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Secret Garden Visit: Wychwood Manor, Cotswolds

This visit is part of our Secret Garden Visits fundraiser to raise urgently needed funds to save the Garden Museum from the impact of the coronavirus.

Explore the stunning Wychwood Manor gardens, designed by Isabel and Julian Bannerman with owner Fiona Wilmot-Sitwell.

“You might not think that ‘summery and feminine’ are necessarily adjectives synonymous with the Bannerman style,” said Vanessa Berridge in Country Life in 2017, “but that’s precisely what the designers have achieved within a strong framework of walls, hornbeam hedging and yew topiary and hedging. In high summer, the garden is afroth, the house covered, front and back, with climbing Albéric Barbier and Sander’s White Rambler roses.”

Fiona herself says of the garden, “A big landscape and we knew we would have to be bold about the garden and surrounding policies. Having seen their work at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, Alex and I felt that the Bannerman’s could give the garden the combination of robust structure and blowsy planting that we had so admired there, and we hoped they would help us connect the inner garden to the outer farmland despite the darkly encroaching thickets that grew all round the house.

The terrace and the swimming pool garden both aim to be headily aromatic, and hotly coloured for the hotter days of July and August. Paved with slabs of old Cotswold paving that we found locally, the terrace is raised and well drained, allowing a maquis of French lavender, orange rock roses and magenta lychnis that luckily survive our perishing winters. Ramblers ‘Adelaide d’Orleans’ and ‘Albertine’ scramble through wisteria on the gabled elevation, but the new Georgian-esque drawing room is harnessed by the solid green of Magnolia grandiflora with violet roses ‘Veilchenblau’ and ‘Marie Viaud’ between the windows. Yew ‘wing walls’ near the house with characteristic Bannerman green oak doorways with a Jacobean flavour give an architectural framework.

As you can imagine the swimming pool is the bit of the garden most enjoyed most by my three boys, who may as yet be unaware of the efforts we go to embellish this particular playground! Set in its warm arc of comfortable, high, dry stone walls it is filled with pots of agapanthus and a host of jolly July annuals and biennials including Californian poppies, calendula and shocking pink Salvias.

Over the wall, taking advantage of its warmth and enclosure we have made a garden for vegetables and cut flowers. The corner that is now the centre of garden operations with greenhouse, potting shed and compost corner was yet another sycamore choked copse with a dark back drive leading to the old coach house. Now it is a hive of energy, cultivation and delicious sustenance.”

Text extract from Tania Compton’s book The Private Gardens of England.

Guests will be invited to bring a picnic lunch and wander round the gardens at their leisure. A full address for the garden will be provided to the buyer, along with the contact details of the garden owner so you can arrange parking and timings.

We are very grateful to Fiona Wilmot Sitwell for opening up the garden at Wychwood Manor for our Secret Garden Visits fundraiser.