Garden of the Year finalists 2014
PUBLISHED: 19:47 31 August 2014 | UPDATED: 19:47 31 August 2014
Kent Life's fifth Garden of the Year competition in association with Hadlow College, Bybrook Barn and chYps, has again revealed some enthusiastic Kent gardeners of all ages
Kent’s Best: Amateur Gardens
Little Hempen, Ashford Owner: Paul Stone
“I haven’t been a gardener for many years. I always enjoyed gardens, but until I had my own they were always enjoyed at the expense of other people’s hard work. But about five years ago when I bought our house I really got the bug.
The plot is only small, around 35 x 45 feet and had been neglected, so when I moved in it was pretty much a blank canvas. Most of what I have learnt has been either from watching and listening to my late mother or from the books passed onto me through the family, and some trial and error.
I’m a wildlife fan, so my garden is designed and planted with both wildlife and our enjoyment in mind. I have planted evergreens, perennials, bulbs and wildflowers as well as some wonderful acers. I have potted plants for all seasons, from poppy to hosta, spring flowering shrubs, wildflowers as well as summer colour.
Spending time in the garden is a pleasure, if I don’t spend time there for few days, because of other commitments, it feels like there is something missing from those days. Even if it’s just to get out and tidy or tweak, that is enough to keep my passion alive.
Encouraging wildlife into the garden, with various areas and creating my own wildlife pond has been so satisfying. I think it is so important to create havens in our gardens for wildlife as well as ourselves, as so much of our natural countryside is disappearing.
My garden is my hobby, and my passion and to be the custodian of a living area is a privilege and a pleasure.”
London Road, Teynham Owner: Jane Wilcock
“We moved to Kent from Yorkshire 38 years ago. I took a photograph of the challenge that lay ahead if we were ever to make a garden out of the land. Strangely I didn’t feel daunted – my thoughts were, ‘I can do something with this’.
The land, now a garden, is large – 600 feet long and for the most part 100 feet wide. From the beginning I felt a passion for the opportunity to make a mark on the landscape which had, until then, been utterly wasted. I have never lost that passion. Bit by bit we pressed ahead. My husband did so much of the heavy work.
The garden is entered through large decorative iron gates, past a large red Prunus pissardii, on past a small pond and stream to the woodland garden. A tall, majestic Lombardy poplar then marks the entrance to the orchard, mowed and manicured around apple trees, pears, cherries, plum, greengage, quince, fig and grape.
Through the orchard we come to the fir tree garden backed by what is now a huge Austrian pine. To the left we pass into the lily garden, centre stage is a statue of Summer who faces directly into the formal, Victorian-style rose garden.
From the rose garden we move to the largest part of the garden with its statuary and many now well-established trees before arriving at the folly.
My husband Rod died a year ago but the garden is full of the memories of our creation of the garden together. It is with pride that I will maintain it for as long as ever I am able.”
The Meadow House, Toys Hill Owner: Prue Seddon
“My tw o-acre garden faces south, slopes gently downhill towards a copse, and enjoys panoramic views across the Weald of Kent and Sussex. The garden had been neglected for a long time and my late husband and I effectively started from scratch when we bought the house some 18 years ago.
We had to level whole sections of the garden, as you couldn’t take a wheelbarrow from front to back. The rhododendron-lined drive runs between two paddocks to the entrance of the house. Very few of the original trees or shrubs remain and although most plants are only 17 years old they have flourished in this greensand soil.
Central to the new layout was the making of winding paths through flower beds. As a child I loved running along garden paths and I wanted to recreate those childhood memories. My grandchildren love doing the same now and playing hide and seek among the rhododendrons. The paths serve to run between ‘rooms’ with themed flower beds.
I have a rhododendron or camellia in flower all year round. Early summer sees the rose garden and pergola come into bloom. Then the herbaceous border and the other beds start to flower.
The garden does take a lot of time and I have minimal help, one day a week from a gardener who has been with our family for more than 30 years. I spend some time every day, mowing, edging or weeding but it is very relaxing and very rewarding. There is a bench facing south at the corner of the garden – the ‘Gin and Tonic corner’ – which is the perfect place to spend a summer’s evening enjoying the view and all the hard work.”
Townland, Tenterden Owners: Alan and Lindy Bates
“This is a family garden for all seasons that has become a passion. The garden comprises 1.7 acres on a gently sloping site backed by a small wood and looking out over fields.
Originally the lower part of the garden was an apple orchard and so historically the garden has been in two sections. This divide is reflected in the more formal arrangement of the upper garden into lawns and island beds which are edged with flowing mixed borders and the relaxed, more naturalistic planting of the lower garden, which includes three areas of meadow.
The beds in the upper part have evolved to look their best at different times of year. In the middle section of the garden there are separate ‘rooms,’ although the paths clearly lead through to the lower garden and vistas can be seen from the house.
The kitchen garden and greenhouse occupy one area with one side being protected by the wall of the swimming pool area. The pool has deliberately been dug into the ground so it is invisible from the upper garden.
Below the pool is the gravelled Mediterranean garden which provides colour and interest into late autumn. Each year amazes us when the leaves come out, the shrubs burst into blossom and the grass is vibrant colour. We always feel we are just so lucky to have it and to be able to share it with others.
Someone who visited said that we paint with the plants and I think that probably sums up the approach – spring and autumn see us making many moves to try and get the right combination of colour, size and texture.
It’s a huge learning curve and every day reveals something new.”
Yeomans Square, Singleton Owners: Barry and Maureen Andrews
“The garden is a delightful oasis of tranquillity in suburbia. Since moving here 10 years ago we have been working to create the lovely garden we are proud to present for the Amateur Garden of the Year competition.
The garden surrounds the house on three sides with three areas of hard landscaping which we have either created from new or adapted from what was here. We designed and built a decking area with an arbour and seat, which faces east and gets the early morning sun, ideal for enjoying breakfast in the garden.
We have a south-facing patio area outside the back door beside the conservatory, which is bathed in sun from late morning until late afternoon for lunch or afternoon tea.
An inherited large patio has been decreased in size and we have planted a variety of shrubs, covering the fencing and softening the starkness, backed with a well-established acer.
At one side of the house there is a fish pond that adds further interest with the relaxing sound of running water cascading over the rocks. Being very keen on conserving water we have a good-sized water butt, which collects all the rainwater. Alongside this is the compost bin resting directly onto the soil allowing the liquid to seep into the surrounding soil where we have crops.
A decorative shed nestles in the shrubs and has clematis and honeysuckle growing over willow woven trellis at the front. We particularly enjoy and appreciate our garden because it gives a place of our own to rest, relax and entertain in. It is a great delight to share it all with our family and friends.”