(Lady Rose with her husband Peter Lauritzen and their grandson, on the Mount Stewart grounds)
It seems fitting indeed that Edith, Lady Londonderry’s granddaughter and Mount Stewart resident, is named after a flower.
A rose and rhododendrons
A passion for flora has run deep in the Stewart bloodline, and Lady Rose is no exception. Rhododendrons are her favourite of all. The variety of species comprising shape, colour and scent is astounding. Indeed, Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry was intent on bringing colour and fragrance year-round to Mount Stewart with rare trees, shrubs and plants. There’s not a single month when at least several different rhododendrons and scented flowering shrubs aren’t blooming spectacularly.
Neil Porteous, Garden Consultant of Mount Stewart and previously Head Gardener for ten years, returned Mount Stewart to Edith Londonderry’s vision. Gardens evolve, and he created a new fernery, an epiphytic rhododendron Himalyan path in the Rhododendron Wood. He restored and replanted the Rose Garden as it was in Edith’s day, full of every single type of rose, as long as they were scented!
Neil has a committed small team of gardeners and volunteers working to maintain the magic of Mount Stewart. Back in Edith’s day, however, everyone was a potential garden hand. Lady Rose recalls fondly how her grandmother would have all the family and house guests doing their bit – digging, pruning, mulching.
“My sister and I would stagger about with huge watering cans, giving everything a drink. We’d all work until exhaustion set in!” she smiles.
Lockdown at Mount Stewart – when Mother Nature came out to play
Although the gardens are now very much restored to their Halcyon Days, Edith might well have orchestrated a large-scale intervention during lockdown had she been alive. With gardeners forced to furlough, the property was left to its own wild devices. In many ways, it was a delight. The animals came out in full force, although the badgers wreaked havoc on the driveway! Classically timid native red squirrels became more adventurous, reminding Lady Rose of her mother Mairi’s eight red squirrels who would visit every morning.
“She would feed them on the window sill and they would even venture into the house. Although every now and again they left a path of destruction with some of the fine China!” she laughs.
The Kylestone Nurseries & Mount Stewart connection
Lady Rose and her husband, Peter, are restoring and replanting gardens attached to two of the houses they retain in the demesne (now owned by National Trust UK). They have been busy during lockdown re-imagining this area. Together with her five year-old grandson, has created and planted five new flower beds on the south terrace of the house. She has called on Kylestone Nurseries to assist.
“Paul has been wonderful over lockdown. Like everyone, we’ve been unable to venture out. So, he’s been very good to us, delivering everything we need. He goes back a long way with our family,” she explains.
For some 20 years, Paul held a lease within the 10-acre walled garden within the Mount Stewart grounds, which he used to grow species for his wholesale plant nursery. In its heyday Edith grew in that same space all kinds of exotic wonders as well as familiar faithfuls – red currants, white currants, artichokes, asparagus, raspberries. Along with cattle, sheep, orchards and vegetable gardens, the family was very much self-sufficient.
Kylestone Nursery has also kept the Lauritzen kitchen in good supply during the lockdown. Not only is Lady Rose delighted with the produce, but she especially enjoys the Italian range now available. Normally the Lauritzens divide their time between two homes – Mount Stewart and Venice. As a result, Lady Rose is very partial to good quality olive oil, something she could not readily find in NI until Paul introduced Tenuta Borgia.
A touch of Mount Stewart in Venice
Even in Venice, though, there are echoes of Mount Stewart. Lady Rose reinvented their only outdoor space, a classic Venetian balcony, into a garden oasis. Climbing roses creep up the majestic columns, and evergreen jasmine and orange trees abound. It is a veritable natural jewel within the manmade architectural resplendence of Venice.
“There’s something about nature, isn’t there?” comments Lady Rose. “Going to a museum, seeing fine art; these are beautiful things and they are good for the soul. But being in a garden really makes the soul sing.”
Entertaining – what’s on the menu?
Lady Rose has inherited her grandmother’s famous flair and love for entertaining. In Italy, guests might savour a superb green gnocchi recipe followed by roast quails. Dessert is often a local cake because, well, it’s just the perfect Venetian end to a meal. Back in NI and luncheons might include a cheese souffle for first course, followed by duck breast with cherry sauce. One of Lady Rose’s favourite Irish desserts is in fact a recipe belonging to the grandmother of her cook, Joseph McGee. ‘Hessie’s Apple Sponge’ involves slightly spiced, cooked apples, which remain firm. Upon them sits a sponge served with whipped cream. Needless to say, we now have a craving for some baked apples…
A sincere thanks to Lady Rose for the wonderful chat, and sharing such lovely memories with us. It has been a great pleasure. If you’d like us to look after you with free home deliveries from the Farm Shop or Nursery, start shopping online.