Posted by: marymarthatours | November 8, 2014

Gorgeous Wisteria at Iford Manor


Little did we know when we scheduled our visit to Iford Manor during our 2014 Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon Tour that we would be there at the height of the display of the estate’s beautiful Wisteria.  We had seen wisteria in bloom in other gardens on our tour, but nowhere was it more glorious that at Iford Manor.  The estate lies in the Frome River Valley not far from Bath, England.

DSCN6809Upon arrival we were greeted by William Cartwright-Hignett, whose family has owned and lived at Iford Manor since 1995.  William pointed out the Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) growing along the front of the house and gave a brief review of the garden’s history and his family’s restoration of that garden to honor the intentions of its creator, Harold Peto.  Harold Peto, a well-known garden architect of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, loved the Italianate style and collected statuary and architectural pieces on his frequent visits to Italy, France, and Spain.  In 1899, he purchased Iford Manor and began creating a garden incorporating not only his architectural and horticultural expertise but his collection of garden accessories as well.  It is that unique combination that brings visitors to the garden at Iford Manor.

The Peto Garden is set along a hillside running beside and behind the house.  Because of the hill, the garden is built on a series of terraces linked by beautiful stairways softened with sweeps of low plantings. 

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Throughout the garden, Peto added structures in the Italian fashion – a loggia (seen in the photo at the top of the blog), a pavilion known as the Casita, and a courtyard surrounded by an arcade known as the Cloisters.  The 100-seat Cloisters has become the intimate setting for a summer music series of opera and concerts.  The colonnaded central walkway is the heart of the garden.


 After leisurely wandering through Peto’s beautiful and tranquil early 20th century Italianate garden, we crossed the road to the estate’s old walled garden, where the creative whimsy of Elizabeth Cartwright-Hignett has added a whole new element of contemporary fun to a visit to Iford Manor.  We chuckled at the boxwood seating arrangement in the topiary garden, marveled at the intricate mosaics in the summer house, and appreciated the poetry inset into the checkerboard garden.

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Every part of the lovely gardens at Iford Manor is worth a visit.  I’m sure it is magnificent in every season.  In the end, however, it will be the Wisteria in early May that I remember most about Iford Manor.


(by Mary)

Photo credits:  all photos copyright by Mary Wallace and Martha Liska, May 2014.




  1. This is lovely! Thanks for sending it to us all. I love the area around Bath — there are so many unexpected views, places, and gardens. I like wisteria but have been discouraged from planting it in Wisconsin because of the harsh climate, although one of my grandma Addie’s friends had an enormous wisteria that spread all across her front porch, so that when we visited her in early summer and sat there it was like a veil of flowers. Haven’t a clue if it would grow here in Louisiana, but I have no place for it here anyway. Mary

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