Garden Group Highlights Summer 2018
The garden group have had a busy and enjoyable time this year. We have made a great deal of use of the gardens open to groups in the National Garden Scheme. Our first visit in April was to a local garden, Hookwood House in Shipbourne. It is a delightful country garden, divided into Ďroomsí featuring many different elements. It was early in the year and the owner had fantastic displays of tulips both in the ground and in containers and the bluebells were out in the woods alongside. There was an interesting old nut plat with many old trees still producing Kentish cobnuts, a vegetable patch, herbaceous borders, topiary and much to interest visitors so early in the year. Hookwood House is open by arrangement from April to June through the NGS.
In May we visited the private gardens of Lord Sackville at Knole and if you havenít visited I urge you to go. It is a revelation to see behind those high walls as you walk around Knole. There are 26 acres to explore and you get wonderful views of the house that are normally never seen. There are formal gardens and wild areas including a medieval orchard. There are long herbaceous borders that have been planted by the present Lord Sackville to replace boring lines of tall Leylandii, now felled. We were lucky enough to go at a time to still see some blooms on the magnificent Wisteria, it is a 200 year old plant and is the longest outside China we were told. We walked along the green alley - an unbroken grassy path that runs around the perimeter of the garden. We were told that it was created for gentle strolls in relative seclusion and to catch up on all the gossip! There is much to explore and each month there is something different to see. You can book to go on one of the guided walks, there are several themes. The garden is open on Tuesdays until 25th September from 11am until 4pm, entry is free to National Trust members or is included in the admission fees. If you donít have time to visit this year, hopefully it will open again next year in April. Look on the website for more details.
In June we visited The Garth Pleasure Grounds in Lingfield, again through the NGS. The Pleasure Grounds were created by Walter Godfrey in 1919 surrounding the former parish workhouse, it is a beautiful building with an interesting history but not open to the public. There are 9 acres of gardens to explore including secluded, shady woodland areas that are full of bluebells in spring and more formally laid out gardens full of colour and interest.
July took us to Bidborough to see two stunning and contrasting gardens. The first was a new garden attached to a very modern, newly built house called Sheerdrop. The house is built on the top of Bidborough Ridge and has magnificent views over fields towards Bidborough Church. The gardens are designed as a series of terraces as the garden falls away down the hill, hence, Sheerdrop! The design is very clever and makes the best use of the space available and the views beyond. The designer is Roger Platts of Edenbridge and his planting schemes are stunning, making great use of grasses and block planting of colourful perennials. Both the garden and the house have the Wow! factor. On the same afternoon we also visited Boundes End in Bidborough, a garden created and maintained by the talented owner Carole and her husband Mike. The garden is an unusual shape but the owners have made a feature of what amounts to two triangles of land. There is something of interest and beauty to see in every nook and cranny and not only is Carole a keen and knowledgeable gardener, she is a talented artist and makes cakes to die for!
August found us at another fantastic private garden, Gardenview, between Westerham and Biggin Hill. Freda is another passionate gardener who has raised nearly £60,000 for the NSPCC through opening her garden and organising events. She has only lived in her house for 4 years and it is astounding what she has achieved in such a short space of time. A piece of land at the back of her garden was a rough piece of grass with a few fruit trees but now has beds planted with lots of colour and interest. There wasnít a weed in sight and even in late summer in a very hot dry year there wasnít any area that looked a bit tired or a plant that looked a bit past its best. I think we all felt inspired and a little guilty that our own gardens didnít quite come up to scratch! Freda looks after the garden all by herself, only having someone to come in and cut her lawn every fortnight. She also enjoys painting and has set up a little gallery with extremely reasonable prints and cards for sale with all proceeds to the NSPCC.
It would certainly be worth your while seeking out her lovely garden, details in the NGS yellow book or visit her website www.fredasgarden.co.uk
We still have a visit in September to look forward to, The Old Rectory in Bletchingly and a talk in October by Jim Buttress, former Superintendent of the Royal Parks and well known RHS judge.
We have visited many of the large gardens open to the public in Kent, Surrey and Sussex over the years but have found the smaller gardens open through the National Garden Scheme a rich source of inspirational gardens and our visits always seem to end with tea and cake and our visits through NGS help to support many great charities, what more could one ask for?!!