Winners of Kent Garden of the Year Awards 2017 revealed
PUBLISHED: 10:09 15 September 2017 | UPDATED: 10:28 15 September 2017
The competition was extremely close this year with three gorgeous gardens taking the mantle as our winners in our eighth Garden of the Year Award
Amateur Garden of the Year
The hidden courtyard garden at Crowmarsh House was a delight to discover behind a new-build development next to a busy junction in Wateringbury.
Created from scratch from the inauspicious site of a garage and workshop for vehicles, the ground was mostly covered with concrete and tarmac, so the transformation is particularly impressive.
Owners Yvonne and David Marks now have a plant-filled oasis to enjoy with an elegant Italian-inspired green and white-themed palette. Totally enclosed with high walls and a fence, the garden is an extension of the house as a true outdoor room. Yvonne drew up a plan that was interpreted by a hard landscaper to construct the hard landscaping which she has then over the past 10 years planted to cover every area and surface. “I wanted to create a peaceful and tranquil space,” she explains.
Mixing formality from topiary and a parterre of Lonicera nitida to a relaxed al fresco dining area and even a tiny raised bed of vegetables, every area is considered and utilised. Vines cover the walls, seating is incorporated in the design and groups of containers and classical sculpture complete the scheme.
“It is an inspirational use of small space, showing clear interior design skills, extended into garden space. The use of a green and white palette is fresh and calm and it’s very much a personal space for Yvonne,” commented judge Amanda Cottrell.
“Every plant has a role to play in the garden, carefully chosen and thought through. The textures of the plants complement each other perfectly and there’s the trick of using big specimens in a small garden that creates a sense of scale and drama,” said judge Andy Garland.
Head Judge Roger Platts added: “The spaces are unified by the repetitive use of plants, showing restraint and keeping to the colour palette.”
Crowmarsh House, Wateringbury, ME18 5DU
Opens through the National Garden Scheme
School Garden of the Year
St Thomas’ Catholic Primary School, Sevenoaks
St Thomas’ Catholic Primary School, Sevenoaks is our well-deserved winner this year, where the children’s knowledge and enthusiasm shone through, from the beautifully crafted entry, to the welcome songs and bubbly children guiding our visit, all the judges were enchanted by the impact of gardening on the school.
Amanda Cottrell beautifully encapsulated our thoughts by commenting: “The sunflowers grown in the garden are called ‘Just for Joy’ and this sums up the children’s attitude to growing and gardening, and everything that is associated with the natural world.”
Apart from the growing of sunflowers and containers that transformed a neglected narrow area by the safety fence, the children enthusiastically also showed us their vegetable plot and handiwork with poems, paintings and sculptural installations they have made.
Guided by Wendy Steyn, a PTA member, and Mrs Whiddett the children are gaining a sound appreciation, with participation encouraged through a relaxed and welcoming manner.
“Incredibly knowledgeable and bright children, curious about the natural world around them and well informed about plants and gardening, willing to listen and learn. I also like the fact they’ve ‘scrounged’ the pots that make up their living wall from the local tip,” added Andy Garland.
Gardening allows all the children to participate and spend happy class and play time in different aspects of gardening. The planting of the ‘Just for Joy’ sunflower wall garden was inspired by the new OPAL outdoor play and learning philosophy.
Some 40 children signed up to germinate their own sunflowers for the Sunflower Challenge and every child in the playground was welcome to join in the informal garden club activities of planting, watering and garden art and craft activities such as beaded butterflies.
With the productive garden all the children are involved, enjoying eating fresh produce, learning about growth and maintenance of crops and the composting system to recycle food waste in the school.
Cross-curricular activities also include creative thinking and problem solving, science and psycho-social learning and environmental issues.
Community Garden of the Year
Windmill Community Garden, Margate
The winner in this section is Windmill Community Garden in Margate, which totally embodies the essence and work of a community garden.
“It is the winner for the real social need that it’s meeting, for the presentation of the space and for the variety of initiatives they have going on,” summed up Andy Garland.
Led by team leaders Jules Ellis and Lorna Kane, and helped by volunteers, the range of activities the community can be involved in is extensive – from growing organic veg and cut flowers, cooking, to art inspired by the garden for pre-schoolers.
It was started in 2004 in response to local parents looking for a safe place for natural outdoor play and to grow produce, and is set up on approximately one-acre of previously derelict allotments, sited on a social housing estate.
“We are a service wing of the local children’s centre, raise our own funds and work closely together on community engagement. Our aims briefly include health and wellbeing, community enhancement, learning and environmental education,” Jules explains.
They work hard to engage with more socially isolated and disadvantaged members of the local community, with environmental sustainability a core value. There is a once-a-week fresh produce market stall, a work experience programme for long-term unemployed clients and schools and community events.
Last year some 2,522 individuals attended the garden, reporting a gaining of increased confidence in food growing, using seasonal foods, as well as improved physical and mental wellbeing.
“The atmosphere of peace and calm all over this garden reflects in the people who both run it, and those who work with them from this very deprived part of Margate. All of them are involved in everything and take enormous pleasure in showing guests around and displaying their significant knowledge in what they grow,” said Amanda Cottrell.