Kent Life Garden of the Year 2015 finalists

PUBLISHED: 13:54 30 August 2015 | UPDATED: 13:54 30 August 2015

Garden finalists (for the second year) Staplehurst Primary

Garden finalists (for the second year) Staplehurst Primary


Our sixth Garden of the Year competition in association with Hadlow College, Coolings Garden Centre and ellenor has again revealed some enthusiastic Kent gardeners.

Kent’s best

Amateur Gardens

Brightberries, Canterbury

“I really enjoy gardening. The front garden is about 40ft square with borders on all sides and circular beds on the lawn. I have a beech tree, four rowans, cotoneasters, pyracanthas as well as roses, daises, poppies, nigella, lavender, honeysuckle and sweet peas.

“I have a new arch planted with clematis. The rest of the plants are perennials and bedding plants that I’ve grown from seed. The aim is to have colour year round.

“I am 72 now and spend time every day enjoying planting, general upkeep and just looking.”

Owner: Shirley Hagger

The Croft, Detling

“We are fortunate that the Croft has several different habitats to encourage the wildlife that we enjoy and foster. Upon entering, a small woodland borders the drive. Flowers surround the house that looks over a lawn and small paddock, which is now developing into a natural meadow. It is cut once a year as a hay crop, reducing fertility and encouraging more wildflowers each year.

“Walking around to the greenhouse you reach an orchard where we leave the grass long until August to encourage wildflowers. Here two beehives are maintained in a response to the threat to our bees and last year we were able to harvest some honey for the first time.

“A gap in the wall leads to the kitchen garden which perpetuates 150 years of vegetable growing in the organic way. It is an excellent example of the Victorian walled garden and lent itself to a simple design with paths and box hedges surrounding two growing sections.

“In response to our love of flowers, a deep border was created where fruit trees used to grow. Creating and maintaining a garden is rewardingly creative. Having Scottish blood I love to take cuttings and raise plants from seed rather than buy them ready made.”

Owner: Tikki Gulland

37 The Haydens, Tonbridge

“In 2014 I finally admitted defeat at trying to grow peonies in a north-facing border and embarked on a full redesign of my suburban, modern housing estate garden (25m x 15m).

“My garden has since been transformed from a traditional ‘mainly lawn with obligatory flower borders around the edge’ set up to a design where shrubs, roses, grasses and perennials take centre stage – with only a small functional patch of grass! I designed the garden myself following the ‘Right plant, right place’ principle, with the aim of creating partitioned areas to mirror the house, from formal symmetrical borders, ‘Chelsea borders’, a woodland area, raised beds to grass borders, with two key link plants of salvia and geranium.

“I’ve been gardening for about five years, having had my interest in horticulture captured through an evening class at Hadlow College, and I enjoy the stress-relieving benefits horticulture gives me.”

Owner: Angie Boakes

Little Nut Hall, Sissinghurst

“Little Nut Hall has five acres with wonderful rural views to the North Downs. We designed, created and transformed the garden over the last seven years. My husband David is the grafter and I am the designer.

“The garden is formal around the house, with structural planting, including lollipop robinias and two pleached hornbeam vertical cubes. A stainless steel rill is central to terraced mixed beds edged with box. The planting is restrained in an exuberant and wild fashion!

“There is year-round interest from structural plants such as Italian cypress, yucca and statuesque grasses. A vegetable garden and greenhouse transition into the wilder part of the garden. There is a mature fruit orchard, an immature woodland of native trees for coppicing which we began planting in 2008, and a fledgling wildflower meadow. “We both love our garden and labour long and hard at weekends. We moved to Kent in 2008, having left a small beautiful town garden in Hertfordshire which we also created. Five acres was a totally different challenge but we now have a garden we are proud of.

“We are thrifty with our garden investments, preferring to buy smaller plants and watch them grow. There are still areas to improve on but we continue to love the challenge.”

Owners: Annette and David Fettes

88 West Street, Deal

“The garden is 42ft by 20ft and nearly three years old. I wanted a cottage-type garden and designed it myself after visiting Barnsdale. When we moved here the garden was all grass with no plants and it then became a building site!

“The garden is west facing and quite windy as we are very close to the sea. Although it’s a small plot I wanted to create a middle bed which had a variety of plant heights so that you felt you had to walk around the bed to see what was beyond.

“Many of the plants I brought with me from my lovely garden in London, where we had lived for 36 years. They were in pots for over a year, luckily I didn’t lose any.

“I have an old wall along one side and I put up trellis and grew evergreen clematis to screen us from the street and to create a wind barrier. Along the side of the house I created a narrow shade garden.

“As one of six children, it was having a small patch in our council house garden when my love of gardening began. This new garden is my pride and joy; it holds so many memories of people and places. I love everything about it and most importantly I thought very hard about making it so that I will be able to manage it as I get older.”

Owner: Lyn Buller


Primary School Gardens

Christ Church C of E Junior School, Ramsgate

The garden judges were thrilled to see them re-enter after being one of our finalists in 2012.

“Here at Christ Church we think the best thing to plant in our garden is … our pupils! We are situated a five-minute walk from the sea, in fact if you stand on our field on a clear day, you can see France. We do love to be beside the sea even though it does make gardening challenging at times.

“We have become an Academy and now have a new Headmaster, Neil Tucker, who is an avid gardener and a great supporter of the garden. With his help we now have new raised beds and plans are afoot for a spiritual/sensory/eco garden on the field.

“We do not have large gardens but wherever there is an opportunity to plant seeds and grow something we do. The Gardening Club has made a big visual impact around the school, filling raised beds with flowers, herbs and vegetables. Parents often stop to admire the flowers or to enquire what the name of a particular plant is.

“The main garden is long and narrow, 30m x 5m, quite difficult to work with but we have managed to create several different sections: one for maintenance, nectar heaven flower beds, a relaxation picnic area with benches, a pond, productive beds and a wildlife area. Other areas include a magical spot with throne, toadstools and little seats in a circle for games and telling stories.

“Gardening in our school is closely connected to food and diet, when a crop is ready our chef Sally likes to serve it up at lunchtime. Gardening is now part of the national curriculum and every class is taking part, actively engaged in growing vegetables and flowers in their own raised bed.

“The garden is also used in many cross-curricular activities, we have a new Nature Club led by Miss Cooper where they work hard to ensure that our grounds are wildlife friendly and a new initiative this year is working with our local Waitrose with their ‘Grow and Sell’ programme where our pupils can sell some of the produce they have grown for the seed kits that were given to each class by Waitrose.”

Lindy Tweddell, teaching assistant

Cranbrook C of E Primary School

“I run an after-school gardening club where we grow vegetables and flowers in a plot with raised beds. We have a pop bottle greenhouse and like to recycle items to use as sun catchers and planters.

“As part of gardening club we also look after weeding and tidying. Each class of the school has an area to plant. Some are more challenging than others with hard areas where they have used tyres, bottles, cans and wellies as pots, while some have chosen to colour and draw pictures and make colourful outdoor art pieces.

“Recently I introduced the wooded area of our school to our young gardeners and we have had days with parents and volunteers, of clearing the woods of fallen trees and clearing pathways, making it accessible for classes to use. We have a lot going on regarding gardening and we like to recycle and grow from seed as much as possible.”

Tracey Lilley

Staplehurst Primary

A finalist from last year, the judges were thrilled to also see them re-enter.

“The school garden was started six years ago for the children to have a weekly after school gardening club, with the number of raised beds gradually increasing through the collection of Morrisons’ growing school coupons to now having 11 double-height beds along with stacked tyres, for growing vegetables, fruit and flowers.

“We have 16 children in the gardening club this year and six willing volunteers, all of whom are elderly. Because the villagers got to hear of our success last year in the Kent Life competition our Carnival and Fête committee have given us a brand new shed to replace the old metal leaking one. We are gradually fitting this out so that the children and helpers can find everything they need very easily. Such a joy to have a dry shed where the adults can stand up in and where all the equipment doesn’t get wet and mouldy!

“We have been able to extend the areas of paths covered in shredded bark, so there’s even less weeding. The compost bins are being moved to a sunnier spot, which should help degrade everything more quickly. Our old canes are being cut to make more bug houses. This year some of the year 2 classes have used our tyres to plant a selection of beans as part of their curriculum and they have also drawn flowers from the garden and hunted bugs.

“Crops are enjoyed by the children, especially raspberries and cream at the end of our club, taken home to share with their families and to encourage the children to eat things they don’t like I incorporate the veg and fruit they have grown and they do not take home into recipes, including courgette and cheese muffins, beetroot and chocolate cake and frozen raspberry buns, which they love.

“They need no encouragement to eat chives and go home every week with ‘chive breath!’ Spinach gets eaten raw as well and is enjoyed by several. They had jam made for them last autumn using our tayberries. The peas never get as far as home as once they realise that the pods hold the peas they love them. Hard to believe that some country children do not think of peas other then in a frozen packet.”

Chris Ralph

The winners will be revealed in the October edition of Kent Life, on sale 24 September 2015.

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