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The summer gardens of Cliveden

Cliveden gardens
Cliveden is famous for the formal flower displays in the Long Garden and Parterre, which are spectacular in Summer. Assistant Head Gardener Mark Lamb recommends also making time to seek out some of the less obvious elements of the National Trust garden. Among his suggestions are walking the circular path around the Water Garden in June to appreciate the beautiful and impressive tree collection and noting the herbaceous borders in the Long Garden and Forecourt.
Mark tells us what to look out for on a walk around the magnificent Cliveden grounds...
The Water Garden
As you pass through the main gate into the Water Garden, on your right is a Japanese walnut Juglans ailanthifolia var. cordiformis with large, handsome pinnate leaves (paired leaflets along the stem). Further along the path is a bed of Himalayan birches, Betula var jacquemontii, with ghostly white bark. Turn left after the birches and you will come across several Acer griseum planted in the grass. Commonly called paperbark maple, this medium-sized deciduous tree is native to China and has peeling cinnamon-coloured bark. To the left of these is another Acer, platanoides ‘Drummondii, or Norway maple with striking leaves that have a creamy white margin to them. We have a large wing nut on the right a bit further along, Pterocarya stenotera. This China native has 20cm long, catkin-like flower clusters hanging down and is quite rare. In the grass near the maze, there is a fantastic specimen of the Indian bean tree, Catalpa bignoniodes. It has a rounded shape, large heart shaped leaves and with its foxglove-like flowers it’s a real Summer stunner. Two trees that must have a mention before leaving the water garden are the attractive Cercidiphyllum japonicum, Katsura tree, a magnificent specimen near the water’s edge and a group of upright Acers on the island. Acer palmatum, or Shishi-gashira.’
The Long Garden
The Long Garden in August is awash with flower and scent filling the air. Instead of letting your eye be drawn to the stunning blocks of colour in the beds, look to the right, to the notable plants along the southfacing walled border. Walk in from the fountain end and there are two large shrubs you will see against the wall that are native to California. Umbellularia californica, one of its common names being the headache tree because of its pungent smelling leaves. The unusual Calycanthus occidentalis is a vigorous shrub known as Californian allspice. This has exotic looking red flowers in August. All along the border are different varieties of penstemon and salvias that we propagate every year. Two noteworthy salvias you will see along this border that put on a fantastic show in August are Salvia Amistad with its deep purple/black flowers and Salvia Phyllis fancy with two tone lavender/white flowers that continue to bloom well into October.
We have many climbing roses against the wall, but one to mention is Rosa Graham Thomas. This lovely, fully double, rich yellow rose has a delicate tea scent and is named after the British horticulturist, author and National Trust gardens adviser who did much work here at Cliveden. One of the areas Graham Thomas worked on at Cliveden was the forecourt herbaceous borders in front of the house. These are two large borders, one with hot colours, the other with cool and they peak in July/August. If you walk through the archway in the Yew hedge on the café side you will be hit by a myriad of red, orange and yellows. Helenium figures strongly down this border, two of my favourites being the orange red Helenium Moerheim Beauty and Helenium Indianersommer with its rich copper red heads and velvet brown centre. Another plant repeated along the bed is the impressive Crambe Cordifolia, or flowering sea kale. It’s up to 8ft tall with clouds of white flowers. One shrub/tree on the wall we constantly get asked about is the magnificent evergreen, Magnolia grandiflora. We have several along both walls, highly fragrant with gorgeous glossy green leaves.
Every Tuesday throughout July, a different member of the Cliveden gardens team presents a free tour to our visitors at 2pm. Visitors can sign up on the day in the Information Centre. There are 16 spaces on each tour on a first-come-first-serve basis. For more information, visit

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