Sir Richard Colt Hoare, avid plant collector

The 18th century was a period of intense excitement in the horticultural world. England experienced an influx of new species of plants, shrubs and trees from across the globe.

Sir Richard Colt Hoare - third owner of Stourhead - introduced many of these species to the garden from the late 18th to the early 19th century.

New plantings

Above all, Colt introduced diversity into the garden. He respected his grandfather’s original vision but he disliked Henry's many fir trees, humorously lamenting 'the... adoption of the fir tribe'.

He embarked on a large-scale planting programme upon returning from Europe in 1791. He removed firs from many areas, replacing them with broad-leaved trees, especially beeches together with acers, oaks, tulip trees and limes.

Many of these trees were planted because of their remarkable autumn colours and still make an eye-catching display today. 

Colt included more deciduous trees and shrubs, punctuating them with swathes of laurels. Open spaces - such as that around the Temple of Apollo - were clothed with rich plantings, ridding them of the 'naked appearance' Colt disliked. 

Stourhead's rhododendrons

Several of the rhododendrons, for which Stourhead is renowned, were introduced by Colt - including the invasive Rhododendron ponticum, seen then as a delightful rarity.

Opposite the Ice House are the magnificent Rhododendron arboreum that were planted by Colt and only introduced to Britain in 1810.

Pelargonium collector and breeder

The walled garden is home to an important collection of pelargoniums at Stourhead in Wiltshire
Pelargoniums growing on top of a wall at Stourhead
The walled garden is home to an important collection of pelargoniums at Stourhead in Wiltshire

Colt was an important pelargonium collector and breeder. By 1821, he owned over 600 varieties, many of which he had cultivated himself.

He had a conservatory built parallel to the library at the west corner of the house, in which he could work. The original structure is gone but his pelargonium house has been revived in the walled garden and pelargoniums are grown here. 

Colt’s impact is undeniable. A look at the Stourhead Tree List shows how many of the trees we so value now were first planted by Colt. In all, he established around 90,000 trees within the space of 13 years and thousands of visitors enjoy this legacy today.