In the fall of 2019, Royal Oak sat down with Anne and Johnny Chambers to discuss their garden in the Cotswolds, Kiftsgate Court Garden. As the garden writer Robin Lane Fox wrote about Kiftsgate “there is nowhere else in Britain that has such a family tradition of planting and dedication.
Three Generations of Women Gardeners
Perched on the edge of the Cotswold Hills, Kiftsgate Court is a family home and garden that has been loved and cultivated by the same family for over 100 years. Three generations of women gardeners have left their mark, each building on the legacy of the previous owner.
When Jack and Heather Muir bought the Grecian-fronted Victorian house in 1919, Heather, without any horticultural training, started to layout the Kiftsgate garden straight away. Instead of a lawn, she planted semi-formal beds of roses and other flowers, a tapestry hedge with a mix of beech, yew and plain and variegated holly, and a rose border full of unusual varieties.
Heather’s horticultural aesthetic favored the Arts & Crafts Movement which emphasized perennials and plants chosen for their adaptability, including drought-tolerant cistus, spiky agaves and other Mediterranean-style plantings. She was encouraged by her friend and next-door neighbor at Hidcote, Lawrence Johnston, and other notable garden designers including Norah Lindsay and Vita Sackville-West—who planted the enormous and famous Kiftsgate Rose (Rosa filipes) at Sissinghurst.
Heather’s daughter, Diany Binny continued the family gardening tradition during the 1950s and quickly became an accomplished plantswoman. She extended the planting, creating paths and replanting more borders with shrubs and herbaceous plants and re-fashioned the White Sunk Garden with a pool and fountain.
Since the late 1980s, her daughter Anne Chambers and her husband Johnny have brought the garden into the 21st century. They introduced plants that flower year-round and are suited to warmer winters. They also created a new Water Garden with a sculpture by Simon Allison, a woodland with plants from the Scilly Isles, an avenue of tulip trees, and an orchard among other features.