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Things to do in the garden at Charlecote Park

Two visitors exploring the formal garden at Charlecote Park, with short hedges and blooming flowers in the foreground and a decorative stone wall in the background
Enjoy seasonal planting in the parterre and views along the river Avon. | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The garden at Charlecote Park reflects the passion of the Lucy family, in particular Mary Elizabeth Lucy, who could often be seen tending the borders in the early hours. Discover the formal riverside parterre that she loved, peer inside the Victorian summerhouse, and find seasonal highlights in the garden all year round.

Winter highlights to spot

The lush swathes of colour in the borders are long gone, but there are still delights all around the gardens in winter, with hints of spring to come.

Snowdrops and jewel-pink cyclamen are in flower in the coldest days, soon followed by yellow eranthis (winter aconite) popping out of fozen soil in the borders. Look out for the first snowdrops in sheltered spots before Christmas.

Perfumed shrubs like mahonia, skimmia and viburnum will lift your spirits in winter. You’ll often be aware of the scent before you see the flowers including the Christmas box (sarcococca var. humilis) by the benches overlooking the croquet lawn.

The hellebore collection begins flowering in January and continues until April – singles and doubles in beautiful shades of pink, white and cream.

New bedding plants brings colour in early spring to the parterre, with brave polyanthus giving us a little colour through milder winter days from December. On frosty mornings the topiary in Green Court brings a magical quality to the courtyard.

Winter wildlife

Winter is the best time for bird watching as they flit between the branches of trees and forage in the planted borders.

Keep your binoculars handy and you may see one of the hares that live in Camp Ground across the river from the parterre, particularly if the sunlight catches their tawny coat.

On a warmish day though, you may spot a drowsy bumble bee or a ladybird among the winter-flowering shrubs in the garden. It always cheers us up to feel that spring isn't too far away

Two visitors exploring the parkland in spring at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire. One visitor is using an all terrain mobility scooter
Autumnal blooms are dotted around the small but formal gardens. | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Mary Elizabeth’s riverside parterre

Mary Elizabeth Lucy’s passion for plants still influences the garden today. Her riverside parterre was reinstated 20 years ago and is planted with thousands of bedding bulbs every year to ensure the parterre is bursting with colour.

The woodland garden

Once known as the Wilderness, the woodland garden contains rare and unusual shade-loving plants and ferns. The Victorian craze for ferns was called ‘pteridomania’, and you’ll discover lots of different species as you explore the woodland garden.

The 21st-century Whichford Pottery basin is based on the alabaster vase that Mary Elizabeth and George Hammond bought in Florence in 1841, which you’ll find in the great hall.

Highlights in the woodland garden include the hellebores which begin to flower from January through to spring, when you’ll also find lots of flowering shrubs.

‘Went on a stroll around the green and wilderness, my dear birds were rejoicing... and were joined by the thrushes and blackbirds.’

– Mary Elizabeth Lucy's diary, 1887

Topiary in Green Court

The topiary in Green Court was designed by the present late, Sir Edmund Fairfax-Lucy, who created the formal design based on three-dimensional mathematical relationships between the house, the gatehouse and this lawned forecourt.

Admire the wisteria climbing the side of the house is the summer, and look for late-flowering dahlias in the autumn. Spring is a wonderful time to see the apricot, apple and pear blossom at its best in Green Court, while the nerines provide a pop of colour in winter.

A view of the thatched summerhouse at Charlecote which has diamond shaped bay windows and new thatched roof, with plant pots dotted around it's base under the windows.
Granny's Summerhouse has recently been rethatched. | © Jana Eastwood

A Victorian summerhouse

A must-see feature in the garden is the thatched summerhouse next to the Orangery. Granny’s Summerhouse is a Grade II listed property, built from brick and timber for Mary Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren.

It was created by the same company that made the dresser in the dining room, the apprentices of the Willcox Studio of Warwick, and was modelled on Plas Newydd in Llangollen, where Mary Elizabeth holidayed as a child.

Inside the summerhouse

While the summerhouse isn’t open to visitors due to its fragile nature, you can peer through the windows and imagine playful days inside.

The summerhouse is made up of two rooms, both clad with re-used timber and decorated with stained-glass windows. Two windows have dates on them – 1826 and 1828 – the years that Mary Elizabeth’s children were born.

An archway divides the two rooms, which contain a fireplace, chimney, a wooden coat of arms and a built-in mirrored glass cabinet to hold trinkets. The view from the large window looks over the house and garden – the perfect spot to sit and relax.

Visitors in the garden at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire

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