Garden of the month: Upper Pryors in Cowden

PUBLISHED: 13:48 12 June 2015

Upper Pryors, Cowden

Upper Pryors, Cowden


Take time to enjoy the delightful country garden at Upper Pryors with its scenic vistas and harmonious planting

June is peak garden visiting time, with many lovely gardens to choose from across the county.

Marilyn and Stuart Smith have welcomed visitors through the National Gardens Scheme for one day each June to their pretty country garden at Upper Pryors in Cowden for over 20 years.

The gardens spread out from their characterful 16th-century home, where they’ve lived since 1981. When they arrived at the property it already had a cottage-style garden and there was also a field of commercially grown Christmas trees.

Over the years they have improved and extended the gardens that delight visitors today. “Towards the end of the 1980’s we extended part of the house which changed some of the garden and at the same time the Christmas trees came to the end of their life, giving us extra land and areas around the house, so we took the opportunity to call in a garden designer to redesign the gardens,” explains Marilyn.

The plan transformed the flat field to one of water gardens with linked clay-lined ponds, the spoil used to create undulating contours. Planted now with strappy marginals such as bulrushes, fluffy wafting Thalictrum aquilegifolium and yellow flag irises, in June the scene is a play on fresh greens dotted with pink and gold.

Closer to the house the planting is more formal, with curving herbaceous borders of dancing delphinium and foxglove spires, a yellow-themed bed brimming with roses and Sisyrinchium striatum. By the terrace it’s the ribbon of blowsy crimson peonies intermingling with blush pink and white roses that draws the eye.

On the terrace itself, seats are placed to enjoy the views and tiny massed erigeron weaves its way through the paving.

“The terrace catches the heat of the sun, it’s definitely the place to sit and enjoy the best views across the garden,” says Marilyn.

Some of the palette already existed, such as the peonies; other plants were moved or new ones added from a variety of sources, including the nearby Orchard Nursery in East Grinstead, to form the colourful profusion in this garden of many parts.

“The garden really has changed, it has its own mind,” adds Marilyn. Also to admire are the immaculately striped lawns that Stuart so expertly mows. In contrast, some areas of grass are deliberately left wilder, with reclining chairs placed under the shade of stands 
of silver birch and mature oaks.

Finally, there are neatly planted raised productive beds, protected by a hornbeam hedge, with crops such as broad beans, onions, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes.

As well as opening their garden through the National Gardens Scheme, Marilyn and Stuart open for the Hospice in the Weald and Demelza, enjoying sharing their garden while also raising money for charity. n


Upper Pryors, Cowden TN8 7HB

For NGS: Wed 17 June (12pm-6pm)

Admission £5, children free

For Hospice in the Weald: Wed 29 July (2pm-5pm), £5, including home-made tea

For Demelza: Sunday 2 Aug (1pm-5pm), £5,

For Hospice in the Weald: Wed 29 July (2pm-5pm), £5, including home-made tea

For Demelza: Sunday 2 Aug (1pm-5pm), £5, including home-made tea

Get the look

• Harmonious cottage-style planting

• Plants chosen that do well in the heavy clay soil

• Colour-themed beds, pinks and white by terrace, yellow areas leading to greens

• Plants to soften paving with erigeron and massed hardy geraniums

• More formal by the house and wilder as melds to countryside

• Verdant lawns and paved paths fringed in soft planting

• Seating placed to enjoy the vistas and views

• A series of water gardens edged in marginal planting with rustic bridge

• Manmade undulating contours to add interest

• A sense of romantic timelessness

Plant of the month


• Hardy perennial

• Brightly coloured flowers

• Purple and pink varieties

• Clump forming

Growing notes

• Easy to grow

• Tolerates most soils

• Well-drained soil

• Sun or shade

• Deadhead to encourage further flowers

• Cut back foliage when looks ragged

Jobs to be done

• Mulch around shrubs, trees and roses to help prevent moisture loss

• Deadhead flowers to encourage further blooming

• Keep containers well watered

• Weed borders regularly

• Stake tall or floppy plants

What’s on

• The World Garden at Lullingstone celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Don’t miss the special events, such as its NGS opening 14 June, the Plant Hunters’ Weekend, 25 and 26 July, Herbaceous Plants of the World 28-31st Aug. See website for details,

• Heart of Kent Hospice Open Gardens, runs until September and offers grand gardens to village gardens to delight everyone. For full details of gardens near you see website:

• Open Gardens for the Hospice in the Weald, also runs until September, a favourite with regulars and with 10 new additions there is even more on offer, ranging from village groupings to large estates. See website for details:

• Faversham Open Gardens and market day, Sun 28 June, more than 30 gardens to see, it was the biggest open garden event in the south-east last year, so not be missed

• St Nicholas-at-Wade open gardens, Sat 6 and Sun 7 June (11am-5pm), 12 gardens open, stalls, lunches and teas

Minster-in-Thanet open

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