Visit the stunning gardens at Benington Lordship
PUBLISHED: 11:01 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:04 20 March 2017
Renowned for its snowdrops, there are other things stirring in the gardens at Benington Lordship. Philippa Pearson visits the new planting at the site on the remains of a Norman castle
Spread over seven acres, the gardens at Benington Lordship hug the Georgian manor house and the ruins of a Norman keep. In February, the earthworks that once encircled the medieval Benington Castle has thousands of snowdrops in flower – a spectacular sight and one that has deservedly positioned the garden as one of the best places to visit for snowdrops in the country. This wonderful garden has more to offer during the rest of the year. Spring brings more bulbs and carpets of cowslips, while in summer the garden has a splendid display of colour in herbaceous borders and other planting.
Located four miles east of Stevenage in the village of Benington, the garden’s outlook takes in spectacular views of the gently rolling surrounding countryside. The house was built in the early 1700s on the site of an Elizabethan farmhouse, which in turn was built adjacent to the remains of a Norman castle, consisting of an outer bailey, a moat, inner bailey and the ruined keep – a listed monument and the only vernacular Norman stonework in Hertfordshire. The Norman-style gatehouse, summer house and curtain wall were built in the mid-1850s by owner George Proctor, who also added flint additions to the house. The gardens were formally laid out and planned in Edwardian times when Arthur and Lilian Bott bought the house. When their grandson Harry and his wife Sarah moved here in the latter part of the 20th century the gardens were gradually and sympathetically restored in keeping with their Edwardian character and splendour.
In the 1990s the formal rose garden at the side of the house was renovated and replanted with repeat flowering roses in shades of yellow and cream together with a mixture of sunny perennial plants. Last autumn, it was re-designed and planted with a different range of plants. The old rose garden was charming in its day, but was starting to look tired and needed a re-think. Julie Wise, previously county organiser for the Hertfordshire group of the National Gardens Scheme and now New Gardens co-ordinator, worked with latest owner Susanna Bott to create a new space to blend with the magnificent house and the garden’s unique features.
Firstly, all the planting from the rose garden was removed and the area cleared to make room for larger beds.
‘We have increased the new borders by a third to bring this area of the garden into scale with the house,’ Julie explains.
Another feature she added is height, with four weeping silver-leafed pear trees that bring a sense of unity and elegance. The trees are clipped into a mushroom shape so as not to shade the planting underneath in this very sunny site.
Other planting includes ground cover rose Kent, which has fragrant, semi-double, white flowers; Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote, a good compact lavender; and Salvia officinalis Purpurea. Iris George, a miniature iris with scented plum-purple flowers, and hundreds of tulip bulbs have been planted for a good spring show. Head gardener Richard Webb has also planted named cultivars of snowdrops raised and bred in the gardens.
‘I wanted to keep the plant palette quite simple,’ Julie says, ‘And chose a handful of plants that work well together’.
While the box hedging brings a sense of formality, the new garden area is designed to be walked around and new seating beckon visitors to enjoy views of the planting, the house and the Hertfordshire countryside.
‘It’s a space to linger and enjoy,’ says Julie.
Susanna and Julie also took the opportunity to improve other areas in the gardens including adding a sunny seating area by the house and tackling overgrown climbers so that views to the flint keep are revealed. ‘The climbers and other plants had grown just a little bit too much on the wall here,’ explains Julie ‘so we’ve removed a lot of growth and cut them back.’
Benington Lordship is a garden synonymous with snowdrops, but is also a garden to be explored at other times of the year. The charm of the Edwardian and later planting styles are trademarks of this garden, while new planting schemes have added interest and work in harmony with the established areas.
Julie Wise’s tips for getting your garden ready for spring
Ensure all outdoor repairs, garden furniture cleaning and landscaping work are completed by the end of the March.
Mulch borders as soon as possible to conserve moisture and keep beds weed free.
Keep a notebook to jot down any changes you want to make to the planting and the garden layout later in the year when the growing season is over.
Would you like to open your garden for the National Garden’s Scheme? Contact Julie on 01438 821509 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Benington Lordship
Benington SG2 7BS
08456 122 122
The garden is open at set times of the year. See the website for details and entry fees. Groups by appointment.
Snowdrops & winter flowers
Until March 5, 12-4pm
Easter Bank Holiday late spring bulbs
Sun 16 and Mon 17 April, 12-4pm
Late May Bank Holiday early summer borders
Sun 28 and Mon 29 May, 12-4pm, 12-4pm
Benington Garden Festival
Sat 24 and Sun 25 June, 12-5pm
In support of Benington Garden Festival and the National Gardens Scheme. There are 12 other gardens open in the village with a free minibus running through the village.
Benington Chilli Festival
Sat 26-Mon 28 August, 10am-5pm