Garden of the month: Frittenden

PUBLISHED: 11:53 29 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:53 29 April 2014

Garden of the month -in Frittenden

Garden of the month -in Frittenden


Enjoy the abundance of bloom at this pretty cottage, where effervescent combinations include the National Collection of geums

Over the past 26 years plantswoman Sue Martin has created a billowing garden behind her terraced cottage in Frittenden.

Although less than quarter of an acre, 
it appears much larger as it is divided 
loosely into different areas. “I would describe it as a cottage-garden style 
with exuberant planting,” she says.

The garden has evolved organically 
from a blank canvas with no set plan 
via a love of gardening Sue has had 
since childhood, learnt from her mother 
and grandmother, and a feeling that 
her cottage would suit a pretty, informal style full of plants.

Initially Sue put in a lawn out from the house, much of which later became curvaceous flowerbeds, and built a 
path for access.

“I tended to collect lots of plants and then I would gradually make beds for them, it 
was a bit of hit and miss really,” she admits. Direction also came after reading Beth Chatto’s Garden Notebook, which sparked one plant passion in particular.

“I was inspired to do a yellow border and when looking around for something suitable bought a deep yellow Geum montanum, from Washfield Nursery in Hawkhurst – a source of so many plants,” she says.

“It seemed perfect, however, not knowing much about geums back then I didn’t realise that it is an alpine plant and it didn’t like sitting in my heavy Wealden clay. Sadly, 
it soon disappeared!

“Then I saw Geum ‘Prinses Juliana’ 
and although I didn’t think I liked orange 
at first, it has been wonderful as it flowers and flowers and was much more successful.”

Sue gradually found other geums, snapping them up whenever she saw one 
at plant sales, mostly from the Hardy Plant Society which she had joined in the 1980s after becoming fascinated by perennials.

When Alison Mallet, who held a National Collection in Devon, decided she could 
no longer cope with the role, she asked 
Sue, who had visited her in order to 
discover more varieties, to take it on.

“I then had to apply to hold a National Collection and now today I have around 
100 different cultivars,” says Sue.

These tiny, vibrant, jewel-like blooms are a real highlight in May, planted en masse and woven amongst herbaceous planting.

The garden is in two main sections, with chestnut pergolas and a small formal pond by the house, then the land turns a corner, entered under a pergola arch with deep curving beds to either side to further ‘rooms’.

Here you will discover curvaceous, low box hedging infilled with geums, irises and aquilegia, a shady apple tree to sit under, vegetables and more geums in raised beds.

There is also a greenhouse, polytunnel and a small nursery of young geums neatly laid out ready for sale on open days with the NGS and Plant Heritage groups.

It is the informal, eclectic planting across Sue’s garden that is so utterly enchanting. And it’s not only the cheerful geums that add sunshine highlights to the scene, but 
also the sheer joyfulness of self-seeded aquilegias, clouds of forget-me-nots and colourful spring bulbs, such as Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, tulips and irises.

Although Sue does like colour to blend and harmonise, some of the brighter combinations of geums are particularly invigorating and you can see why she came under the spell of these dainty little flowers that really do punch above their weight.

“What I love so much with the geums 
is that you go around a corner and then have the surprise of a display with their bright colours,” she smiles. n

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