Broadview Gardens at Hadlow College: A garden for all

PUBLISHED: 14:06 25 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:55 20 February 2013

Pergolas lend authentic structure to the Italian garden

Pergolas lend authentic structure to the Italian garden

There is always something of interest to see at Broadview Gardens at Hadlow College, with highlights in every season...

Broadview Gardens spreads over 10 acres and is not only a teaching resource for Hadlow College students in Horticulture, Landscape and Design, but also open to the public all year round.

The gardens are divided into smaller areas with permanent and changing displays showcasing students work. A 100-metre long double border, backed with clipped yew hedges, forms a central axis from where grass avenues lead to a series of enclosed garden rooms.

The students have created both contemporary and traditional spaces, including an Italian Garden with structural pergolas, an Oriental Garden, textural contrasts in a grasses garden and a sub-tropical border.

When head gardener Alex Rennie, who trained at Hadlow, started at the gardens in 1996 they were only a year old and consisted of immature hedges delineating the space and two demonstration gardens that appeared to be in the middle of a field.

The main task was to establish the hedge framework to give structure to the open field and shelter for the new plantings, Alex explains. Since then every year students have built new gardens or specific areas within them. During that time, as horticultural courses evolved so the range and diversity of the gardens has evolved.

The garden beds are seasonally planted to give year-round interest. From winter with flaming stems of cornus and tactile barks of deciduous trees through spring snowdrops and the National collection of hellebores
to summer abundance and autumns burnished tones, there is always
plenty to inspire at Broadview.

Although in the countryside autumn tends to be my favourite season, in the garden spring is an exciting time, says Alex. February is a big month for us with the start of the hellebore flowering period.

By March and April the bulbs appear and then June and July is show gardens season, where all the garden teams become involved with building gardens at Hampton Court or the Kent Show.

For the last five years we have shown sweet peas in the Kent Show flower tent, which becomes quite addictive!

Maintaining the gardens involves full-time staff, volunteers, work- experience enthusiasts and students carrying out specific tasks.

The climatic and soil conditions vary a great deal. The main area sits on very stony, hungry, neutral to slightly acidic soil that needs constant additions of organic matter to keep the plants looking good through summer, while being positioned in a low valley along the river Bourne gives extremes of being colder in winter and hotter in summer.

As well as defining the spaces the hedges play a key role in providing good micro-climates with some wind protection, and the free-draining soil means the ground drains well in winter.

The exposed aspect of the site makes growing plants such as acers and mophead hydrangeas difficult, but most other plants grow well, snowdrops in particular, adds Alex.

New developments to create gardens or regenerate areas sees constant evolution at Broadview. This year will include completing the fountain gardens and rebuilding the gold medal-winning show garden from Hampton Court 2010 in the gardens.

The most successful element of the gardens, however, is the role they have played in supporting the courses at the college to gain a Grade 1 Ofsted Report, says Alex.


Broadview Gardens, Hadlow College, Nr Tonbridge TN11 0AL
10-acre gardens, located in the main Hadlow College campus directly off the A26, open year round, Mon-Sat (10am-5pm), Sun (10am-4pm)
5 and 6 March: Special Garden Open Days for the National Collection of Hellebores Tours at 11am and 2pm, 3
The adjoining award-winning Broadview Tearooms serves morning coffee, light lunches and afternoon teas and is open seven days a week. All food is prepared and cooked on the premises using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible
Private group tours with the head gardener can be arranged (it is advisable to book well in advance of the proposed date)
Call 01732 853211 for further information and advice

For information on our Garden of the Year Competition, please follow this link:

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