Even though Spetchley is on the proverbial doorstep, it’s a garden I’ve never visited until recently, when I was fortunate to meet head gardener Mike Beak, who has the enviable job of looking after the 30-acre garden with his team.
Spetchley has been in the Berkeley family for over 400 years, since Rowland Berkeley purchased the original moated Tudor house in 1605. Although the original house was burned to the ground on the eve of the battle of Worcester in 1651, the current house was constructed in 1811. Over the years the gardens have been improved and extended by each generation, but especially by Ellen Willmott, sister to Rose Berkeley, who was a renowned horticulturist and the first female recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Victoria Medal of Honour in 1897.
The Berkeley family have been building up a large botanical collection at Spetchley for the past 200 years. Rose and Ellen hybridised their own daffodils, Narcissus ‘Spetchley’ (pictured) and N. ‘Warley’. Daffodils have been planted in their thousands around the house and gardens. Other plants they collect are hydrangeas. The one pictured is Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Oregon Pride’, an unusual mop-head variety with large violet flowers on a dark red stem. It can eventually reach around 1.8m tall and prefers an acidic soil in partial shade. You can see it in flower from June onwards. Irises are another favourite at Spetchley Gardens, along with tree peonies, Paeonia suffruticosa, of which they have more than 300 varieties that start flowering from April onwards throughout their herbaceous borders.
The family’s love of plants is obvious, especially in the Fountain Gardens, which have 26 beds filled with bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees. It really is a plantsman’s garden paradise.
If you would like to visit, the gardens are open to the public from the 1st April with various events throughout the season including a Specialist Plant Fair on April 23, 11am-5pm. I’m sure you’ll find inspiration for your own garden along with plants that aren’t available from anywhere else. Although the house isn’t open to the public you can enjoy a cream tea in the tearoom after your walk around the beautiful gardens, which is another perfect reason for me to go back!