Volunteer guides needed at Mapperton House

In 2016 Mapperton House opens to the general public and specialised groups from Easter Sunday to the end of October, 12 noon to 4pm,  Sundays to Thursdays, and we are looking for new volunteer guides to conduct house tours.

Volunteers should have a general interest in English history and heritage.  Above all they need patience and understanding of people’s needs, including the young, elderly and disabled.

Those who prefer not to be guides are valuable as stewards and as back up for other volunteers.

Volunteers are entitled to travel expenses of 45p per mile and light refreshments in the Sawmill Café for each visit.

Applicants should contact Anthea or Claire in the Estate Office on 01308 862645 or email office@mapperton.com.


Green thought in a green shade

_1120651Lady Sandwich writes:

Peace, serenity, silence, contemplation, quiet, these are the sort of qualities we look for in gardens. They are places where we can lose ourselves in a “green thought in a green shade”.

Mapperton has quiet and lovely places for contemplation, and benches specially placed for this. I don’t know how many people go down to the arboretum but at its top there’s a bench looking down at the swamp cypress. At the bottom is a bench for people to recover on before they start the journey back up the gardens. Beyond that, at the very end of the Spring Garden is a bench from which to look down the valley and at a noble deodar in the woods.

Of course, it’s not always quiet. The blackbirds’ alarm call is shrill; rooks and jackdaws are noisy, and so are strimmers. We can’t always get all the mowing down before people come at 11am. And cars bounce down the drive, motorcycles wizz down the lanes, aeroplanes are overhead. But do listen for the ravens’ distinctive croak.

Returning to that great poet Andrew Marvell, I will leave you with his take on sitting in a garden:

Here at the fountain’s sliding foot,

Or at some fruit tree’s mossy root,

Casting the body’s vest aside,

My soul into the boughs does glide;

There, like a bird, it sits and sings,

Then whets and combs its silver wings….

The clematis viticella are coming out, Nelly Moser too


Lady Sandwich writes:

As England is sweltering in a heat wave, I just hope our clematis have got nice cool roots, which is what they want. Clematis come from the temperate zones and don’t want over heating, originating, like so much else, often from China.

The wonderful clematis viticella are just coming out in the gardens. We have lots of the viticella type: they are easy to prune (lop ‘em down to 18 inches in March), provide lots of colour as the roses go over and are easy to grow. One of the best is Polish Spirit on the grey wall just left of the big lawn; another is Black Prince in the front courtyard. Clematis viticella alba luxurians, white flowers with dashes of green, is by the garage. I think it’s in the wrong place. Comments please on our Facebook page. What do you think? Shall I root it out?


We grow other types including lots of different clematis montana, now over and pruned. You can see the pruning right up the house. There’s clematis armandii, an early scented evergreen clematis to the right of the Orangery. And it’s named after – guess who? Pere David Armand, the same French missionary after whom davidia involucrata is named (see my previous entry) and who discovered the Giant Panda.

Then there are the herbaceous clematis, like clematis tubulosa ‘Wyevale’; there’s yellow clematis flammula, the huge, rampant, autumn flowering clematis rehderiana, and its similar rampant friend on the pergola, a garden variant of clematis vitalba (Old Man’s Beard). We have a couple of the elegant clematis texensis particularly ‘Gravetye Beauty’ on the grey wall. You won’t find many large flowered clematis because they are difficult to prune and temperamental to us. But ‘Nelly Moser’ is around in the front; and another Nelly by the East Grotto faces purple clematis x jackmanii climbing the West Grotto and twining with rosa ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’.

Climbing and rambling roses everywhere in June

Lady Sandwich writes:

I look round Mapperton gardens in late June and I see climbing and rambling roses all over the place, mostly out of control and definitely out of reach. There are some on the pergola – Emily Gray, Parkdirektor Riggers, Veilchenblau, Blairii No 2; others are scrambling over the Red Wall – Goldfinch, Rambling Rector, Albertine, filipes Kiftsgate; and about the house and stable blocks are, amongst others, Zephirine Drouhin, Mermaid, climbing Iceberg, Niphetos, Aloha and the greatest and most difficult Gloire de Dijon. Also around are Mme Alfred Carriere, Lady Hillingdon and that hybrid from rosa gigantea, Cooper’s Burmese.

I’m only mentioning some of the roses we have at Mapperton and I have to admit I’m an old-rose enthusiast; you won’t find modern roses here except a self-sown heroine by the Orangery; we admire her for her bravado.

There’s quite a difference between climbing and rambling roses. Ramblers are bigger, in fact huge with some going up to 40 foot; they flower once a year, are mostly sweet scented and come from two main stocks, the Japanese multiflora, introduced in 1862, and the German wichuraiana in 1891 and named after its German discoverer Max Ernst Wichura.

And you prune them differently; in fact the pruning difference is probably the most important reason for knowing what sort of rose you are dealing with. Climbers are usually more controllable and can be grown up a pillar or a pergola or over a hedge. Just for your information, you may think that the wonderful New Dawn is a climber; she’s not, she’s a wichuraiana rambler.

The Pocket Handkerchief tree is dropping its hankies

The Pocket Handkerchief tree is dropping its hankies, like Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggywinkle, at the top of the Wild Garden. This tree, davidia involucrata, is named after the famous Père David. Father Armand David (1826–1900, “Père David”), a French Vincentian missionary and keen naturalist living in China, found it first at 6,500 feet and sent dried specimens to Paris in 1869. Later Ernest Wilson (“Chinese Wilson”) found it again, brought it back and so we have it in our gardens.

It’s called involucrata because it has off-white bracts that fall and look like old-fashioned hankies. These hankies are not petals or sepals but bracts, the difference being bracts protect the flower and curl up round it. The best bract example is those red pointsettias at Christmas whose “petals” are bracts.

Many of the trees and shrubs we have in our gardens are named, like davidia involucrata, after the courageous and intrepid 18th and 19th century plant collectors. For instance we have magnolia wilsonii, rosa “William Lobb”, magnolia delavayi, paeonia delavayi and many, many others.

Looking at the lives of these great contributors to our 21st century gardens I see they mostly died in terrible conditions. Here are a few examples: Francis Masson (1741 – 1805) froze to death; Meriwether Lewis (1774 – 1809) died of malaria, syphilis, gun shot and suicide; Thomas Coulter (1793 – 1843) – ‘His health suffered severely in his travels’; David Douglas (1799 – 1834) – rheumatic fever, blindness, gored to death; John Charles Frémont (1813 – 1890) – frostbite, fevers, dehydration, diarrhoea; Pere David (1826 -1900) – malaria, typhus, pneumonia, poisoning, near drowning; Jean Marie Delavay (1838 – 1895) – bubonic plague; Ernest Wilson (1876 – 1930) – crush injuries after a motor accident.

Let us celebrate these great plant collectors and be grateful for their contributions to our gardens!

The Dogwoods are looking magnificent in the Wild Garden

Lady Sandwich writes:

The dogwood or the cornus are common small trees in our English landscape and planted a lot by motorways and in public parks. But two special dogwoods are looking magnificent in the Wild Garden: Cornus controversa variegata and Cornus alternifolia argentea. Go down the main path and on your right you’ll see two variegated trees; well, one’s a bush and the other’s definitely a tree. They are just in flower and a wonderful sight.

They are cousins from different ends of the world and both can be called the “wedding cake tree” from the way their branches fan out in layers and their flowers stand like candles on the branches. Cornus controversa variegata (the tree) comes from the Himalayas, China and Japan and was imported to the UK in the 1880s or 1890s by the famous Veitch’s Nursery of Exeter (the Veitch family helped start Chelsea Flower Show). Its bushy cousin however comes from North America – from Newfoundland to the Mississippi – and is also called the “pagoda dogwood”.

Nobody’s certain why dogwoods are so called but they have had the name from the 17th century. One suggestion is that because their wood was used for wooden skewers (then called “dags”) the “dagwood” became the dogwood. Same word as dagger btw. Another early name was the “whippletree” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, part of horse harness.


Sandwich man

IMG_1485What could be the connection between Mapperton and sandwiches? It’s all explained in a little illustrated book called ‘Sandwich Man’ which is now available in our shop.

In a word, it was John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was the first to be seen eating a ‘Sandwich’ in a coffee house in St James’s Street in 1762. There are many stories about him told during guided tours of Mapperton House, where fine oil portraits of him by Zoffany and Reynolds are on display.

One story is that he was himself sandwiched between two ladies: Dorothy his wife, who became mentally ill; and Martha, a singer who was shot dead by a jealous lover. Both brought him large families to look after, and he lived a full life as a diplomat and politician. As First Lord of the Admiralty, he sponsored Captain Cook’s second voyage to the South Seas.

It’s a lot to find in one sandwich. But it’s all in the book.

Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ now out, ground elder too (alas!)

Lady Sandwich writes:

Another rose this week, out at the moment. Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, the yellow banksian rose, is an enormous climber from China introduced here in 1824. She’ll climb any large tree, clothing it in soft pale yellow spays of flowers. Named after an 18th century Lady Banks, wife of the great botanist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks, she’s a bit tender, but less so than her cousin Rosa banksiae ‘Alba plena’. She needs no pruning as she flowers on the sublaterals (i.e. the smallest branches) and pruning would reduce next year’s flowering.

The persistent, vigorous weed ground elder (aegopodium podagraria) is spreading as usual all over the garden as if it owns it. Actually, I think we have the National Collection. Like rabbits, ground elder was introduced by the Romans (as food and medicine), and like rabbits it takes over. You can eat it, though. I have made ground elder soup and quite delicious it is with a bit of cream. It doesn’t compare with say asparagus soup but it’s good, so long as you pick young shoots before flowering. Use a recipe for nettle or spinach soup and substitute ground elder. At least you’ll feel it’s of some use and you won’t sting yourself.


Rosa Niphetos and a plague of dandelions

Lady Sandwich writes:

This week I’ll focus on just two things: a special rose in the Orangery and dandelions!

The rose in the Orangery is rosa Niphetos, often called the Wedding Rose and very popular in 19th century wedding bouquets. She’s a French tea rose, introduced in 1889, with blousy white flowers and a delicate tea scent. The joy of these old climbers is the flowers droop so you can touch and smell them (unlike the stiff hybrid tea climbers of today).

Dandelions. We have just got through the first April plague of dandelions, thank goodness. I know you won’t believe this but it’s true. My husband and I have just been on holiday in central Asia and he actually asked me to photograph dandelions in Samarkand. Garden visitors, if you want to pick dandelion flowers, please take them to the potshop and the lady there will give a small treat for every ten.


New York Times article surveys Hardy country, including Mapperton

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The New York Times today published a long feature in the travel section covering the author’s meander through West Dorset, from Lulworth Cove to Lyme Regis via the Cerne Abbas Giant and Mapperton Gardens.

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/travel/on-englands-coast-thomas-hardy-made-his-world.html?_r=0#