Sarah Biddulph and her family reside at Rodmarton Manor, the family home since it was built in 1929. One of the UK's most complete and original homes designed with the 19th Century Arts & Crafts ethos as a guiding principle, Rodmarton is synonymous with the Edwardian Country House era. Its 8 acre gardens stand alongside some of the greatest such as Hidcote & Hestercombe - with enthusiasts travelling across the UK to visit. 

For me to try and convey Rodmarton's role in providing a picture-perfect account of the Arts & Crafts movement is hard - for it is arguably unmatched

From the furniture made to dress the house, to the methods and materials used to raise it from the ground, to the layout and planting of the gardens - every single aspect of the property was done so in a thoughtful manner, utilising local craftsmen and quality materials.

A feature on Rodmarton was seen on BBC Gardeners' World in 2023. Click this link to watch the episode. Filmed around the gardens on a bright Summer's day, you can almost feel the heat through the screen!
I first met Sarah when delivering some pots to her to-be business partner back in 2022. At the time 'The Two Sarah's' were just on the cusp of coordinating their new venture, the Generous Gardener series, and excitement was whizzing in the air. Taking on an established series of garden-based events, they were to split the programme between their homes; Sarah Rivett-Carnac to host the specialist plant sales around her self-designed garden in Charlton with Sarah Biddulph to entertain the lecture days at Rodmarton. 2023 arrived and the series was a huge success with 2024 looking to follow suit.

In your own words, describe Rodmarton as it is today.

Rodmarton garden is a fine example of a garden that was laid out to have so many different styles from the formal topiary and terracing near the house to the kitchen garden, the herbaceous borders, a cherry orchard, parterre and a wild garden. It really does have something for everybody!

What makes it such a significant example of the ‘Arts & Crafts’ movement?

The gardens were drawn up by Ernest Barnsley, a leading figure in the Cotswold Arts and Crafts movement and it is still his plans that survive today with a garden of rooms divided by walls and hedging which is typical of this period in garden design history.
Lead drainpipes feature decorative mouldings of various animals. These were made by a local workshop nearly 100 years ago.

8 acres is no easy feat to maintain - what are the challenges you face throughout the year? You must have a good team behind you!

We do have a good team which is lead by our wonderful Head Gardener Sue Cranch. There is always a lot to do maintaining a garden of this size, from all the annual pruning and trimming hedges and the topiary but we do also have some amazing volunteers who help make all this possible.

Among a list of reasons as to why Rodmarton is so special, it is well known for some 150 different snowdrops. How did it come to have such a collection? I think I’m right in saying Rodmarton even has a snowdrop named after it!

Rodmarton is well known for its collection of snowdrops which includes many rare varieties but the one you mention is the Rodmarton Regulus which is obviously named after the Manor and there is also a Margaret and Claud Biddulph after previous generations of the family.
Rodmarton Regulus > Available from Old Court  Nurseries (2024 price, £24); 'A magnificent snowdrop standing at 18 cm. Large heavy flowers with long ridged outers and a bold green inner mark are held over broad blue-green foliage. Fairly early to flower.'

Are there any particular snowdrops that visitors in February should look out for? Do you have any personal favourites?

Visitors to the garden during snowdrop season will be given a list of all the varieties we have on show. The core collection is displayed in one area, under the ornamental trees in the outer kitchen garden, where you will find examples of every variety we have. I always like Mrs Macnamara and Rodmarton Regulus as they are good growers but I am always fond of Diggory as I like the name!
Diggory; 'This snowdrop has a distinct bowl shape caused by the heavily textured outer segments turning under at the tips. As the flower matures the shape intensifies... the claws lengthen so allowing the inner green mark to be seen, even when the flower is not open.'

Like with every historic garden, there is a balance between conservation and adaptation. How do you manage this balance? Have you had to make many alterations?

We are always mindful of the history of the garden and the amazing variety of plants, some of which have been here since it was first laid out. Whenever we feel that certain areas of the garden need renovating we always make sure that our plans are sympathetic and fit in with the overall zeitgeist of the place. Gardens alway need to evolve but we can always learn a lot from our predecessors at the same time.

When I last visited your home in the Summer, you had not long featured on Gardeners World. I’ve heard whispers of a ‘Gardeners World Effect’ - is it true or did I just visit on a busy day?

It is definitely true when people talk about ’the Gardeners’ World’ effect! Our visitor numbers almost doubled overnight which was wonderful.
These antique carved stone troughs, raised on staddle stone bases, are planted with assorted alpines. This display is one of the most recognisable features from the gardens.

With regards to your recent shared venture taking on the Generous Gardener and hosting the talks side of the series, have there been any highlights from the first year?

Taking on The Generous Gardener has been so much fun. Sarah and I so enjoyed our first year. We had an incredible line up of speakers last year including James Alexander-Sinclair and Jinny Blom and this year is no exception with Andy Sturgeon, Arthur Parkinson and Marian Boswall to name but a few. The Lecture Days always have a very relaxed atmosphere as the audience is limited to 60 and you get a extremely delicious lunch in the wonderful surroundings of Rodmarton Manor!
Please see our website for more details
This planted avenue from the Manor towards the summerhouse is another picture perfect aspect of the gardens... One of many, I should add!

What can people look forward to for 2024? It won't be long until you start up again!

As well as all the Garden Lecture Days the garden itself has had a few changes over this winter. We have re-planted the Spring Walk with mixed shrubs and spring bulbs, we are also about to replant one of the beds in the main borders and the wild garden has had a bit of a makeover. Winter is definitely a busy time in the garden!

With great experience opening up to the public - what would be your advice to someone looking to open their garden for the first time?

I would say to someone looking to open for the first time enjoy it! You get to meet some wonderful people who are passionate about gardening and you can share knowledge which is what it is all about.
The Manor is very much a central feature of the gardens.
Thomas Pearson