Garden Museum celebrates talented Kiftsgate gardeners

The Garden Museum will celebrate Kiftsgate Court Gardens and three generations of talented female gardeners, spanning 100 years, in an exhibition showing from 9th April to 9th June 2019.

Heather Muir spent 30 years establishing the gardens at Kiftsgate Court in the Cotswolds and was succeeded by her daughter Diany Binny and then her granddaughter Anne in 1988. Each generation has tended Kiftsgate for a third of a century building upon the legacy of the previous generation.

A taste of this historic Cotswold garden will be brought to life using material from the family archives, Sabina Rüber’s stunning contemporary seasonal photography and a film by Peter Kindersley. The exhibition will coincide with the release of a book by Vanessa Berridge, ‘Kiftsgate Court Gardens: Three Generations of Women Gardeners‘, illustrated by Sabina Rüber and published by Merrell –

(above) Heather Muir with her three daughters, Judy, Betsy and Diany, in the Wide Border in its infancy.

Heather Muir arrived at her new home in 1919 with three young daughters to care for and no horticultural training. The house, perched on the northern edge of the Cotswold Hills, had little garden to speak of and undeveloped steep banks plunging 100 feet below.

(above) Diany and Anne

Heather was at the forefront of a new fashion in garden design, creating borders with set colour schemes, such as the pink, crimson, lavender, purple and greys of Kiftsgate’s Wide Border. One of the most well-known colour gardeners of this period is perhaps Vita Sackville-West’s White Garden at Sissinghurst, however, some twenty years before Sissinghurst garden was established, Heather Muir was carefully selecting plants for her White Sunk Garden.

Diana ‘Diany‘ Binny (nee Muir) was the second daughter of Heather and Jack Muir and she inherited both her mother’s love of gardening and of Italy, reflected in the choice of Italian gardeners and the creation of an Italianate garden on this Gloucestershire hillside.

It was under Diany’s stewardship in 1951 that the famous Kiftsgate rose (Rosa filipes) was first identified by the rosarian Graham Stuart Thomas.(see left)

Today, the family tradition is carried on by Anne Chambers and her husband Johnny. Anne is mindful of the legacy of the garden and retains much of the planting scheme established by her grandmother and mother. However, no garden should stand still and Anne has brought a modernising spirit to Kiftsgate, creating the beautiful Water Garden (see below) as well a introducing a dramatic sculpture by Pete Moorhouse and a Wild Flower Corner.

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(above) The Water Garden

The Garden Museum is housed in the deconsecrated church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, Lambeth Palace road, London, SE1 7LB.

Picture credits: Banner:Kiftsgate Clourt Garden Aerial View ©Sabina Rüber; Rosa ‘Kiftsgate’ above side ©Sabina Ruber; Middle: Heather Muir with her three daughters ©Kiftsgate Court Archives; Diany and Anne ©Kiftsgate Court Archives; The Water Garden ©Kiftsgate Court Archives.