Restoring the parterre at Kingston Lacy

THROUGHOUT the autumn, National Trust gardeners are restoring the parterre, a significant and integral part of the formal garden at Kingston Lacy near Wimborne.

Kingston Lacy was home to the Bankes family for more than 300 years. The parterre sits to the east of the property and was first laid out by Walter Ralph Bankes in 1899 using a design by CE Ponting, the diocesan architect for Salisbury.

Inspired by the Dutch-style gardens of continental Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, the flower beds were designed with the view from the loggia in the house in mind. The spacing between the beds gets wider the further away to give a false sense of perspective.

Colourful displays of High Victorian bedding gave both spring and summer interest, complemented by a  turf lawn. In 1912, Henrietta Bankes added the golden yew topiary in the form of four ‘balls’ in the centre, surrounded by 12 ‘skittles’.

When the National Trust was bequeathed Kingston Lacy in 1983, these yews were very overgrown. They were cut back to stumps and allowed to regrow, but over the years have once again outgrown their original proportions. With the wood which edges the beds now rotting, and the fine original turf now a mixture of many rougher grasses, restoration is needed.

Andrew Hunt, Kingston Lacy’s head gardener, says: “While the layout of the parterre will remain exactly the same, we are improving the infrastructure to preserve this focal point of the formal garden. Luckily we can work from the original Ponting plan that still exists in the Bankes’ archives.”

Visitors will be able to see the return of the vibrant summer bedding and the new yew topiary in 2018.