KENT’S GORGEOUS GARDENS
Kent’s nickname – The Garden of England – couldn’t be more apt. From small, neat green spaces to huge, rambling acres of plants and trees, we have it all. A Kentish country garden is a very special place indeed, and if you want to find peace, quiet, beauty and a place to really marvel at how varied and infinite nature can be, a Kent garden is the best place you could possibly choose.
Hever Castle & Gardens, Hever
Until William Waldorf Astor bought Hever Castle in 1903, only a modest garden existed around the castle walls. Today, thanks to his remarkable efforts and those of the gardening team that have rediscovered parts of the garden that had long been forgotten, the award-winning gardens at Hever Castle offer many magnificent areas that are a pleasure to visit at any time of the year. From the formal Italian garden to the rose garden to the lakeside pathways and clever yew maze, and not forgetting Sixteen Acre Island where the water maze can be found, the variety and beauty of Hever is impressive.
Credit: Hever Castle & Gardens
Goodnestone Park Gardens, Goodnestone
Jane Austin would often visit her brother at his home at Goodnestone, and she admired the gardens as much as people do today. Goodnestone Park Gardens is featured in the Good Gardens Guide, and some of the trees found here date back many hundreds of years.
Credit: Marcus Harpur
Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, Sevenoaks
John Rogers, who bought Riverhill in 1840, chose it because its sheltered situation offered an ideal lime-free hillside where he could hope to establish newly introduced trees and shrubs. From his garden notebook, it can be seen that planting started in 1842. Subsequent generations continued the planting and now, this historic, listed hillside garden is a fun family day out as well as a beautiful spot to enjoy. Today, the gardens are an intriguing mix of historic and traditional planting, with contemporary and quirky twists, making it a fascinating must-visit garden for families and garden lovers alike.
Leeds Castle, Maidstone
The first thing that you will see when you step through the gates to Leeds Castle’s grounds are the gardens themselves. The castle is a walk away, and to get there you can walk through the most luscious of gardens. Full of features such as ponds, waterfalls, bridges, gazebos, and of course the gorgeous azaleas and rhododendrons, the route itself is a breathtaking adventure. Reaching the castle you will find the amazing Culpeper Garden – a large cottage garden featuring neat, low box hedges that are peppered with roses, lupins, poppies and other exotic blooms.
Penshurst Place & Gardens, Penshurst
Majestically surrounding the house, over one mile of yew hedging divides the garden into a series of ‘rooms’, each with its own season and colour. Wander further afield and visit the arboretum, trout lakes, lake park and Lancup Well. At around 50 acres, they make Penshurst Place and Gardens one of Britain’s most alluring and seductive spectacles throughout the year.
Godinton House, Ashford
The gardens at Godinton House span 12 impressive acres. Within them, you will find enormous oak trees and stately chestnuts, bringing to mind a real haven of tranquillity. The gardens have been tended to for over four hundred years, and the fashions of each era have been planted in the earth. The landscape you can see today mainly links back to Reginald Blomfield’s design from 1898. It includes a terraced lawn which is bordered by a vast yew hedge which has been modernised and softened by the addition of curving herbaceous borders.
Great Comp Garden, Sevenoaks
Great Comp has a long and varied history which spans an incredible 800 years, starting back in the 13th century when it was known as Camp de Wrotha (Wrotham field). It was, in fact, the garden that came first; the manor house itself wasn’t built until 1597. Since then, 19 owners have enjoyed Great Comp including most notably Mrs Frances J. Heron Maxwell who lived there for more than 50 years at the start of the 20th century. She was a great friend of the indomitable Vita Sackville-West who lived nearby at Knole. Yet it was Eric and Joy Cameron, who moved to Great Comp in 1957, who are responsible for how wonderful the gardens are today. They opened their gardens to the public in 1968, and people have been visiting in droves ever since.
Brogdale Collections, Faversham
Although technically an orchard rather than a garden, the 150 acres at Brogdale is still a wonderful place to roam and enjoy nature at its finest. At various times of the year you will find impressive collections of apples, pears, cherries, plums, quince, nuts and medlars (more than 4,000 varieties of fruit trees overall). Self-guided tours are available and you can spend as much time as you like wandering the pathways, enjoying the countryside and discovering the fruits’ cycle from blossom to fruit and frost.
The Salutation Gardens, Sandwich
If you love plants and are fascinated in how they grow and thrive, a visit to The Salutation Hotel’s gorgeous gardens are a must. They were designed in 1912 by architect Sir Edward Lutyens who divided the almost four acres into separate ‘rooms’. These rooms are symmetrical, but each one has a different look and feel, all combining with the central theme. The effect of this design is to make the entire garden seem endless, and this, combined with planting both old and new varieties of plants, means that as the seasons move on, the garden is never empty or dead – it bursts into a different kind of life as each month presents itself.
Hole Park Gardens, Rolvenden
There are 15 magnificent acres of gardens at Hole Park. The initial design was created by Colonel Barham who is the great grandfather of the present owner. He did this during the two World Wars, and made sure to include a variety of plants that would flower from January to October, giving as much colour and joy to the garden (and to those enjoying it) as possible. The yew hedges are trimmed carefully, some into topiary shapes, and they surround the more formal areas of garden including the Italian garden. There are walled gardens too, creating a tranquil, private air. But there are also more wild places to see, where overflowing herbaceous borders and statues stand together. Keep moving through the gardens and you’ll come across natural ponds where it is easy to spend an hour or so just admiring the view.
Chartwell is perhaps most famous for being the home of Sir Winston Churchill, but although the house is a wonderful place to explore, the gardens should certainly not be overlooked. After all, the grounds were a major part of why Churchill chose this spot for his beloved home in the first place. Explore the water features and wide expanses of lawn and trees, as well as a stunning kitchen garden too. This is where you can see the famous wall that Churchill built himself, and where, thanks to the old diaries that were kept by Chartwell’s head gardener of the time, as much has been recreated for today’s visitors as possible, giving the feel of what it was once like. As a bonus, much of what is grown in the kitchen garden is used is Chartwell’s visitors’ café to create delicious dishes.
Belmont House, Faversham
There are two gardens at Belmont – the walled garden and the kitchen garden. The walled garden’s long borders contain a wide variety of plants, both annual and perennial. The combination of these borders with climbers, a more formal rose bed and walls covered with wisteria ensures there is interest throughout the year. The large walled kitchen garden across the drive from the house was restored in 2001 to a design by the renowned Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd. It features a charming mix of lawn, fruit trees and shrubs, as well as a wide variety of vegetables and flowers.
Emmetts Garden, Ide Hill
Emmetts Garden is more than ‘just’ a garden. It is many different, incredible gardens all rolled into one amazing place to visit when you need a little time out, want to find some peace and quiet, or simply need to find some space to breathe. Visit the North Garden with its unusual ‘wedding cake tree’; the South Garden with the intriguingly named burnt toffee tree during autumn, the Persian silk tree in summer and the wonderful handkerchief tree in the spring; the Rock Garden with a lily pond and winding paths; or the Rose Garden, originally created for Catherine Lubbock between 1910 and 1920. This is the central feature at Emmetts, and is where you will see the Octavia Hill rose (Octavia Hill was one of the founders of the National Trust).
Scotney Castle Garden, Lamberhurst
The gardens are Scotney Castle have often been described as like something from a fairytale, or from a painting – they are so picturesque and perfect that they hardly seem real. However, this vista of rhododendrons and azaleas, roses, the moat, the old castle and everything that goes with it is very real indeed, and visitors are most welcome.
Walmer Castle & Gardens, Walmer
Restoration is taken extremely seriously at Walmer Castle, and English Heritage have spend years updating and creating the most beautiful outside spaces. British horticulturist and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll inspires the colour and planting scheme here, and no matter what time of year you visit, there is something beautiful to see, although the bright, vibrant colours of the summer months are particularly worthy of note.
Doddington Place Gardens, Sittingbourne
English Heritage has recognised these stunning gardens as being of historical importance, and once you step foot into them you will understand why. They cover 10 acres and include a notable woodland garden which, in May and June especially, is a riot of colour and life. There is also a formal sunken garden complete with herbaceous borders, and a flint and brick folly.
Chiddingstone Castle, Chiddingstone
It is the views from the garden that are the most inspiring, renowned for miles as being the most perfect place to see the Greensland Ridge, situated below the North Downs. However, the gardens at Chiddingstone Castle deserve to be looked at rather than simply from, especially as they contain a maze inspired by ancient Egypt, an avenue of Japanese cherry blossom trees and a Victorian orangery.