The Gardens are the life work of Mr. Ambrose Congreve. His life was colourful in any sense of the word.
Young Ambrose was sent to school at Eton where he met his roommate and life-long friend Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond spy novels. They both collaborated in the school magazine The Wyvern.
During the World War II, both friends served as intelligence officers. Ambrose Congreve served in Air Intelligence for Plans and in Bomber Command, and later in the Ministry of Supply.
A brilliant businessman, Ambrose Congreve was working for Unilever in England and China, and ran Humphreys & Glasgow firm when he took over from his father-in-law Arthur G. Glasgow (from 1939 to 1983). During this time the workforce increased from less than 100 to more than 3000. Foreseeing the global economic crisis, he sold the company and his holding of stocks and shares in the 1980’s. Much of the proceeds went to charities and literary prizes, the rest was invested in the estate. Wholesale nursery added to the funds necessary to maintain the gardens and house.
Liveried servants, fine chefs de cuisine, gorgeous Rolls Royce Phantom V1, collection of the finest items of art… and one of the best gardens of the world that took almost a hundred years to plant.
He employed Albert Roux, the chef who later co-founded Le Gavroche restaurant in London; his Rolls Royce was driven by the Queen Mother’s former chauffeur; his London house in the courtyard of St James’s Palace was next door to Prince Charles; he was a friend of Lionel de Rothschild ( his mentor in gardening), Winston Churchill, and Aristotle Onassis.
His 70 employees gave him a special and thoughtful gift for his 100th birthday – a Wollemi Pine.
In the beginning of April, there are only a few Camellias in bloom .
Most of the flowers are laying on the ground at different stages of decay.
The variety and number of Azaleas are overwhelming.
There are 16 miles of paths in the gardens.
Snowy flowers and the bright flame of the new shoots – Pieris fills up the gaps between the twisted Rhododendron trunks.
Magnolia walk. There are about 200 tree Magnolias planted by Ambrose Congreve and his long-time head gardener Herman Dool who came from Holland. It was their secret – to plant numerous trees instead of 1-2 to make the garden look so spectacular.
Michael White is the current curator of the Mount Congreve Gardens.
Another long-leaved Rhododendron.
One more Azalea. I have shared just a tiny slice of the collection.
Thank you for visiting Mount Congreve Gardens with me. It is sad that we won’t see the tall figure of Mr. Congreve. He and his wife are buried at the temple overlooking River Suir.
Have a wonderful week!