Garden Visits – Lytes Cary

lytes carey manor house, apostle garden, topiary, national trust, somerset



Lytes Cary garden and manor house dates originally from the fourteenth century has a gem of a garden.





In late April, gems in the form of brightly coloured tulips spring up from borders and stone troughs to blaze through a dull drizzly afternoon.

Tulip 'couleur cardinale', garden, lytes carey manor house, national trust, somerset

Lytes Cary garden has the added bonus of an impeccable botanical heritage in the form of Henry Lyte (1529-1607) who translated and published “A niewe Herbal” in 1578 [1] which was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth Tudor. This included woodcuts of plants as well as their descriptions and remedies; for example, “Garlyke cureth the old cough”.

The garden created and known by Henry Lyte is not however, the one seen by visitors today. The framework of the modern garden is owed to the Jenners, Walter and Flora, who bought and restored the manor house and garden in the early twentieth century.

A considerate restoration was carried out in the house, Walter and Flora Jenner approached their task by keeping a period feel to the rooms and having a sympathetic manner to its history. Indeed, the house has an air of continuous occupation that belies the reality.

tulip jardiniere, 17th century,, lytes carey manor house, national trust, somerset

A jardiniere, used for displaying tulips at the time of Tulip-o-mania in the seventeenth century; on display at Lytes Cary in the small parlour. The spikes were threaded through the tulip stems to keep the flowers upright. Tulips do have a tendency to droop as the flower heads can be heavy in comparison to the flower stalks, especially so once the blooms are cut and brought into the house.


There are certainly plenty of tulips to be found in virtually all of the garden rooms during April.

Whether they are planted in stone troughs to provide a splash of complementary purple fuchsia colour against the blue lias stone walls …

purple tulips in stone trough, lytes carey manor house, national trust, somerset

or planted in a positively fiery combination with berberis in the main border…

red tulips, berberis, lytes carey, herbaceous border, lytes carey manor house, national trust, somerset

the tulips are the sparkling jewels in the garden’s spring flowering.

As for the design and planting of the garden, when the Jenners took on the manor house,  there was no evidence of Henry Lyte’s earlier herb filled borders and well stocked orchard. So they created a garden of rooms, inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Today, Lytes Cary garden reflects the history of its owners and the later designs of Graham Stuart Thomas [2], especially in the main border.

clematis montana'freda' , garden wall, lytes carey manor house, national trust, somerset


The Apostle Garden, on the East side of the manor house, is so called after the twelve large topiary figures that line each side of the path that leads to the gate and takes the eye towards the dovecote shaped water tower. A simply planned garden, the yews were probably planted around 1911.

apostle garden topiary, lytes carey manor house, national trust, somerset, dovecote water tower


And there were plenty of gentle monochromatic shades to complement both the yew topiray and the bright tulips. The variegated honesty, Lunaria annua alba variegata, was added to my list of “I need this for my garden”

variegated white honesty , garden, Lytes Carey, manor house, national trust, somerset


as was  Erythronium ‘pagoda’

erythronium 'pagoda', lytes carey manor house, national trust, somerset


and this pretty white flowered Corydalis, which I think is a ‘sport’ of the more usual Corydalis lutea.

white flowered corydalis, lytes carey manor house garden, national trust, somerset


Topiary was also in evidence in the Lavender garden, one of the garden rooms surrounded tall, well kept yew hedges. The dark green Yew made an attractive foil for the yellow leaved box hedging that surrounded the Lavender in the four corners of the garden. This particular variety is Lavendula x intermedia ‘grosso’, frequently grown and used for its oil.

lavender garden, lavendula x intermedia 'grosso', box hedging, spring flowering tulips, lytes carey manor house, national trust, somerset


But our eyes were constantly drawn back to those jewel like tulips…

garnet red tulipa 'havran', blue scilla peruviana, flower border, lytes carey manor house garden, national trust, somerset



Lytes Cary also has community allotments, part of the National Trust’s initiative to provide more land for growing to local populations round their properties.

We were able to watch people gardening here whilst eating a picnic. It always nice to watch others labouring when you have nothing more than a garden to walk around and a nice piece of cake to look forward to at the end!



[1] Originally the Cruydeboeck of Rembert Dodoens (Antwerp, 1564), Henry Lyte possibly translated via the French translation of Charles de L’Ecluse (Histoire des Plantes) rather than directly from the Dutch.

[2] Graham Stuart Thomas (1909-2003), a famous and respected plantsman, was the National Trusts first Garden Advisor.


Related Gardening Blogs from Plews Potting Shed

Tulips, Tulip-o-mania and Tulip Virus

Vodka drinking Tulips and heroic Snowdrops

Garden Visits – Romantic Kenilworth Castle

Garden Visits – Penshurst Place

The following two tabs change content below.
garden designer, gardening writer, gardening teacher, garden advisor

Latest posts by Marie Shallcross (see all)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Professional Garden Consultants Association Chartered Institute of Horticulture  Landscape Juice Network