Blacksmiths’ Arms, Cudham

PUBLISHED: 16:02 04 July 2015 | UPDATED: 16:02 04 July 2015

Blacksmith's Arms Cudham

Blacksmith's Arms Cudham


Kent Life takes a look at the spectacular floral displays that draw visitors to Joyce and George Cole’s lovely pub and its colourful garden

Joyce and George Cole took over the Blacksmiths Arms in 2003. “We just live down the road, had never run a pub before but we really enjoy it and it’s a way of life now,” says Joyce.

Having always loved gardening she was also keen to create an attractive outside environment. There was just a back lawn area with some Choisya ternata shrubs in a middle garden bed, so there was an opportunity to really make a difference.

“The soil at the pub is mostly Wealden clay, which needed a lot of compost added to create annual beds, and then I started experimenting with hanging baskets.”

Planting choices vary each year as Joyce decides on different colour schemes to try, both in the garden and the dazzling array of baskets on the pub façade and every vertical surface. Curving beds in the garden shimmer in summer with the many and varied bright hues.

Ribbons of bedding begonias and marigolds fringe the edge, with cheerful dahlias and clumps of petunias backed by tassels of Amaranthus, architectural Ricinus communis and wafting Verbena bonariensis. The effect is joyous.

“It has been a process of trial and error. For example, the troughs and baskets at the front need to cope with the force of strong south-westerly winds, so I need to be careful to choose appropriate plants.

“Nepeta proved not so good, but stronger types of lobelia such as ‘Hot White’, single pelargoniums and Calibrachoa (Million Bells) do well,” she explains.

Many of the plants are grown from seed in the greenhouse and Joyce also puts in special orders each year to John Ashby at Byways Nursery in Maidstone. She makes a list each October of particular varieties of pansies or such that she is after to create the look the following season.

This is clearly not a low-maintenance garden. Each year the bare earth in winter gives way to spring and then summer displays. The process includes lifting plants such as the dahlias in autumn, feeding and preparing the soil, planting out, not to mention weeding, keeping up with the constant deadheading to extend the floral display, as well as daily watering.

Fortunately, green-fingered Joyce has some help in the garden from Duncan Moore, but this is very much her garden, of which she is justifiably proud. Her passion has also been recognised with an array of awards from Bromley in Bloom and she is thrilled to be opening for the first time with the National Gardens Scheme. Customers at the pub and visitors who come just to see the garden are able not only to enjoy the sheer dazzle of colour but also the small natural pond and wildflower area designed for wildlife. n


The Blacksmiths Arms

Cudham, Sevenoaks TN14 7QB

Open: 27 July; Thurs 6 and 22 Aug (1pm-5pm)

Admission £3.50, children free, cream teas

Visitors also welcome by arrangement June 
to September,

Get the look

• Razzle-dazzle colour combinations with annuals and bedding plants in beds, troughs and hanging baskets

• Repeated plantings with ribbons of colour edging beds and massed clumps of bloom dotted along the beds

• Flower choices include: petunias, million bells, begonias, lobelia, amaranthus, marigolds, fuchsias, dahlias, nicotiana, sunflowers, pelargoniums

• Colour-themed areas change each year. Joyce decides the colours by starting with the dahlias and planning the design around them. For example, yellow dahlias with dark foliage plants and sunflowers.

• Regular deadheading keeps the display going

• Watering is needed once a day, especially for the containers

• Dahlias and begonias are lifted and overwintered

• Most of the flowers are grown from seed and grown on in the greenhouse

• The soil is fed each year with compost, manure and slow-release fertiliser

Plant of the month


• Half-hardy perennial/shrub

• Grown for their dancing, skirted blooms

• Grown in bedding schemes, containers or in the ground

• Flowers summer to autumn

Growing notes

• Plant out after frost has passed

• Sun or part shade

• In the ground, grow in fertile, moist, well-drained soil

• In baskets use loam-based or peat-free multipurpose compost

• Feed well for good flowering

Jobs to be done

• Water plants as necessary, look for wilting foliage

• Deadhead flowers to extend display time

• Cut sweet peas regularly, glorious to bring bunches inside and it will also help the plant to flower longer

• Divide clumps of bearded irises to give them time to put their roots down before the cold weather

• Take cuttings of shrubs, including viburnum, pieris and hydrangeas

• Sow some biennials, such as foxgloves, forget-me-nots and sweet William, to plant out in autumn

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