Chyverton House and Garden, Zelah

Chyverton, near Zelah, was visited on what proved to be the most perfect Spring day.  We were given a warm welcome by our host, Nigel Holman, who told us the history of the beautiful Palladian-style house (built in 1730), perfectly sited to look down to a lake and the woodlands which rise on the other side and which has belonged to his family since the 1920s.

Mr Holman led us past a tall hedge of Myrtus luma, the cinnamon-coloured trunks beautiful in the sunshine to a clearing in which stood a tall and graceful Pinus butanicus, currently thought to be the tallest in the country.  We walked through thickets of many camellias with their seedlings pushing up through the rich leaf mould and more pines originating from the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens.  The magnolias which had grown into towering trees were sadly burnt by an unwelcome late frost, but specimens of Magnolia stellata were gloriously untouched.

We crossed a bridge to a clearing which Mr Holman described as his ‘harem’, for here there were statues of various goddesses, the most alluring being Aphrodite. Nearby was an enchanting Corylopsis in full flower with space to grow into a true pyramidal shape. On either side of the stream grew two magnolias, one male and one female, which Mr Holman hopes will marry and produce seedlings! We turned into the long drive to be stopped in our tracks by the most stunning magnolia which Mr Holman named Harold Hillier; it was laden with white, fluttering flowers and the fallen flowers created a white carpet beneath. Behind this tree was another white magnolia almost in full flower and both had a background of a dark-green Quercus ilex; beside this lovely white magnolia there was a small young deep pinkish-ruby Magnolia platypatella.

Mr Holman confessed to urging his magnolias to outdo their neighbouring trees and one could certainly see the results. Very few of us wished to leave this beautiful garden and we are immensely grateful to Mr Holman for giving us such a magical tour of his beloved garden.

Report by Marian Donaldson
Photos by Trish Gibson
23rd March 2011