Garden Portrait: Scotney Castle

Scotney Castle and Garden lies in west Kent close to Lamberhurst village and is one of the most romantic landscape gardens designed in the picturesque style. The planting is very natural with the ruins of the 14† century Old Castle at its centre. The ‘new’ castle was built in 1835 which was when the gardens around the ruins were created by Edward Hussey III.

View of the Old Castle from the Bastion

Terraces lead to a viewing point, the semi-circular bastion, with views over the Quarry Garden with its sandstone features, azaleas, ferns and other flowering shrubs towards the Old Castle and moat. There is a small triangular rose garden with a Venetian font and a lion’s-head fountain nearby and steps and paths lead down the Lime Walk and onto the main lawn before reaching the boathouse.

The Boathouse and the Sweet Gum tree

Autumn is a good time to visit with lots of oranges, reds and yellows bursting across the landscape. There are many beautiful trees in this garden including Japanese Acers, Sweet Gums, a Tulip tree and a Black Tulepo. My visit was in early September so too soon for much autumn colour, but it did mean that some plants were still flowering in the herbaceous borders and the rose garden.

The lawns are edged with mature trees and rhododendrons, kalmia and other shrubs and the Sweet Bourne fringed by trees feeds the moat. The walk leads to the stream garden and across a Chinese bridge where you will find a Henry Moore sculpture.

Sculpture by Henry Moore on the isthmus

The walk continues along the south-east side of the moat, with views focused on the house above the gardens, then returns along the north-west side to reach the approach to the Old Castle, which lies on the north-east of the two islands in the moat and forms the scenic focus of the garden landscape.

The path leads across a stone causeway and between remnants of stone gate piers leading into the Castle courtyard which contains a circular bed enclosed by yew hedges and herb beds.


The remains of the Old Castle (listed grade I), built in 1370, are of sandstone, with the single tower of the four possible originals, topped by its C17 conical roof and lantern, standing in the south corner of the curtain-walled island. It is like something out of a fairytale.


Size: 30 acres (12 hectares)

Thanks to Historic England for details contained in this post.

If you like a walk, long or short, then please visit Jo for her regular strolls in the UK and the Algarve and maybe you would like to join in too. She’s very welcoming.

Quex Walled Garden

In the most easterly part of Kent you will find the Powell-Cotton Museum, ( a fascinating private collection of 19th century natural history mainly from Africa and Asia ), Quex House and Gardens. The house at Quex is named after its owners in the 1500s who were the Quekes family and who prospered in the wool industry of Kent. My reason for visiting is the historic Victorian Walled Garden which is being restored.  It was an unseasonally cold day in July with rain threatening so I was quite pleased to be within the shelter of the lovely red-brick walls surrounding this garden, and to find a couple of glass-houses where I could pop inside.


The first small wooden-framed glass-house was just inside the doorway to the garden and full of lovely terracotta pots and a variety of pretty pelargoniums.


Some of the plants and flowers in the garden have a very tropical look about them.


and colour was everywhere

I headed into the large glasshouse filled with cacti and succulents to get out of a squall.


and loved the different textures and shapes

Pots full of red geraniums make an attractive collection


and a final look at the garden

 And if you live in Thanet then maybe you’d like to volunteer in the garden and help bring it back to its former glory. I know I would.

Here comes summer #9

The White Garden – Sissinghurst


(click on an image to enlarge and scroll through the gallery)

You can read more about Sissinghurst Castle Garden in my Garden Portrait.

Pashley Manor Gardens

Pashley Manor Gardens is on the border of East Sussex and Kent. Famous for its Tulip Festival in spring regrettably I have never visited before despite my love of tulips. It is a garden worth visiting at any time during the open season from 1st April to 30th September as there are several different areas. Between the end of April and mid-May the woods are open for the Bluebell Walk when the woodland is carpeted in a magical mantle of blue. July and August is Lily time and each year Pashley exhibits the work of many eminent sculptors, including work by local sculptors, some of which is for sale.

There is also a lovely courtyard tea-room and summer terrace where you can sit under a parasol, eat quiche and salad, sip iced-coffee and admire the wonderful views over the lawns and old moat. And try to ignore the dozens of ducks underfoot.

The first area you enter are the herbaceous and  hot borders, full of roses, lilies, dahlias, clematis, monarda, helenium, fuchsias and penstemon.



From here you can wander through to the woodland or enter the Walled Garden where you will find roses and a potager.


Up some steps – stop to admire the sculptures – and into the walled swimming pool area which looks very inviting now that the sun has appeared. At the far end is a small greenhouse filled with pelargoniums, pretty Streptocarpus and ferns.


Boy sitting

Boy sitting

Amongst the borders edging the lawns and summer terrace are dozens of perfumed lilies

Summer Terrace

Summer Terrace


and my favourite sculpture:


Wood Nymph

The Secret Gardens of Sandwich

Anyone who has been following me for a while may have picked up on the fact that I am a keen fan of Sir Edwin Lutyens (architect) and Gertrude Jekyll (garden designer) names synonymous with the creation of the English Country Garden style. When I was in East Kent some years ago and heard about the secret gardens of Sandwich I was intrigued.

The Salutations
The Salutations

The Secret Gardens of Sandwich are encircled by the old stone city walls and within this plot is a Grade I manor house, the Salutations, designed by Lutyens in 1911 and now a luxury hotel. He also created the gardens with the help of Jekyll and, although neglected for many years, it  has been wonderfully restored and is open to the public.

Typical of of a Lutyens and Jekyll garden you will find brick paths and herbaceous borders planted with lilies, lupins and lavenders, “rooms” with their own character and plenty of visual surprises and unexpected views.

My visit was in early September when the main highlight was the dahlias – from small delicate patio flowers to huge full-blown dinner plates.

Garden Portrait: Sissinghurst

Sissinghurst Castle in Kent is probably my favourite garden. The design by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson is similar to Hidcote Manor, but it has an extra element – romance. The first thing you see when approaching the gardens is the twin-turreted tower rising from the open farmland. This fairy-tale tower is the garden’s centrepiece and was built for Queen Elizabeth I’s visit in 1573. From the top of this tower you get a bird’s-eye-view of the gardens. You also get a feel of Vita herself as her writing room in the tower is pretty much as she left it – usually with a simple flowering pot plant on the table. Most of the borders or garden rooms are themed around a clearly defined colour scheme.

On entering the garden, before you reach the tower, is a courtyard where the plants echo the colour of the brick: salmon and copper tones. The first garden you come to after passing through the tower is the Purple Borders, though the colours are a mix of lilacs, pinks, blues, violet, magenta and purple. What I refer to as ‘bruised’ colours and my favourites. In my small space plants and flowers are grown in containers and the common theme is ‘bruised’ with a splash of orange, pink or yellow for contrast. Depending on what season you visit this garden you will find tulips, irises, wallflowers, geraniums and asters and clematis. It is difficult to describe this garden as there are so many different areas to explore and so many plants. I have visited in April and both late and early July and in each season it is different. (click on a photo to take a walk through this garden with me)

In mid-summer you cannot miss the Rose Garden, Irises, peonies, violas, pinks and alliums spread a Persian carpet beneath the old-fashioned shrub roses that were Vita’s passion. Reminiscent of the Orient. And the famous curved wall at the west end of the garden is covered with Clematis Perle d’Azur which is much-photographed. There is a lot more to this garden though – a moat walk, a herb garden, a pleached lime walk, woodland gardens,  the Cottage Garden a cauldron of hot colours – yellows, oranges and tropical reds – lawns and an orchard, and the most famous of all the White Garden. Filled with white wisteria, tulips, irises, hydrangea, pure white cosmos, sweet-peas, roses and lilies, it is a delight in the spring and summer months. Bear in mind that the rose over the canopy – Rosa Mulliganii – flowers early (mid June) Amongst all this beauty are Italian oil jars, urns and statues. And surrounding the property is the glorious Kent countryside. If you only have the chance to visit one garden in England then I would urge you to visit this one. You won’t regret it.

Garden Portrait: Goodnestone Park Gardens

Goodnestone Park Gardens is situated in south-east Kent, roughly midway between the towns of Canterbury, Dover and Sandwich. It is a mile or so down narrow, winding country lanes near Windham where we stayed on a couple of visits to Canterbury.  The gardens have been in the FitzWalter family for centuries and originally the house, built in 1704, was surrounded by wonderful formal gardens. This was replaced in the late 18th century by landscaped parkland as was the fashion of the time. After WWII when the house was used by the military, the gardens had been left in a derelict condition and then the house was partially destroyed in a fire so  it has only been over the past forty years that restoration of the gardens has been carried out, mainly by Margaret FitzWalter. She has created a glorious country garden, now managed by her eldest son, though when I visited in September 2009 she was still selling tickets herself and more than happy to chat about her beautiful place in the country.

The gardens are in several distinct areas through which you can stroll. In front of the main house is a formal parterre, similar to what would have surrounded the house in 1704. This overlooks the village cricket pitch and parkland. Behind the house a yew-lined path leads to the lime avenue. Between the limes and the woodland garden is an arboretum, which is filled with spring bulbs such as snakes-head fritillary. Close by is a gravel garden which is lovely in autumn with a large variety of grasses, verbena and Oenothera lindheimeri seemingly floating in the breeze. Paths meander through the woodland garden leading to a pool and more woodland. The most popular area though is the Walled Gardens – three separate ‘rooms’ which are  a plantsman’s delight. There is an old-fashioned rose garden leading to a rill garden and finally a kitchen garden. And amongst these you will find a delightful greenhouse and an alpine garden with raised beds and stone sinks filled with small delights.

(click on a photo to take a walk with me through the garden.)