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Things to do in the garden at Charlecote Park

A man walks around a low hedge that forms part of a decorative pattern of planting as early spring leaves begin to unfurl on a tree behind him, infront of the Tudor house.
On sunny spring days, enjoy the blossoming trees and flowering Parterre. | © ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The garden at Charlecote Park reflects the passion of the Lucy family, in particular Mary Elizabeth Lucy (1803 - 1890), 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.

Spring highlights to spot

The bulbs that our volunteer gardeners planted last autumn come in to flower during the spring, brightening up the borders and pots. Apricot, apple and pear blossoms come into bloom in Green Court. Look for the single pear tree near the laundry that comes into bloom late March and brings a splash of spring to the cobbled courtyard.

The ancient wisteria on the house comes in to flower in late spring - we believe it to be around 200 years old which would make it one of the first wisterias planted in this country after plant-hunters brought seeds back from China.

The parterre begins to bloom in late spring, adding a splash of colour to the beautiful views up and down the river Avon.

Spring wildlife

Take a seat on one of the benches around the parkland and pause for a therapeutic moment or two. Watch for the undulating flight of a woodpecker, or a flash of blue from a jay or even a kingfisher on the Dene or the Avon.

Bees can often be seen erly spring, making use of the early blooms in the garden.

A large number of young deer stand close together beneath spring trees
Deer roaming in the parkland | © National Trust

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 of the house.

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 in the 20th century by the 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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