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Kentish cottage gardens

PUBLISHED: 18:47 30 July 2010 | UPDATED: 15:11 20 February 2013

The knot garden at 1 Chainhurst

The knot garden at 1 Chainhurst

Enjoy a visit to a pair of neighbouring Kentish cottage gardens this month and experience two very different interpretations of the country

Designing a country garden has its challenges. The desire to embrace the surrounding views while giving some protection is a priority. Another is working with the microclimate conditions and selecting plants that thrive. Garden size can vary from acreage to tiny, pocket-handkerchief size plots.Visiting two neighbouring gardens in the small rural hamlet of Chainhurst at one time is a chance to pick up some ideas for your own garden, whether you live in the town or the country.

Both gardens are around one third of an acre and have a cottage style; one in a traditional way while the other has a real contemporary edge.

Informal style
At No. 1 Chainhurst Cottages, Audrey and John Beeching's garden has slowly evolved since the 1970s as their family's needs changed. When they moved in, the existing garden was mostly a productive area and was originally much smaller. The priorities of a lawn for the children,
a side patio and a summerhouse directed the first changes.

The opportunity for both neighbours to purchase part of an adjoining field around five years ago gave each the slightly larger gardens you see today. With the additional scope, further areas
have developed. "I tend to let things happen - it sort of evolved," explains Audrey,
remembering the process.

On entering the garden, a meadow draws your attention, designed as a buffer and also a link to the fields beyond. A bench strategically placed is a favourite spot for Audrey and John to sit, especially when the grasses start to flower.

Progressing to the more cultivated garden areas, you discover informally planted beds, with mixes of traditional favourites such as old-fashioned roses, surrounding the lawn and paved terrace.There is also a large pond, a fruit and vegetable garden, a gravel area with mixed grasses and an attractive knot garden.

Modern influences
No. 3 Chainhurst Cottages displays a different take on the country cottage-garden style. Although there are traditional elements, Heather Scott has introduced a more modern twist with a wonderful balance of form and flower. It is a meld of the contemporary, with an old-fashioned, romantic charm that sits perfectly in its surroundings.

This garden has also been evolving since the 1970's, seeing many changes as Heather, her husband Richard and their family's needs varied. Over time, Heather has refined the space from lawns to play football on and the usual curving garden beds into an elegant, more formal vision.

"My favourite garden is Sissinghurst. I love the formality and cottagey planting, but I have kept
up with the times with a more contemporary look," she explains. "I like the really contemporary gardens but realise that they are not suited here, so my garden is a meld between the two."
The resulting garden has a very cohesive look with geometric lines from hedging, walls and paths, repeated chipped shapes and a controlled colour palette. An artistic eye and awareness
of garden design from visiting gardens, avid reading and a yearly trip to The Chelsea Flower Show influence Heather's vision.

"This sense of direction and restraint is evident as soon as you enter the garden. There are striking layered plantings edging the lawn, a decorative potager, double herbaceous borders
in tones of dusky pinks, mauves and greys, a bed of massed roses, a pergola-covered pathway, rows of tiny conical copper beeches, neat box and an immaculate greenhouse.

Take time to look at the shapes in this garden - both from foliage and flower as well as defined clipping in the design. The relationship between the plants, the architecture of the house and the rural location works beautifully.

Blending old with new is expressed not only with the planting and design, but also with decorative touches. Visits to reclamation yards and modern outlets have resulted in many interesting finds. Metallic containers planted with topiary shapes on decking, a square birdbath in a geometric area of wild grasses and old rustic planters all fit together perfectly.

A willingness to evolve transfers to the details, too, as Heather is not afraid to move
plants around to achieve the best effects, guaranteeing a continuing freshness to the
evolution of this garden.

Opening times
Chainhurst Cottage Gardens,
Chainhurst, Marden
Sun 8 June (2pm to 6pm)
Combined adm. 4, children free
Wed 11 Jun (6pm to 9pm)
Combined adm. 4.50, including wine

3 Chainhurst Cottages
also offers B&B for garden lovers
Tel: 01622820483

Chiddingstone Garden Tour
Sunday 15 Jun, 2pm to 6pm
Eight open gardens in the Chiddingstone villages, 24th year of opening
View gardens which are rarely
open to the public
Tickets: 6, children free.
Home-made cream teas
All proceeds to Chiddingstone's two churches, St Mary's and St Luke's.
For further information, please
call 01732 866222.

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