Garden of the month: Frittenden
PUBLISHED: 11:53 29 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:53 29 April 2014
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