Kent garden of the month

PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 July 2015 | UPDATED: 09:00 20 July 2015

Masterful planting combinations abound at Long Meadow

Masterful planting combinations abound at Long Meadow


Admire the ethereal sunlit plantings at Long Meadow garden in Chiddingstone, an impressionistic scene of textures and colours from ornamental grasses and late-season perennials

Jo and Ian Peel are opening their wonderful garden at Long Meadow in Chiddingstone for the first time this August through the National Gardens Scheme. Described as a contemporary cottage garden, the planting is designed to peak late summer in a crescendo of hues and textures jostling together with salvia spires, ornamental grasses and late perennials sprinkled with dancing annuals such as papery cosmos.

“Our garden is unique for a country garden with the mellow colours of pink, purple, copper, gold and bronze against the prairie grasses, which then blend into the fields beyond. When the wind blows the whole garden is alive with bees and butterflies. We just love it,” says Jo.

The third-of-an-acre sloping garden spreads around the Victorian cottage; designed by Surrey based Nic Howard just four years ago, it has developed beautifully under Jo and Ian’s care.

“We have lived in the house for more than 20 years and brought up our three sons here. When they left we thought we might move but when we couldn’t find anything that was as lovely as this house and its views, we decided to stay and augment the garden that had mostly been a space for the boys to play in, with lawn, pond and a wood,” adds Jo.

Their initial attempts to establish shrubs failed due to the prevailing winds so they called in Nic, whose style appealed to them with his glorious naturalistic planting. “I wasn’t sure what we were going to get but we knew it would be beautiful as we had trust in Nic’s vision,” says Joe. The resulting sweeps of perennial planting stand up to the open site and the wafting shimmering movement only adds to its mesmerising charm.

“It’s amazing how the garden goes from nothing after being cut down in autumn, it pops up in spring, at first neat and tidy, we do the ‘Chelsea chop’, and then it grows so quickly to become huge and spectacular,” Jo adds.

Combining traditional and modern varieties in the palette sees the contrast of stands of rusty orange heleniums, clouds of Verbena bonariensis, massed dainty geraniums, agastache spires, tactile eupatorium and miscanthus planted densely in orchestrated swathes.

The thinking behind the concept was to connect the design with the wider landscape beyond, with sweeping grass shapes to unify the levels of the garden and create an easier gradient that draws the eye across the plot.

Being on a slope, the vista from the patio gives an impression of a sunken garden with hidden areas behind the billowing flowers and foliage. Benches are placed to take in views both inside and outwards from the garden.

A series of striking pergolas at the bottom of the garden lend weight and a contemporary edge to the design.

Although a relatively small garden, the way it is planted allows visitors a sense of journey and discovery as you progress down past the borders, pausing to admire the planting combinations. Any gaps that do occur are replenished with similar choices, such as more Alchemilla mollis, heucheras and sedums that do particularly well in the conditions.

“We want it to look beautiful when we open for the NGS. I’m planting up some urns for the patio and we’ll have lots of seats for people to take time in the garden,” says Jo.

“There are so many little hidden and peaceful areas, or people may like to sit on the patio and take in the views, or by the pond and look up through the colours in the beds. It’s so serene and relaxing.” w

Get in touch

Long Meadow, Chiddingstone TN8 7BQ

Sat 29 and Sun 30 August (11am-4pm)

Admission £3, children free

Teas and plant sale

Get the look

• Swathes of grasses and perennials in densely planting sweeping beds

• The garden blends into the borrowed views of fields beyond

• Benches are placed to enjoy the views both inside the garden and out to the countryside

• Plants that do well are repeated with different varieties

• The sloping site is used to its best advantage with angled flowing borders

• There is a sense of journeying with hidden areas created by the planting

• A small copse of silver birch is underplanted with rich colours that contrast with the white bark

• Combine elements of traditional cottage planting with a contemporary twist

• Wind isn’t blocked with barrier but instead is filtered and used to give movement with prairie planting

• Plant in large clumps with a controlled colour palette

Plant of the month

Echinacea, coneflower

• perennial with daisy-like flowers

• native of North America

• pink or white flowers

• flower, plant and root used in herbal remedies

• each daisy up to 15cm across

• long-flowering

Growing notes

• from dry prairies and open woodland

• fully hardy

• deep, fertile, well-drained soil

• full sun but will tolerate some shade

• easy care

• plant in spring

• cut back the stems after flowers fade for more blooms

• take root cuttings late autumn

Jobs to be done


• Take time to relax and enjoy your garden at its summer zenith of fragrance and productive abundance

• The main tasks are to deadhead spent flowers, weed as needed and keep up with watering and feeding plants to continue the show as long as possible

• Trim lavender and rosemary after flowering, take cuttings from pelargoniums and prune summer-flowering shrubs that have finished blooming

• Keep ponds and water features topped up

• You may like to sow some hardy annuals for next spring and summer in their flowering positions, such as calendula, forget-me-nots and Californian poppies

• If you are going away, place vulnerable plants that may dry out in the heat into the shade or place them in trays of water

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