Lady Salisbury: The gardens at Hatfield House

PUBLISHED: 14:16 24 July 2010 | UPDATED: 19:20 05 October 2013

Lady Salisbury in her extensive gardens

Lady Salisbury in her extensive gardens

Lady Salisbury talks to Julian Read about her passion for gardening and the importance of preserving Hatfield House for the pleasure of future generations

WHEN your view from the kitchen window is the East Garden at Hatfield House, it is easy to enjoy an enthusiasm for gardening. But for Lady Salisbury, gardening has become a passion.

Lord and Lady Salisbury have used Hatfield House as their permanent residence since last September, but for the last three years there have been plans to evolve and develop the gardens around the framework set out by Lord Salisbury's mother, the Dowager Lady Salisbury, who dedicated 30 years to the restoration and improvement of the garden.

Built by Robert Cecil, the first Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James I, in 1611, Hatfield House has been in the Cecil family for more than four centuries. The gardens also date from the early 17th century when Cecil employed John Tradescant the Elder to collect plants for his new home. Tradescant was sent to Europe where he found and brought back trees, bulbs, plants and fruit trees which had never previously been grown in England.

With a natural nod to the fascinating history engrained in Hatfield House, Lady Salisbury is dynamically aware of the way new ideas need to be incorporated into tradition for things to remain relevant.

'The bones of the garden were created by my mother-in-law, but I try to make sure that the planting keeps up with modern trends. My husband also likes busy planting so that not much earth is showing,' explains Lady Salisbury.

Niece of Lt Col David Stirling (a co-founder of the SAS) and a descendant of the Lords Lovat, Scottish Catholic aristocrats, Hannah Stirling married Robert Michael James Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury, in 1970, aged 23. During the 1970s, the couple had two sons and three daughters.

After making the move from Cranborne Manor in Dorset to spend more time at Hatfield House, enjoying the garden with her dogs is a particular joy for Lady Salisbury, and great fun for lurcher Jude, Newfoundland Noah, and spaniel Nick.

'I always take a notebook and secateurs to make notes of things I'd like to change in the garden or take cuttings,' Lady Salisbury says. 'At least once or twice-a-week I will meet up with David Beaumont, our head gardener who also looks after the parkland, to discuss changes or ideas.'

Despite looking after this huge area, the Hatfield House, Park and Garden team pride themselves on their organic gardening, which is pursued as far as it can practically be in an estate of this size.

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