Posted by: marymarthatours | May 28, 2014

Longstock Park Water Garden

Longstock Park Water Garden, near Stockbridge in Hampshire, England, was the perfect ending for our recent Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon Tour.  A beautiful sunny day made our stop there all the better.  Longstock is definitely a “WOW” garden.  As you emerge from a tunnel in the high hedge that screens the garden from the road, you can’t help but stop in amazement and say, “Wow”.


Spread out before you is a small lake created from a tributary of the river Test.  Sixteen small islands, connected by unobtrusive plank bridges fill the lower end of the lake.  Add exquisite shoreline and backdrop plantings, and you have one gorgeous garden.  We spent an hour walking the paths, meandering from one island to another, and just taking it all in.

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The lake itself dates from 1870 when the owners of the property dredged gravel from the riverbed to build a road to their home, Longstock House.  A later owner improved the aesthetics around the lake, but it was John Spedan Lewis, founder of the John Lewis Partnership, who made the garden what it is today.  He purchased Longstock House in 1945 and worked on the garden for six years, adding the islands, bridges, and a planting scheme that creates “a gradual shift in mood from the formal elegance of the garden’s heart, to more natural areas at the edges”.  (Longstock Park Water Garden booklet)

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In an introductory talk to our group, Simon, one of three full-time gardeners on staff, explained that the entire lower part of the lake around the islands had to be dug by hand because of the soggy soil conditions.  Evidently, Spedan Lewis also put his house guests to work, positioning them at various places around the garden to test out the vistas.  John Spedan Lewis lived at Longstock House until his death in 1963.  Since then the house has become a retreat for company executives who get to enjoy the garden during their stays.  For visitors, like us, the garden is open for group bookings and is also open on two Sunday afternoons each month with the admission fee going to charity.


I’d love to live close enough to visit this garden every month.  In May the rhododendrons were at their peak, but the place must really be fantastic when the water lilies bloom.

(by Mary)

photo credits:  all photos copyright Mary Wallace, Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon Tour, May 2014.






  1. Aha! That’s my next career path! I shall be a Houseguest with Garden Visualizing skills. I can hardly wait to begin . . . what a delightful concept. Thanks for sharing!

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