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.


Far from the Madding Crowd released nationwide today

Far From the Madding Crowd, the film adaptation of the novel by Thomas Hardy, is released today in cinemas across the UK.  While Carey Mulligan plays the role of Bathsheba, the true star is of course Mapperton, which was turned into the location of Everdene Farm.  Scoring 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has been mostly feted by the critics, with Tony Medley of the esteemed Tolucan Times claiming that it is “one of the best films I’ve seen this century.”

Sunday Times: Mapperton is the real star of Far from the Madding Crowd

Mapperton features in a long article published today in the Home section of the Sunday Times, which can found by following this link:



Mapperton was turned into a farmyard in Far from the Madding Crowd

Mapperton’s elegant front courtyard was turned into a mud-caked 19th century farmyard for the filming of Far From the Madding Crowd, which is released in cinemas on 1 May.  “The whole thing was turned into a complete swamp, all earth and stone,” reveals Lady Sandwich in an article in the Sunday Times today.  “They put a heavy tarpaulin of some sort over all the grass in the courtyard, and on top of that they scattered mud and sand and stone and turned it into a very rough surface.”

Today the mud (and the chickens and the longhorn cows) are long gone, and visitors won’t find any trace of the transformation.  Except perhaps for the sapling walnut tree, whose progenitor was sacrificed to make way for all that muck.

House opens for both Bank Holiday Mondays in May

Don’t miss your chance to visit this delightful manor house when it opens by guided tour to the public on the afternoons of Monday 4th and 25th May. Our knowledgeable guides will bring its history to life and give you an insight into Mapperton today.  Booking advisable – please call 01308 862645 or email