David Howells reports on the ongoing restoration of The Master’s Garden.

The Master’s Garden at the Lord Leycester Hospital

Many people will have visited the Master’s Garden at the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick.  This space has been gardened for centuries, but mostly by the resident brethren growing vegetables.  In its present form it is a twentieth century creation, with a fully mature Magnolia as the stand-out tree.  Susan Rhodes, the Master’s Wife at the time, and Geoffrey Smith completely redesigned the garden, which was re-opened in 1995 and subsequently visited by the Queen.

There is some planting at the front of the house, with good trees in the car park and an interesting Millennium Knot Garden. The main planting, however, is at the rear and is set at two levels.  The upper level is substantially as it was redesigned in the 90s, with colourful roses climbing over swags in the summer.  A new timber greenhouse has recently been installed.

The lower level at the rear is closest to the buildings and was not generally open to visitors for ten years or more.  During that time it received little attention and became rather overgrown.  Little remained of the previous planting except trees and unmanaged shrubs.  No longer.  A project has been running for some months which has completely stripped out the ivy and other perennial weeds, using help supplied by young and strong volunteers from National Grid.  In their place are now growing a range of plants of all sorts – trees, shrubs, herbaceous, bulbs and alpines.  Some mature trees, mostly Pissard plums, are being felled to let in light and to give space to more ornamental subjects.  The main phase of this work should be completed by the spring, although years of further effort are required for the full effect to be seen.

This garden is an important feature of the Hospital as a whole, which is seeking funds for a major redevelopment.  An attractive garden for a long season is what people expect, especially for weddings.  So this work will make an important economic contribution as well as doing justice to an important historic space.