Kent Garden of the month: Boldshaves

PUBLISHED: 15:49 28 March 2016 | UPDATED: 15:49 28 March 2016

Bluebells at Boldshaves

Bluebells at Boldshaves


Fall under the spell of the gardens at Boldshaves in Woodchurch with pretty spring planting and the sheer beauty of the surrounding bluebell woods glistening in the sunlight

Peregrine and Deidre Massey have been redeveloping their picturesque gardens at Boldshaves over the past 20 years.

Blessed with a spectacular 100-acre wild bluebell wood and stunning views, the stepped gardens are a delight to wander through.

A tour of the garden will take you through a series of loosely divided rooms as well as the woodland walk.

The formal areas, in contrast with the natural setting, make for a glorious landscape to explore. Fresh greens act as foils to brightly coloured tulips, blossom on the bough and the sea of violet-blue. Fragrance fills the air and everything has the tangible feel of renewal.

The property’s name came about as the house is built on what was previously grazing land, cleared for sheep and ‘shaves’ or windbreaks between pastureland, by a Yorkshireman, Major Bold, in the 18th century.

Built in 1902, the Edwardian house here at Boldshaves sits appropriately at the top of the incline, in the prime position offering stunning views, as was the custom of the time.

“The house is unremarkable, except for the fact that its architect was William Marchant, one of the first trio of apprentices taken on by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Boldshaves was one of his earliest independent pieces of work and, unsurprisingly, shows clear Lutyens’ influences, especially in the roofscape,” Peregrine explains.

Extending out from the house, the partly terraced, seven-acre garden stretches down a south-facing slope, looking towards the Wealden landscape across vast green paddocks dotted with grazing sheep.

There is a walled garden, giving a sheltered micro-climate and planted with semi-hardy and southern hemisphere plants, including Ceanothus and eucalyptus, a camellia dell, herbaceous borders, a flame bed, an Italian garden, a garden to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a vegetable garden, a wide variety of old-fashioned English roses and a herb garden given over to both culinary and medicinal herbs. Lending structural formality are axes with a pergola walk, lines of hedges and defined paths. Seats are placed strategically throughout the garden to give plenty of opportunities to take time to enjoy the views.

Bordering the garden is the extensive ancient woodland with meandering paths that wind through the carpets of woodland anemones followed by the magical bluebells.

All your senses will be stimulated; the unique fragrance of these iridescent nodding beauties fills the air, while the colour is incomparable to any other flower.

“Listen to the nightingales, they will now sing in the woodlands for the next month or so. They and the woodcock, which are with us in the winter months, are ground-nesting birds, so we leave patches of bramble and other low-growing vegetation for them. An over-tidy wood would risk them moving elsewhere,” says Peregrine.

“The range of song that the nightingale can manage is truly remarkable, most audible after dusk when they have no 
competition from other birds, but certainly to be heard during the day, once you get your ear attuned to their various calls.”

This is a garden to be savoured and it opens through the year, so add it to your to-do list this month to catch the 
bluebells and then pop in at other times to see the progression of the seasons.

Find out more

Boldshaves, Woodchurch TN26 3RA

Open weekdays, 8 April to 14 Oct, 2pm-6pm

Bed and breakfast in the main house available through the year

For National Gardens Scheme

Sunday 24 April, 2pm-6pm

Adm £5, children free

Home-made teas in C18 barn

Where to buy wild bluebells

Farnell Farm, Rolvenden TN17 4PH
Collected by hand from their wood, with a licence to sell wild bluebell seeds from DEFRA

Get the look

• You can create your own mini bluebell wood

• Bluebells need sun in winter, then dappled shade, and the soil needs to be rich in rotted leaf-mould

• Plant some drifts of native bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, under deciduous shrubs or trees

• Bluebells do best under native beech and look wonderful under ornamental cherries

• To give a natural feel, plant some ferns (Dryopteris) with them so they will unfurl at the same time

• They will naturalise to form a dense carpet

• Make a mini path through them

• Never take bluebells from the wild, they are protected by law, many nurseries now stock them, but do check they are labelled Hyacinthoides non-scripta and where they were sourced from

• Plant bulbs in autumn, or ‘in the green’ in spring

• If you have a bluebell wood nearby don’t plant Spanish bluebells in your garden as they may invade the wood

• For more information and to learn how to protect our native woods, visit

• Add some other blue bulbs in the garden or in containers

• Blue spring bulbs: Muscari armeniacum, Scilla siberica, Chionodoxa forbesii, Anemone coronaria, Ipheion uniflorum, Iris reticulata

• Expanses of blue gives the illusion of more space

Where to buy wild bluebells

Farnell Farm, Rolvenden TN17 4PH
Collected by hand from their wood, with a licence to sell wild bluebell seeds from DEFRA

Did you know?

• Native bluebells have narrow leaves, deeper blue-violet drooping flowers that are only on one side of the flowering stem, are more delicate to look at and have a unique scent

• Britain has half the world’s population of wild bluebells

• Bluebells were voted the nation’s favourite wild flower in 2002

• Native bluebells are under threat from an aggressive hybrid from the Spanish bluebell

Plant of the month

Prunus, Japanese flowering cherry

• Billowing spring blossom in pink or white

• Single or double flowers

• Spreading, low-crowned tree

Growing notes

• Hardy

• Well-drained, light soil

• Full sun

• Water young trees until established

• Some varieties have wonderful coloured bark

Jobs to be done

• Start planting hardy flowers such as marigolds, cornflowers, nigella, candytufts and nasturtium, as the soil starts to warm up

• Remove weeds, stake tall growing herbaceous perennials and deadhead winter and early spring flowers.

• Many shrubs can have a spring tidy-up, including winter jasmine, buddleja and smoke bush.

• Dahlias can be planted out now, as can sweet peas.

• Plant a wildflower meadow or section. Prepare the ground. Sow either an annual cornflower seed mix for a display in the first year or perennial mix that takes two years to flower

• Deadhead daffodils and tulips as they finish flowering but remember to leave the foliage to die back gradually as this is key for healthy blooms next year.

• Give some thought to planting for wildlife this year, in particular bees as they continue to be under threat. Try some plants on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators lists, such as achillea, foxgloves, honeysuckle, lavender, thyme, knapweed, bergamot and dianthus

Something extra

Coolings Nursery, one of the main sponsors for our Kent Life Garden Competition, has added another award to its cabinet. Our congratulations to their young employee Sophie Liebthal who has been voted the UK’s Best Young Garden Centre Employee in this year’s GCA’s Rising Stars Competition.

Don’t forget to get your entry into our Kent Life Garden Competition We are looking forward to seeing your entries.


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