Doddington Hall near Lincoln is looking forward to its first Iris Week, which takes place 24 – 31 May inclusive. Every day that week the Gardens will be open so people can enjoy the irises that are so lovely they were featured by BBC Gardeners’ World. In conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the Hall is also offering a special Irises at Sunset Tour & Buffet on 29 May.
By late May the irises in Doddington Hall’s walled West Garden are at their peak giving a stunning display. Aside from looking exceptionally pretty, the irises are fascinating as they have been nurtured with a rather unconventional but undoubtedly successful cultivation method.
For over 25 years, the Jarvis Family’s dedicated and caring cultivation of bearded irises has provided a big attraction at the Elizabethan family home with its magical seven-acres of romantic walled and wild gardens plus two-acre walled restored Kitchen Garden.
Antony Jarvis, father of the current owner Claire Birch, has developed a unique way of cultivating the Irises and they certainly seem to like it. The irises are planted in blocks of colour in the box-edged parterres of the West Garden, which they prefer to being shaded deep in a mixed border because the rhizomes can have a delicious ‘bake’ in late summer. It was Antony Jarvis who, with his late wife Victoria, was responsible for starting the Hall’s love affair with the iris.
All dividing is done immediately after flowering, which goes against the conventional wisdom of waiting until late summer or early autumn. Antony describes his dividing technique to “chopping them up like a hot cross bun.” He divides each plant into three or four, removes three to replant and leaves just one segment in the ground undisturbed. The idea is to get the disturbance and relocation over before flower initiation, which happens in the early autumn.
Clearly the technique works, as there has been a constant display for over 25 years drawing visitors back time and time again to share this delicate but powerful sight. The effect is stunning. The box-edged parterres look like tapestries with a weave of gently coloured irises while the herbaceous borders have philadelphus for structure, Telekia Speciosa for height and plenty of peonies, alliums and phlox - the latter being a family favourite. There’s also a stunning handkerchief tree and a beautiful white wisteria sinesis.
Iris Week at Doddington Hall 24 – 31 May 2009 inclusive. Gardens open daily 11am to 5pm. House also open Sunday, Bank Holiday Monday and Wednesday 1pm to 5pm. Admission applies. Farm Shop & Café open for morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea. For more information please call 01522 694 308 (Hall & Gardens) or 01522 688 581 (Farm Shop & Café) or see www.doddingtonhall.com
RHS event Irises at Sunset with Tour & Buffet 29 May. To book, please call the RHS direct on 08456 121 253.
Doddington Hall is a much loved family home and has never been sold since it was designed in 1595 by Robert Smythson, one of England’s foremost Elizabethan architects. The mellow brick exterior with its walled courtyards has barely changed while the interior was redecorated in Georgian times in a light and elegant style. The original walled courtyards now enclose fabulous formal gardens whilst beyond the walls you will discover romantic wild gardens and nature walks. Over 400 years of unbroken family occupation has resulted in fascinating collections of furniture, paintings, ceramics, textiles, porcelain, household objects along with a wealth of amusing stories. A visit to Doddington offers a unique insight into family life through the ages and the challenges of looking after such a house in the 21st Century.
In 2005, Antony & Victoria Jarvis passed Doddington Hall to their eldest daughter Claire, and her husband James Birch. Claire & James are the fifth family to enjoy the role of ‘guardian’ to Doddington Hall.
Photo Credits and copyright unless otherwise stated Doddington Hall