The Dower House Garden at Morville Hall

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Attraction Category: Gardens Parks

  • Profile

    The Dower House Garden occupies a 1.5 acre site in a beautiful setting within the grounds of Morville Hall (National Trust), near Bridgnorth in Shropshire.

    The garden aims to tell the history of English gardening in a sequence of separate gardens designed in the style of different historical periods. Particular attention is given to the use of authentic plants and construction techniques. Old roses are a speciality of the garden.

    The garden was designed by Dr Katherine Swift, the garden historian and writer, who has lived at The Dower House since 1988.

    The garden has been featured in many newspapers and magazines, including Hortus, Gardens Illustrated, House & Garden, The English Garden, Gardening ‘Which?’, Garden Inspirations and The Saturday Telegraph. Since 2016 Katherine has also been writing a monthly gardening column about events in her garden for The English Garden magazine, for which in November 2017 she won the Garden Media Guild’s top award, ‘Garden Columnist of the Year’.

    Katherine’s book about making the garden, entitled The Morville Hours, was published by Bloomsbury (price £18.99) in May 2008 and was serialised on BBC Radio 4 as ‘Book of the Week’.  It was also chosen as one of BBC Gardener’s World ‘Books for Christmas’ in 2008, and as one of the Guardian newspaper’s ‘Books of the Year’ in December 2011.  The paperback came out in April 2009 (price £8.99).  An unabridged audio version of The Morville Hours (read by Katherine herself) is now available to blind and partially-sighted readers via the RNIB’s Talking Books scheme, or can be downloaded from Amazon or (prices vary).  The Morville Hours is also available as an e-book (price £6.99).

    Katherine was also for four years garden columnist on the Times newspaper, and her second book, The Morville Year, collects together her newspaper columns in diary format, with photographs and drawings of the garden, and recipes from her famous Morville cream teas.  It was published in hardback by Bloomsbury in March 2011 (price £18.99) and is now available in paperback (price £9.99).  Copies of both books are available in the garden, and Katherine is always happy to sign copies!  She is currently working on a sequel, A Rose for Morville.

    The main areas of the garden are the Cloister Garden (c. 1450) with its Cloister Walk of clipped yew and its shady turf seats; the Knot Garden (c.1580) with its intricate pattern of sweet-smelling herbs; the Plat (c.1650) with its quinces, medlars and boarded beds of old tulips; the Canal Garden (c.1710) with its 60-foot water feature and clipped evergreen shapes; the New Flower Garden (c.1780) with its secluded Greek Temple and cascades of roses; the Victorian Rose Border (c. 1870) with its luscious peonies and swooping rose garlands, and the Edwardian Fruit and Vegetable Garden (early 20th century), with its 80-ft apple and pear tunnels festooned with white roses. At the centre of the garden is the intriguing Turf Maze based on a design dating back to the Bronze Age.

    The formal parts of the garden are enclosed by high yew hedges, which give the garden an air of great antiquity. Outside the yew hedges, and in strong contrast to the garden within, are several variations on the theme of natural gardening: a late 19th-century Wild Garden at the north end of the garden, containing wild roses from all over the world underplanted with leucojums and camassias amid English wild flowers; a pocket-handkerchief sized Lammas Meadow in the south-east corner of the garden, traditionally mowed at Lammas-tide (August 1st), containing native wild flowers such as daffodills, fritillaries and Tulipa sylvestris; and a little Spinney, consisting of native tree species such as small-leaved lime, wild service and field maple, underplanted with dog roses, spindle and guelder rose.

    In addition there is a Plum Walk along the west side of the garden underplanted with autumn crocus, an Iris Border along the wall at the top of the garden, and a Snowdrop Walk along the east side. Finally there is the small formal Ivy Garden beside the house, where in summer Katherine serves her famous cream teas.

    The best times to visit are April and May for a stunning display of tulips and other bulbs, June for the roses, July and August for agapanthus and clematis, and September for michaelmas daisies and heritage varieties of apple.

    But this is a garden for all seasons. Whenever you visit, a warm welcome awaits you at The Dower House Garden.

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