Design, In the Garden, Travel Notes


Rockcliffe: “A Cotswold Gem” Part 1

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With the elegant, bounteous ‘Limelight’ hydrangea border celebrating the last horticultural hurrah at Parterre, the ritual of “putting the garden to bed” commences. The long list of “to-dos” includes an important one with my name on it — projects, design details, and additions/deletions to the garden as it enters its 24th year. 

It’s now time to review those notes I started when visiting Cotswold properties last May and the seemingly thousands of pictures I took. One garden stands out for me and well-deserves its own blog — Rockcliffe. An intensively cultivated, private garden in Cheltenham, seldom open to the public, the chatelaine graciously acceded to share this with me, a fellow obsessed gardener whose garden is also open at times. The fact that later in the week they were prepping for a family wedding and then a large party in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee, made this opportunity all the more special.

Carved out of undulating farmland, Rockcliffe presents such a quintessential English picture…the meticulously mowed-in-stripes-lawn (bordered by tall, clipped beech obelisks) as a long dramatic lead-in to the richly weathered golden Cotswold stone manor house.

The scene takes on a charming intimacy in the billowing and blousy garden at the front door which the owners pass through many times a day (and see from every angle).

From the left side of the house, in the sunken garden off the terrace, one finds an intriguing pond surrounded by a cluster of my favorite trees, Cornus controversa ‘Variegata.’

Over three decades, this garden has evolved in the hands of its talented owner; the results have inspired me in innumerable ways. I love reflecting back on Rockcliffe’s interconnecting landscapes…

evergreen hedges (beech, lime, box and hornbeam are used throughout) and borders…

while well-considered paths of Yorkstone with their intriguing patterns provided design thoughts galore for Parterre.

The same materials (yew, box, hornbeam) used for hedging also serve this garden well when pruned into shapes…from the most creative to the most traditional topiaries. Used as accents or punctuation points, they add structure to a planting scheme as well as interest in winter months (which are protracted at Rockcliffe). Here, pawn-shaped yew topiaries mark the crossing points of green paths.

All encompass areas of plant profusion in controlled color schemes (ie. the blue/white garden and its pink counterpart). The pinks and reds truly caught my attention, especially the charming marbled groundcover, viola ‘Elaine Quin,’ sexy lupines, and the soft pink valerian…

Thank you for joining me. Writing about gardens I love and admire is like visiting old friends…so heartwarming! And next week I’ll present Part 2 of this glorious Rockcliffe, to include a Millenium project (now 22 years old) that will take your breath away.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

7 thoughts on “Rockcliffe: “A Cotswold Gem” Part 1

  1. What an utterly exquisite garden! How many acres is it, Bettie? Obviously they have plenty of rain, lucky them to keep it so green! I cannot imagine how many full time skilled gardeners must be needed to keep this so marvelous! It is really a WOW!

  2. Bettie this place is fabulous! Oh how I would love to have a property like this there’s nothing quite like these English homes in the countryside. I don’t think they have an equal there’s something special about them am I right?

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