The Manor Garden

          Manor and Gardens

The garden surrounds the ancient Manor House. It is adjacent to the village of Cranborne and approached through the Garden Centre (1). Walk through into the Kitchen Garden (2).

This walled garden, down the centre of which runs an espaliered apple walk underplanted with chives, is divided into four sections. On the left are two polytunnels and the main vegetable patch. On the right there is a section devoted to annual wild flowers and a large fruit cage filled with blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries and white, black and red currants.

All the fruit, vegetables and herbs here supply the house and Garden Centre Tearooms.

Leaving the kitchen garden, you meet “Druid” (3), a life-size bronze White Park bull (Nicola Toms 2003) standing at the top of the garden facing the house. Throughout the spring and summer, cowslips, ox-eye daisies and many wild orchids grow through the uncut grass. Anemones, grape hyacinths and cyclamen carpet the beech tree roots. We have lost several of these beeches in the last few years, and have decided not to fell some of their trunks – as you walk about the garden you will see various climbers planted against their stumps in order to encourage wildlife.

From Druid you get your first glimpse of the Manor House, (5) originally one of King John’s hunting lodges. He was reputed to have owned 22 houses in Cranborne Chase and was addicted to hunting. Early in the 17th Century, King James 1st granted the Manor to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury in recognition of his role in engineering the peaceful transition of Tudor to Stuart when James came south from Scotland to claim the English throne.

As the house was almost in ruins, Salisbury employed John Norden to make a general survey of the property. The remodelling began in 1608: the work included the south east tower, new mullioned windows, the north and south porches, the Jacobean decorations on the buttresses, and the south courtyard with its brick gatehouses.

Angela Connor water sculpture

The gatehouses, flanked by two stone elephants, lead into the South Front (4). Mixed shrubs, climbing and shrub roses, clematis, herbaceous perennials and early spring bulbs fill the borders which surround a grass circle in which stands an Angela Connor water sculpture. This peaceful and private garden is often closed to visitors, so contact the Garden Centre to check access.

Retrace your steps through the gatehouses and take the path above the croquet lawn passing a copy of an Italian Renaissance wild boar and a head “In Memoriam” (6) by Elizabeth Frink c.1995.


Follow the path round to the right leading into the Sundial garden (7). In the early 17th century, it was the fashion to view the nearby parterres from a raised mound. This mound is often referred to in contemporary records but does not appear on either of the surviving original plans. It is, however, traditionally believed to have been laid out by Salisbury’s garden designer John Tradescant during the reign of James 1st. Eight box-edged beds surround the mount. Four, the closest, are long and narrow and filled with “Hidcote” lavender. The four larger outer beds are directly in proportion to the whole and are filled with roses, clematis, peonies and salvias and a number of hardy geraniums. Drum-shaped yew trees stand sentinel surrounding the entrance to the mount which is topped by a stone sundial.

If you look west through the wrought iron gate, you will see a wild flower meadow, at its best during the summer months, presided over by a giant chair by Henry Brudenell-Bruce.

To the North through the yew hedge is the Bowling Alleé (8) stretching the length of the croquet lawn. A fashionable feature of Jacobean gardens, this allee was part of John Tradescant’s original layout and the yews are amongst the oldest in the garden.

Returning to the croquet lawn (9) midway along the allee, pass between two large yew houses planted in 1989. Although now tall enough, it will be several years before their final shapes are complete. Across the lawn on the south corner is the Lump Garden (10) redesigned by Lord Salisbury and is a collection of massed box and yew clipped into geometric shapes.

Take the path leading away from the lawn on the north side. You pass the West border (11) filled a collection of philadelphus, tree peonies, daphnes and lilac. This takes you down to the Winterborne Garden(12) which is at its best in April and early May with a mass of daffodils, cherry, apple, and crab blossom and with the winterborne, the River Crane, still flowing vigorously and a mass of daffodils, cherry, apple, and crab blossom is out.


Cross the river carefully over the plank bridge and turn right. Walk to the bridge. Behind you is “The Close” up which an avenue of Cornish elms used to grow until they caught the Dutch Elm disease. They were replaced in 1973 by London Plane trees, which did not thrive. They, in their turn, were replaced with red-barked lime trees, tilia platyphyllos ‘Rubra’.

There is a good view of the north side of the Manor behind the iron gates in front of you. Go through them and you enter the North Garden (13), which remains substantially the same as when it was first laid out in the early 20th century: its central path is flanked by ancient espaliered apple trees, thickly underplanted with white dianthus. The borders are filled with white and blue flowering scented shrubs and roses. The garden is a stunning sight in June and July.

Leave the north garden by the door on the east side of the terrace, down some steps, and turn left if you wish to see the chickens, a mixed collection of bantams and large fowl, or right to go down the Church Walk. (14)


Recently replanted, the borders are filled with delphiniums, alliums, artichokes and salvias. After there is no danger of further frosts, we plant out scented geraniums through which grow sweet-smelling acidanthra.

Half way down the border, look to your left. An apple tunnel runs from the bottom of the stone steps; under it are planted narcissi “Thalia”, flowering in the spring, as well as allium “Christophii” and nepeta. Continue down the church walk towards the iron gate (locked). The wide border either side of it is planted with hellebores.


In the orchard (15) naturalised red tulips grow through the grass and are rather a special sight in April and May. An overflow vegetable area includes winter brassicas and purple-sprouting broccoli, which grow inside netted cages to protect them from the pigeons. Along the southern wall grow a mixture of cherries and greengages. Stretching all the way underneath are beds containing a collection of Floribunda and Hybrid Tea roses, underplanted by dianthus.


Leaving the walled orchard, pass the Pergola (16) on your right. It runs parallel to the church walk and is lined with Iris “Jane Phillips” and covered with climbing roses including several Rosa Moschatas, “Blush Rambler”, and Rosa “Princess Marie”. With the stables on your left, approach the chalk wall and turn right along the gravel path and immediately left up the grassy bank towards “Druid”.

Go through the beech hedge into the recently redesigned Magnolia Garden (18). Surrounded by a beech hedge underplanted with cyclamen and grape hyacinths, a Magnolia salicifolia ‘Rosea’ grows in the centre. Follow through to the Chalk Walk with its double herbaceous borders filled with ‘hot’ colours and finally into the Cottage Garden (20). Redesigned by head gardener Les Dinan in 2008, the garden is filled with wisteria, huchera and verbena.

Cranborne Manor Garden has evolved over the years, each generation making their contribution. Les Dinan, the Head Gardener, is responsible for it being the garden it is today. He and one other gardener manage to maintain all the hedges, grow vegetables, prune, clip, mow and keep the weeds at bay. The winter is the time for projects and the moment when we get down to our programme of mulching successively with leaf mould and farmyard manure. This year, for the benefit of our visitors, we made a big effort to label the roses as well as the more interesting shrubs and plants. Sadly many of the labels were stolen. So please respect our efforts to make your visits enjoyable as well as informative.