorative purposes. The remaining gourds will be picked in November: we plan dry the bird house varieties and make them into nesting boxes.
Soak up some of seasonal splendour with refreshments from the kiosk in the corner of the Kitchen Garden. Outdoor seating is scattered under the branches of a giant Indian bean tree, and for sunny days, there’s an area of lawn to spread out a picnic blanket.
The new garden is currently accessible for dogs on a trial basis due to the nature of the plants we’re growing here.
The history of the Kitchen Garden
Our new Kitchen Garden was made possible thanks to everyone who donated to the Walled Garden Appeal. It’s still evolving: later this year we’re planning to restore cold frames to the north wall, in readiness for spring produce.
The garden 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. Before it was transformed, it 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.