The three and a half acre gardens were first created in the late 19th century by Ernest Jardine (1859-1947), the Member of Parliament for East Somerset.
Originally from Nottingham, he was an enlightened employer in the mould of other Victorian social reformers such as the Quaker Cadbury brothers at Bournville and Octavia Hill (one of the founders of the National Trust). He created a 'model factory; where he built lace-making machines and laid out the gardens (what he called 'Jardine's Park) for the benefit of his employees. He used the millponds as a boating lake and gave over the surrounding gardens for the workers' recreation. Fruit and vegetables were grown to provide lunchtime meals and he also created allotments where workers could grow their own food.
At a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show in the late 1950's Herbert Showering was so enthused by a gold-medal winning garden designed by George Whitelegg that he commissioned a grander version to be planted at Kilver Court.
It is a mature rockery built using sandstone boulders from the Forest of Dean to edge a man-made stream and waterfall. To save on delivery costs, rather than returning empty, the lorries delivering Babycham around the country would return with a load of stone or Cumbrian turf.
Conifers provide the larger geometric blocks, featuring Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Aurea', mid-green Picea abies 'Albertiana Conica' and the golden columns of Taxus baccata 'Standishii'. Japanese acers show seasonal variation from delicate spring greens to deep autumnal rusts and purples (look out for the burgundy-leafed palmatum dissectum).
Originally a rose garden, Roger Saul redesigned the parterre and herbaceous borders in 1996 when he took over Kilver Court. The parterre is based on the classic French geometric designs found in the 'Place des Invalides', and is an immaculate example of low box hedging. The spaces within the hedges are filled with Gertrude Jekyll roses.
Juxtaposing the formal parterre are vibrantly coloured herbaceous borders. Fiery Crocosmia 'Lucifer', Phlox, Indigo Hued Polemonium and Aconitum, globe shaped Dahlias and Echinops and delicate orchid-like Tricyrtis Formosana form a sensual backdrop full of texture and shape.
100 Metre Herbaceous Border
The 100 x 5 metre herbaceous border which sits behind the viaduct had grown way out of control since it was first planted in the 1960s and was redesigned and replanted under the supervision of Roger Saul. Gardeners spent thousands of man-hours derooting, designing and replanting the border based on a unique ‘colourist theory’ which focuses on harnessing the power of colour through design.
The foliage is the predominant feature in the new planting scheme, rather than the bloom, with the leaf colour moving seamlessly from gold through to mid greens and dark greens to bronze reds and wine purples, finishing with silver blues and white. Hundreds of interesting plant varieties make up the new border which is open now.
When enjoying a tour of the gardens you cannot fail to notice the huge piers and elegant arches of the Charlton railway viaduct. Built in 1874 as part of the 26 mile extension to the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway between Evercreech Junction and Bath.
Constructed of Limestone (except for the brick arch barrels and extension) and spanning 317 yards, it was originally built for a single track. However between 1888 and 1894, most of the line was doubled and the viaduct widened by 15 feet.
Why people love our gardens
This place is absolutely amazing. The gardens are like something out of a fairytale.
The most immaculately kept gardens. A delight to walk around. Well worth the visit.
A wonderful haven to escape to. My only regret is that I don't live near enough to visit all the time!
A beautiful place. Set with the viaduct as a backdrop, on different levels, this garden is well manicured and full of wonderful colours.
The gardens here are beautiful! We live locally so bought a membership which makes it more affordable to enjoy them regularly.
Beautiful gardens. Full of interest in every season. Amazing setting with the backdrop of an enormous viaduct. Also on site is a lovely garden centre, cafe and boutique shops.