2015 Garden of the Year winners

PUBLISHED: 09:25 18 September 2015 | UPDATED: 09:25 18 September 2015

Cranbrook Primary School winners of Best Primary School Garden

Cranbrook Primary School winners of Best Primary School Garden


Kent Life’s sixth Garden of the Year competition, in association with Hadlow College, Coolings and ellenot, has revealed two wonderful winners in both categories

Amateur garden of the year

Angie Boakes’ inspirational garden, 37 The Haydens, Tonbridge, with its beautiful transformation of a small space, is the winner of the 2015 Kent Life Amateur Garden of the Year award

Finding a way to stamp personality on a typical new-build block takes creativity. Angie Boakes has taken that further by creating gardens within a garden that flow together while still having different themes.

Although only a new garden, it has an abundance and longevity beyond its age and indeed the garden in North Tonbridge may not have happened had the conditions been different.

In 2014 Angie Boakes finally admitted defeat at trying to grow peonies in a north-facing border and it became the impetus to embark on a full redesign of her suburban, modern housing estate garden (just 25m x 15m).

“My garden has since been transformed from a traditional ‘mainly lawn with obligatory flower borders around the edge’ set up to a design where shrubs, roses, grasses and perennials take centre stage – with only a small functional patch of grass! I designed the garden myself following the ‘right plant, right place’ principle, with the aim of creating partitioned areas to mirror the house,” she explains.

Looking out from the formal areas of the house the design echoes that formality by means of symmetrical borders featuring roses, box, obelisks draped in clematis and the essential peonies (now in the perfect spot), before it moves through to the ‘Chelsea borders.’

“I was lucky enough to man the 2014 Chelsea ‘Best in Show’ garden designed by the Italian designer Luciano Giubbilei and I’ve used some of the plants to recreate part of his show garden.”

There is also a woodland border with a small copse of five silver birch underplanted with ferns, hosta, digitalis and shade-loving grasses, along with winter-interest cornus by a pretty painted summerhouse and grass borders.

Out from the kitchen, edibles – including neat clumps of lettuce – are mixed with ornamentals in raised beds around a small fountain. “I can ring the changes here every year with different planting,” Angie adds.

To create a sense of 
uniformity across the space, she uses two key linking plants of Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ with its tactile massed purple spires and dainty Geranium ‘Roxanne.’

Although she’s only been gardening for five years, having had her interest in horticulture captured through an evening class at Hadlow College, the level of expertise Angie has gained in such a short time is quite remarkable. A real passion has truly blossomed and opened new possibilities in her mind, including opening the garden through the National Gardens Scheme.

“I’ve completed my RHS Level 2 qualification, but am essentially a passionate horticulturalist in whatever spare time I have alongside a busy full-time job (she works for Shell).

“Other than the hard landscaping, I designed and built my revamped garden myself and tend it on my own, enjoying the stress-relieving benefits horticulture gives me and being able to share the growing experience with friends’ small children. Horticulture has opened a whole new world to me and who knows where it might lead to!”

To know

37 The Haydens, Tonbridge TN9 1NS

Primary School Garden of the Year

Cranbrook Church of England Primary School is the winner of our 2015 Kent Life

Primary School Garden of the Year

Combine creativity with a green ethos and you have an understanding of the impetus behind Cranbrook Primary School’s gardening club. We were shown around by effervescent Tracey Lilley, accompanied by a group of enthusiastic children who clearly enjoy the varied gardening activities on offer.

The school is fortunate to have two areas of woodland, ponds and gardens, which are used extensively and include productive beds and areas for each class to grow plants in.

The first area the children showed us was the main productive garden of raised beds holding an array of abundant vegetables, fruit and herbs. Netting protected ripening strawberries and radishes freshly harvested were eagerly presented. The children happily identified the various crops, telling us all about the process of production. Decorative touches abound, on the shed and fence or dangling from the trees. Little bug houses made by the children and hanging baskets peeped out of the shadows.

Our attention was drawn also to the wonderful use of plastic bottles to create a truly unique greenhouse. “We like to recycle items to use as sun catchers and planters as well, and to grow from seed as much as possible” Tracey adds.

Recycling is indeed clearly evident across the school, including within the areas that each class is responsible for. From brightly painted recycled tyres and wellingtons brimming with plants to murals made from plastic bags or planted bottles lined up on the brick walls, creativity knows no bounds at Cranbrook.

“Each class of the school has an area to plant. Some are more challenging than others with hard areas, while some have chosen to colour and draw pictures and make colourful outdoor art pieces,” Tracey explains.

In addition, the gardening club looks after the grounds, weeding and tidying. The latest developing project taken on by children, staff and parents is the wood. Fallen trees have been cleared, some becoming sculptural animals under the skilled chainsaw of Tracey, paths have been created, willow structures and seating areas built, making the woodland accessible for classes to use.

To know

Cranbrook Church of England Primary School, Cranbrook TN17 3JZ

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