ONE of the most romantic gardens in the Cotswolds is celebrating a milestone this summer.

The Secret Garden at Sudeley Castle was re-designed 20 years ago to celebrate the marriage of Henry Dent-Brocklehurst - son of the current chatelaine of the castle, Elizabeth, Lady Ashcombe - to Lili Maltese in 1998.

Now, two decades on, many of the planting features are still enjoyed by visitors to Sudeley Castle and its gardens.

The Secret Garden is so-called for its intimate and sheltered nature – being hidden on one side by a yew hedge and on another by a stone wall.

It can be found through an archway of roses alongside St Mary’s Church – the final resting place of queen Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s six wives.

Little is known about the Secret Garden’s history prior to the 20th century.

It was first re-planted following the marriage of Lord and Lady Ashcombe in 1979. Lady Ashcombe wished to create a ‘secret garden’ as a celebration of their marriage and to house four 18th century cherub-like garden ornaments from Lord Ashcombe’s own garden – which can still be seen today.

Then, when Henry Dent-Brocklehurst married Lili Maltese in 1998, it was decided to re-plant the garden, introducing more vibrant, exotic colours to give it a more modern feel. The couple and their three sons still enjoy the garden when they return each summer.

Among its secrets are two purple smoke bushes and an old Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum, and a variety of daisies, roses, blue salvias, penstemons, Russian sage and clematis.

Stephen Torode has worked as head gardener at Sudeley Castle for the last four years. He said: “I’m very fond of this garden, it has a serene and peaceful feel. I think it surprises people as they don’t always know it’s here – it is perhaps the hidden gem of Sudeley Castle.”

He added: “One side of the garden is south facing - sunny, dry and warm – while the other is shaded by the yew hedge. This, combined with changes in the soil throughout the garden, gives us the opportunity to work with a range of plants which might not otherwise flourish in one garden.”

The Secret Garden flowers right up until October after which time the castle’s team of gardeners will be hard at work preparing it for next year.