Rousham House, Bicester
Mr and Mrs Charles Cottrell-Dormer
The house and garden at Rousham is the masterpiece of the 18th century architect, interior designer and landscaper, William Kent. Not only did he remodel the house for General James Dormer (whose family still own it), creating what Pevsner describes as “one of the most exquisite small rooms of the 18th century in England”, but he redesigned the 25 acre garden into its present form, miraculously preserved. Statues and temples, carefully positioned by Kent, act as eye catchers, drawing the visitor further and further into the garden. As if all this history were insufficient, there is also the lovely 20th century planting in the walled garden. Entering though a wrought-iron gate concealed behind ancient bulging yews, the double borders stretch the length of the garden towards the church. Low box hedges segregate the roses by the pigeon house and a long border of Dahlias riot away at the end of the summer.
Court Farm, Tackley
Mr and Mrs Andrew Peake
The entrance to Court Farm, a tall 17th century stone farmhouse, gives no indication of the expansive garden behind. The garden was originally created from a working farmyard by Andrew Peake’s parents and in more recent times was replanted with advice of plantsman and nurseryman Christopher Brown. Since then, the garden has been gently transformed to open it up to the landscape beyond which includes not only a series of remarkable geometric Jacobean stew ponds, but also a large 18th century lake which the Peakes have, very recently, restored. A long stone terrace which separates the lawn from the house border has, at one end a pergola-covered seating area, with views across the park towards the church and, at the other, a woodland garden which has been replanted.
Worcester College, Oxford
The Provost and Fellows
The garden at Worcester College is much older than it seems, dating back to the end of the 13th century. The 26 acre garden seems to have attracted serious botanists and gardeners throughout its history, from the 18th century planting of specimen trees, the creation of the lake inspired by Picturesque theorist Richard Payne Knight in 1817, to the donation of rare specimens by Miss Ellen Willmott at the beginning of the 20th century. Today under the care of Simon Bagnall, the Head of Gardens, the gardens are as not only as immaculate as one would expect, but borders are filled with rarities as well as old friends. The spirit of horticultural experimentation continues unabated; rare trees including Aesculus Wilsonii, Catalpa speciosa, Quercus shumardi and a recently planted Quercus suber (Cork Oak). Wonderful Jekyllesque borders are enlivened by exotic plantings of, among other delights, two different kinds of banana.