The Walled Garden
The Walled Garden is Goodnestone's most renowned and popular area, and many visitors think that the central view through the succession of mellow brick-walled enclosures to the church tower, is one of the best in any English garden. Some of the walls are older than the house and having been carefully restored through the 1960s and 1970s they are now hung with a range of climbers and wall plants including clematis, jasmine, solanum and roses, Fremontodendron 'California Glory' and Carpentaria californica.
The succession of three main enclosures leads from the old fashioned rose garden underplanted with hardy geraniums and other perennials, to the rill garden created in 2009, and finally the kitchen garden where flower borders mix with an array of fruit and vegetables. It is hard to believe that when Margaret FitzWalter started her work on the garden this last area was planted with Christmas trees that were sold at the local market every year.
As well as these main areas the Walled Garden has many hidden secrets to discover: the now huge wisterias planted before the war by Emmy FitzWalter that now cover the far wall in front of the church tower; the alpine garden where raised beds and sinks are planted with gentians and other tiny treasures; or the ornamental greenhouse overflowing with exotic tender plants.
The Woodland Garden
Thirty years ago the Woodland Garden was an impenetrable jungle, the pool surrounded by giant blocks of York stone, rhododendrons and other delights all brought in by Emmy FitzWalter, obscured by brambles and undergrowth. Over many years it has been restored and developed so that today is covers a much larger area, having expanded into the surrounding woodland. The winding paths reveal a rich array of trees, shrubs and smaller woodland treasures: especially good collections of witch hazels, snowdrops and hellebores in spring, camellias, cornus and magnolias in early summer, then in late-summer banks of hydrangeas produce a mass of deep blue flowers and tall evergreen eucryphias are covered in white flowers.
The Parterre and Terraces
The main front of the house overlooks a wide expanse of lawn from which a broad flight of steps leads down to the lower terrace where, in 2000, a parterre designed by Charlotte Molesworth was laid out to celebrate the millennium. The pattern of box hedges, gravel and planted enclosures was taken from a detail of the early-18th century view of the garden by Harris, thus giving continuity over a period of three centuries. From the parterre the view extends out over the village cricket ground immediately below and the rest of the main area of parkland beyond. It is a very different scene to the years after the war when the terraces were overgrown and a series of army Nissan huts survived on the lower terrace from the years of military requisition.
On the other side of the house the flights of steps in the middle of terraced lawns lead up to a yew-hedged walk at the top of which is the lime avenue. The early-18th century view of the garden show a formal axis here and the avenue of red-twigged limes, Tilia platyphyllus 'Rubra', was planted to recreate the same vista. ‘The avenue was planted in 1984 to mark Brook FitzWalter's 70th birthday. Positioned at the top as an eye-catcher is a large stone urn on a pedestal that was positioned a few years later, in 1991, to celebrate Brook and Margaret FitzWalter's 40th wedding anniversary.
The Arboretum and Gravel Garden
Between the lime avenue and the woodland garden what was an area of rough pasture has been transformed into an arboretum with an outstanding collection of ornamental trees. Mown paths wind between areas where the grass is left unmown for spring bulbs and later flowers such as snake's-head fritillaries to thrive, and the collection of trees is notable for the different varieties of birch, sorbus, malus and robinia.
Below the arboretum, back towards the house, an old tennis court has been the scene of the latest transformation, into a new gravel garden that has been completed in 2003. The garden brings a contemporary note to Goodnestone, with its path leading from one side to the other, between bold plantings of perennial grasses and other striking foliage perennials such as euphorbias and eryngiums, all growing out of gravel. Towards the centre a paved area and seat have been positioned to enjoy the view towards the house and glimpse of the park beyond.
Thanks to its long history Goodnestone Park is blessed with a selection of wonderful old trees. Perhaps the most prominent is the ancient cedar of Lebanon, Cedrus libani, that stands on a raised lawn to the north of the house's entrance front. It almost certainly dates from around the time that the house was built and as well as having had its top blown out in a storm half a century ago it has lost many branches to the weight of winter snow.
At the end of the lawn to the south-west of the house is an enormous sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa which is even older. The woodland garden contains more enormous sweet chestnut and oaks, as well as a magnificent southern beech, Nothofagus fusca, which is not only unusual but the largest in the UK. The nothofagus, an unusual free-standing evergreen magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, which has achieved majestic size, and two other rarities Abelia triflora, and a cut-leaf alder, Alnus glutinosa 'Imperialis', were all planted between the wars by Emmy FitzWalter.
As well as the many varieties in the Arboretum, notable trees planted during the last thirty years include a fine tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, an unusual cut-leaf copper beech, Fagus sylvatica 'Rohanii', and an outstanding example of the variegated Cornus controversa 'Variegata'.