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Kent’s Magical Bluebell Woods and Spring Gardens

by Susie Challen, National Garden Scheme

April is the time to seek out magical bluebell woods, wonderful tulips and ethereal spring blossom in the wonderful Kent gardens that open for the National Garden Scheme (NGS).  

A woodland carpeted with bluebells is a wonderful sight to behold. The best time to catch these beautiful native flowers is around mid April to early May, depending on the spring weather. Hole Park’s woodland walk is one of the best places to see bluebells en masse.  They even have a bluebell barometer on their website! The 15 acre garden is surrounded by parkland with beautiful views and contains fine yew hedges, large lawns with specimen trees, walled gardens, pools and mixed borders. The garden is proud to stand amongst the group of gardens which first opened in 1927 for the NGS.

Hole Park

Rolvenden, Cranbrook, TN17 4JB

NGS Spring open days: Sunday 10 April & Wednesday 11 May, 11am–6pm

Refreshments: Homemade teas. Picnics only in the picnic site and car park.

Admission: Adult: £10, Child: £2. Dog friendly.

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The 10 acres of woodland garden at Knoll Farm houses a beautiful bluebell wood that is speckled with primroses, rising up behind the main garden. Here you’ll also find an impressive collection of over 100 camellias. A flock of Jacob Sheep are kept around the lake, below, and the garden boasts fabulous long views across Romney Marsh.

The Knoll Farm

Giggers Green Road, Aldington, Ashford, TN25 7BY

NGS open day: Saturday 23 April, 12pm – 5pm

Refreshments: Picnics welcome by the lake

Admission: Adult: £8, Child: free. Dog friendly.

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Doddington Place has a wonderful woodland garden within its 10 acres where acid-loving trees and shrubs have been planted, including camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, as well as many bulbs and herbaceous plants. New plants recently added to the woodland include several magnolias, among them the delicately scented magnolia wilsonii. Elsewhere in the garden there are magnificent cloud pruned yews, formal gardens, wide views and a wonderful Edwardian rock garden with pools. Extensive lawns and avenues are framed by those impressive yew hedges along with many fine trees.

Doddington Place

Doddington, Sittingbourne, ME9 OBB

NGS April open days: Sunday 3 & Sunday 10 April, 11am – 5pm

Refreshments: Homemade teas.

Admission: Adult: £9, Child: £2.50. Dog friendly.

 

A magical garden full of whimsy, charm and stunning topiary can be found at Balmoral Cottage near Cranbrook. The garden is adorned with peacocks, whirling spirals, spheres and shaped tiers, all sculpted out of yew and box. It is the creation of an artistic plantswoman over the last 33 years, where the beautiful and extensive topiary forms the backbone for romantic spring and summer borders.

Balmoral Cottage

Benenden, Cranbrook, TN17 4DL

NGS Spring open days: Sunday 24 April & Sunday 15 May, 12pm – 5pm

Refreshments: Refreshments available at nearby Hole Park (separate additional price)

Admission: Adult: £6, Child: £2.50.

 

The 6-acre garden at Bilting House opens in April and May for the NGS and has a woodland walk with bluebells and spring bulbs, while tulips and other spring flowering plants abound elsewhere in the garden. You’ll find a wide variety of rhododendrons, azaleas and ornamental shrubs here, along with a mature arboretum, a rose garden as well as herbaceous borders. The garden is set in a beautiful part of Stour Valley and even boasts a ha-ha.

Bilting House

Nr. Ashford, TN25 4HA

NGS Spring open weekends: 23 & 24 April, 21 & 22 May, 1.30pm – 5.30pm

Refreshments: Homemade teas.

Admission: Adult: £7, Child: Free. Dog friendly.

Potmans Heath House is a large country garden divided into compartments, each with a different style. In spring, there are tulips galore as well as many blossoming ornamental cherry and apple trees in the orchards. There is also a part-walled vegetable garden with two greenhouses. The garden is surrounded by fields, hedgerows and the Wittersham Levels and has been designed to blend into a pleasing continuum and to encourage bird life and natural woodland.

Potmans Heath House

Wittersham, TN30 7PU

NGS April open day: Sunday 24 April, 2pm -6pm

Refreshments: Homemade teas.

Admission: Adult: £5.00, Child: Free. Dog friendly.

Linton Park’s hillside garden overlooks the Weald of Kent and is set in 450 acres of parkland. Spring bulbs, elegant tulips and beautiful tree blossom can be found in the 27-acre garden that surrounds the house. Re-imagined over the last 35 years, using original J C Loudon plans and historic maps, the garden boasts wonderful mature tree specimens of, amongst others, copper beech, cedars, limes and oaks crowned by a magnificent avenue of Wellingtonia planted in the mid 19th century. The head gardener will be at hand on the NGS open day, and teas will be served on the south terrace where you can enjoy the views.

Linton Park

Heath Road, Linton, Maidstone, ME17 4AB

NGS April open day: Sunday 3 April, 10.30am – 4pm

Refreshments: Homemade teas served on the south terrace.

Admission: Adult: £8.50, Child: Free.

Bishopscourt is the residence of the Bishop of Rochester and the mature 1-acre historic walled garden lies within the heart of Rochester. In spring there is a wonderful show of tulips and other spring plants, as well as a magnificent magnolia flowering by the house. The garden has mature trees, lawns, yew hedges, mixed herbaceous borders as well as a small vegetable garden and greenhouse.

Bishopscourt

24 St Margaret’s Street, Rochester, ME1 1TS

NGS April open day: Saturday 30 April, 11am – 2pm

Refreshments: Homemade teas.

Admission: Adult: £5, Child: Free. Dog friendly.

 

A full list of Kent spring gardens to visit in April and more information about these and other spring gardens can be found on the NGS website: www.ngs.org.uk.

Bluebell woodland at Emmetts Garden, Kent

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