Kent garden of the month: Leeds Castle

PUBLISHED: 18:46 20 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:01 20 February 2013

Kent garden of the month: Leeds Castle

Kent garden of the month: Leeds Castle

Take a stroll around the extensive grounds of historic Leeds Castle and enjoy spring as it takes hold on the landscape with boughs of delicate blossom and carpets of colour

Kent garden of the month: Leeds Castle

Take a stroll around the extensive grounds of historic Leeds Castle and enjoy spring as it takes hold on the landscape with boughs of delicate blossom and carpets of colour

The gardens of Leeds Castle reflect the historic fabric of the architecture and traditions of the estate that has seen 900 years of heritage as it changed through the ages. Lady Baillie, the castles last private owner, restored the castle and grounds and this has continued through the Leeds Castle Foundation, a charity set up in 1974 to ensure the preservation of this important estate for future generations.

As garden fashions changed, different elements were added. The park surrounding the castle can be traced back to the early Middle Ages and today it is a natural-style woodland with large expanses of lawns, mature trees and carpets of bulbs.

In contrast a more formal area, the Culpeper Garden, designed by the late landscape architect Russell Page in 1980, displays roses and herbaceous plants in neatly clipped low buxus hedges. Also of note is the Lady Baillie garden that has a south-facing aspect with lovely views across the Great Water and has been planted in a Mediterranean style.

To keep the gardens at their best is a team of managers and gardeners, which includes grounds manager James McConkie and head gardener Julian Gurney. It is absolutely wonderful and a privilege to be working with such an historic landscape. To have input at the loveliest castle in the world is an enriching experience, says James.

It is a lovely place to work, though often I dont have time and need to be reminded to stop and look at the beauty, rather than just the gaps that need to be filled.

Blessed with diverse habitats and microclimates, along with a variety of soils, from sand to richer loam, it means a wide range of plants can thrive in the different garden areas. Throughout the seasons the scene changes with a succession of stunning blooms. Spring sees swathes of daffodils contrasted with blue and white anemones, frothy blossom on mature ornamental cherries around the moat, emerging perennials and bedding, splashes of vibrant colour from tulips and unfurling leaves clothing skeletal trees.

Later on there will be splendid rhododendrons and azaleas, then roses and herbaceous come to the fore, followed by exotic cannas and other high summer plants, before the mellow tones of burnished autumn colours from deciduous trees and shrubs reach a crescendo of hues.

With a strong core of elements and structure existing in the gardens, the main focus is to maintain and manage the landscape to ensure that there is always plenty to interest visitors all year round.

As the gardens continue to evolve, other tasks include adding to the plant palette, thinning the woodland, changing planting schemes and developing new projects, including a new cascade garden with renovated bridges that was carried out with the invaluable help of some local Gurkhas.

Opening times

Leeds Castle, Maidstone ME17 1PL

All year round (10am-5pm)

22-25 April: Spring into Easter

An Easter weekend for gardeners with activities, planting demonstrations, and an Easter egg trail for the children

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