Kent Garden of the Month: Old Buckhurst in Markbeech

PUBLISHED: 20:48 20 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:30 20 February 2013

Kent Garden of the Month: Old Buckhurst in Markbeech

Kent Garden of the Month: Old Buckhurst in Markbeech

Enjoy the quintessentially English gardens at Old Buckhurst in Markbeech, with their harmonious blend of colour and form, created from scratch by keen gardeners Jane and John Gladstone

In perfect harmony

Enjoy the quintessentially English gardens at Old Buckhurst in Markbeech, with their harmonious blend of colour and form, created from scratch by keen gardeners Jane and John Gladstone

Jane and John Gladstone started the gardens at their 15th-century cottage, Old Buckhurst, in Markbeech in 1988 just after the hurricane decimated the area. There was no garden at all; just lawns, a mature oak, holly and paving around the house. We brought car-loads of cuttings with us from our previous garden to help get started, recalls Jane.

As the house sits on the top of a hill one of the first priorities was to plant wind barriers for the one-acre, partly walled garden.

The couple discovered that a special Covenant in the Deeds of the house prevented the use of pines, conifers and yews, so evergreens were planted with multi-stemmed deciduous plants on the outer boundary to help break up the wind.

Yew is not allowed because we are surrounded by sheep in winter and cows in summer and they could die from eating poisonous parts of it, says Jane. We assume conifers are not allowed because they do not look right in the countryside, but we are not too sure about why we are not allowed to grow pines!

The aim from the beginning has been to create a series of areas that flow from one to another with harmonious combinations of colour and shape, connected by meandering paths.

I have tried to plant native plants on the boundaries and to keep the more sophisticated plants and colours well inside the garden, adds Jane.

The walled garden area has been paved to cut down on the expanse of lawn to mow and is resplendent with seasonal containers and shrubs.

Another way maintenance is reduced is to fill the beds throughout the garden with perennials so that as soon as one plant finishes its display, another takes over.

This seems to keep the weeds down quite well as there is little room for them to get started. There is virtually no bedding in the garden at all except for a little in the pots. I like to think of it as a controlled jungle within the confines of good structure, Jane explains.

Care has been taken to ensure year round interest, with foliage and texture as important as the flowers. There is a wide palette of traditional plants with the addition of more contemporary choices such as ornamental grasses, all selected with a passionate enthusiasm.

In July highlight plants include hydrangeas, fuchsias and a collection of daylilies in creams, orange and crimsons. At the height of summer there are layers of luxuriant greens, scent from scrambling sweet peas in the kitchen garden, ripening apples heavy on the bough, birds on the wing and the sound of contented bees enjoying the wafting spires of buddleia.

When we arrived in 1988 we hardly saw a bird in the garden and our great thrill now is that the garden hums with quite a variety of birds, presumably because we can offer them shelter as well as various rose hips and seeds, adds Jane.

The garden has opened to visitors for more than 10 years during the summer through the National Gardens Scheme and visitors have variously described the scene as a perfect harmony of vistas, contrasts and proportions, everything that makes an English garden the envy of the world and a most beautiful, idyllic haven.

You can even take home one of the many plants grown in the garden by purchasing from Janes small plant nursery.


Old Buckhurst, Markbeech, nr Edenbridge, TN8 5PH

Open with NGS

1, 18 and 25 July; 1 and 5 Aug; 1, 2, 5, 8 and 9 Sep (11am-5pm)

Action plan for July

Jobs to be done

  • Take cuttings from pinks, hydrangeas, pelargoniums and shrubs that have finished flowering

  • Deadhead spent flowers regularly for a longer display of blooms

  • If dry, water wisely when needed and mulch plants to retain moisture

  • Plant up a culinary container or basket and place near the kitchen or barbecue, ready to cut fresh herbs as needed

Plant of the month

Agapanthus, African blue lily

  • vigorous, clump-forming perennial

  • large, rounded clusters of tubular flower

  • white or blue/violet forms

  • traditionally grown in warm coastal gardens, now range of hardy varieties

  • strappy leaves

growing notes

  • fertile, moist but well-drained soil

  • full sun

  • grow tender varieties in pots

  • water well in growing season

  • divide large clumps in spring

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