Garden of the month: Godinton House
PUBLISHED: 08:48 21 September 2014 | UPDATED: 08:48 21 September 2014
Make time to enjoy the final burst of colour in the walled garden and grounds of Godinton House, from an array of late-season flowers and stunning foliage hues
Godinton, which is now in the care of the Godinton House Preservation Trust, offers wonderful variety through the seasons, with formal and informal gardens all set around a striking Jacobean house.
Although the 12-acre gardens have evolved over the centuries, as fashions changed, they are predominantly the 1898 design of architect Reginald Blomfield, an exponent of the revival of 17th-century formal gardens.
“Where before the open parkland had surrounded the house, Blomfield created a strict distinction between garden and countryside bringing house and garden into harmony, to make the house grow out of its surroundings,” explains head gardener, Vivien Hunt.
The boundary of the garden is delineated by the famous clipped yew hedge that Blomfield designed, one of the largest in the country and shaped to reflect the Flemish gables of the house.
Within the framework are separate rooms using terracing and topiary, softened with orchestrated plantings by subsequent owners over the years. Areas include a walled garden that contains cut flowers and vegetables as well as The Delphinium Society’s collection, a rose garden, an Italian garden flanked with statuary, a Pan garden, a lily pond created from a swimming pool and herbaceous borders.
It is an ongoing process of restoration and maintenance to ensure the beauty continues through the seasons.
“The walled garden was pretty derelict, with some glasshouses beyond repair, gravel paths that had disappeared beneath centuries of manure and grassed over, beds weed bound and remaining plants unhealthy,” explains Vivien.
“We now have a beautiful Alitex glasshouse and two of the original restored and used for ferns and alpines. Remaining espaliered apple trees are being nursed into their old age and a new avenue of espaliered apples and pears is maturing.
“We have divided one half of the acre into smaller beds for cutting flowers to decorate the house and a potager mix of vegetables, fruit and flowers.
“We want to keep the feel of the traditional kitchen garden but have to reduce the maintenance somewhat”
Seasonal highlights at Godinton range from seas of golden daffodils in spring, through irises, roses and the stunning Elatum delphiniums at their peak in late June to a final crescendo of colour and the mellowing of autumn.
“Autumn is always my favourite season – the formality of the garden with its crisp topiaries and sharp lines stand out, softened by the oranges and yellows of autumn and gradual decay of the herbaceous plants,” says Vivien.
Across the grounds in October the eye is drawn to towering trees clad in their golden and crimson cloaks against the foil of the deep evergreens, as well as parchment-toned ornamental grasses; however, it is the jumble of texture and colour in the walled garden that I most enjoy.
Within the protection of the walls, showy dahlias bloom away until the first frosts along with a mix of annuals, including zinnias, rudbeckias, cosmos and amaranthus, the last of the delphiniums adding contrasting blues and mauves.
“The later annuals will flower until the weather breaks as long as you are regularly cutting and dead-heading,” says Vivien.
“By this time we also have lovely seed heads to cut or enjoy in the borders – such as poppy heads, dill and Baltic parsley.”
There is also the decorative productive element with the autumn harvest of pumpkins, seed heads of giant cardoons and sunflowers, rows of crinkly curly kale, late salads, rainbow chard and nasturtiums.
Finally, don’t forget to pop inside the glasshouses with their collection of tender plants such as colourful streptocarpus. n
GET IN TOUCH
Godinton House, Ashford TN23 3BP
Gardens open until 1 Nov (1-6pm)
Garden entry £5.50, children free
Autumn week 26 Oct-2 Nov: treasure hunt, eco art, mini beast hunt, sunflower competition result