25 gorgeous Kent gardens to visit

Leydens, beautiful garden of Roger Platts, head judge of the Kent Life Garden of the Year Awards

Leydens, beautiful garden of Roger Platts, head judge of the Kent Life Garden of the Year Awards - Credit: Archant

Some of the county’s best to visit this season – including past winners of the Kent Life Garden of the Year Awards, to inspire you at home

1 Bexon Manor

A series of rooms divided by neatly clipped yew hedging and topiary opens out as you explore the two-acre garden. A highlight is the prolific walled kitchen garden abundant with organically grown vegetables and billowing with flowers. A rose-covered gazebo, a water feature and a five-acre woodland walk complete your visit.

Where: Bexon Manor, Bredgar ME9 8HE

When: Open for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) on Sun 27 July; 3, 10 Aug (1.30pm-5pm)

How much: £4.50, children free

2 Boldshaves

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Enjoy glorious views across the fields to Tenterden from the partly terraced seven-acre garden. Flowing herbaceous borders, including a flame bed and red borders, ornamental trees and shrubs, an Italian Garden and a Diamond Jubilee garden have been developed by the owners over the past 20 years to complement the Arts and Crafts house.

Where: Boldshaves, Woodchurch TN26 3RA

When: NGS, Sun 15 June (2pm-6pm)

How much: £5, children free

3 One, Brickwall Cottages

A small cottage garden that includes a National Collection of dainty geums planted throughout. Intensively planted with a wide range of hardy perennials along with alliums, tulips and lime green euphorbias; all combining with the bright jewels of the geums make a picturesque scene.

Where: 1 Brickwall Cottages, Frittenden TN17 2DH

When: NGS, Suns, Mons 4, 5, 11, 12, 25, 26 May; 1, 2 June (2pm-5.30pm)

How much: £3.50, children free


4 Broadview Gardens

10-acres of ornamental gardens attached to Hadlow College, developed since 1992 on a sheep field, as a resource and a showcase for students’ work. Hedges enclose a range of themed gardens, including oriental, Italian, grass and herbaceous areas. The gardens also hold National Collections of hellebores and Japanese anemones.

Where: Broadview Gardens, Hadlow TN11 0AL

When: Open all year (9am-5pm)

How much: free admission


5 Chilham Castle

17th-century terraces with herbaceous borders lead down from the Jacobean house to the famous yew topiaries planted in the 1880s on the lawn. Magnificent views across the Stour Valley, an extensive potager, a spring bulb-filled Quiet Garden, ha-ha onto park and lake walks all entrance.

Where: Chilham Castle, Chilham CT4 8DB

When: NGS, Fri 22 Aug (5pm-8pm), Sat 23 Aug (2pm-5pm)

How much: £5, children free

6. Church View

One-acre sloping garden with spectacular views across the Telse valley. Lovely flowing herbaceous borders, a pond set in a rockery, roses scrambling over arches and a terraced productive garden. Several secluded seats dotted throughout allow time to soak up the atmosphere. Opens with Capel Manor Estate gardens.

Where: Church View, Horsmonden TN12 8BG

When: NGS, Wed 18, Sun 22 June (12pm-5pm)

How much: Combined adm £5, children free

7 Cutlass Cottage

Home to a garden designer and landscaper, the planting is designed for year-round interest with a wide palette of plants in sunny and shady areas. Areas include a long herbaceous border, textural grasses and perennials around a patio, plus a kitchen and herb garden.

Where: Cutlass Cottage, Speldhurst TN3 0NR

When: NGS, Sat 26 July (5pm-8.30pm), Sun 27 July (12pm-5pm)

How much: £4, children free

8 Doddington Place

A 10-acre atmospheric landscaped garden and parkland set in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Formal areas by the house including a floriferous sunken garden that changes with the seasons, a recently renovated Edwardian rock garden and woodland planted from the 1960s. Special dawn opening for photographers and birdwatchers on 8 June from 6.30am. Tea room serving home-made lunches, cakes and cream teas.

Where: Doddington Place, nr Sittingbourne ME9 0BB

When: NGS, Sun 27 Apr (11am-5pm); Sun 8 June (6.30am-5pm); Wed 23 July, Sun 28 Sept (11am-5pm); Sun, Wed, Bank Holiday Mon, 30 Mar-30 Sep (11am-5pm)

How much: £6, children £2


9 Godinton House and Gardens

An ancient estate with 12 acres of gardens that include terraced lawns, herbaceous borders, an Italian garden, a lily pond and walled garden with a collection of delphiniums and cut flowers as well as vegetable beds. In March and April the wild garden is a mass of daffodils and other spring blooms, while in June the delphiniums star and late season it’s colourful with dahlias among the vegetables.

Where: Godinton House and Gardens, Ashford TN23 3BP

When: Daily 1 Mar-1 Nov (1pm-6pm); Delphinium Festival week, 16-23 June

How much: Garden only £5, House and Garden £8, children free


10 Goodnestone Park Gardens

Historic gardens created by generations of the FitzWalter family. Lovely all year round, the views to the church in the walled garden are quintessentially English, quite charming. Wander the woodland in spring with carpets of bluebells, azaleas and rhododendrons or later in summer with banks of hydrangeas.

Where: Goodnestone Park Gardens, Wingham CT3 1PL

When: 15 Apr-26 Sep, Tue-Fri (11am-5pm), Sun (12pm-5pm)

How much: £6, children £2


11 Hole Park

Here you’ll find 15 acres of garden, surrounded by parkland and with lovely views. Yew hedges separate and frame areas with mixed borders, pools, lawns and specimen trees. Glorious woodland walks, carpeted with bluebells in spring and stunning foliage colour in autumn. Something of interest all season. Home-made teas served.

Where: Hole Park, Rolvenden TN17 4JB

When: 29 Mar-8 Jun daily, bluebells late April/early May; 9 Jun-31 Oct, Wed and Thur; Sun 5, 12, 19 and 26 Oct; all openings 11am-6pm

How much: £6, children £1


12 Honnington Farm

A unique feature in this six-acre country garden is the natural swimming pool with zigzagging jetty, set in a large wildflower meadow. Wildlife is a priority with various habitats created. There are also bluebell walks, billowing flowerbeds, rose walkways, wonderful views and sculptures exhibited on open days. Teas and lunches served in the newly renovated Kent Barn.

Where: Honnington Farm, Southborough TN4 0XD

When: NGS, Sun 18 May, 15 June (11am-4pm)

How much: £5, children free

13 Knowle Hill Farm

This was the well-deserved winner of our Kent Life Amateur garden of 2012. Set on a slope with far-reaching views to the Weald of Kent, this beautiful garden has deep, densely planted borders in orchestrated colour themes, Mediterranean and tender plants, a walled garden and evolving topiary. A new green garden is also being developed.

Knowle Hill Farm, Ulcombe ME17 1ES

NGS: Sat 21 Jun (5pm-8pm); Sun 3 Aug (2pm-6pm)

How much: £4, children free

14 Leydens

Private garden of our Kent Life Garden Competition’s Head Judge; celebrated garden designer, nursery owner and author Roger Platts. Wonderful layered planting in shady and open areas, with textural perennial planting that peaks in late summer. Ideas abound for late-summer perennial border combinations and masterful foliage use. Adjoining the garden is a wildflower meadow with mown paths.

Where: Leydens, Edenbridge TN8 5NH

When: NGS, Sun 3 Aug (12pm-5pm)

How much: £4, children free

15 Mount Ephraim

There are 10 acres of Edwardian gardens at this country estate that has been home to the Dawes family for 300 years. You’ll discover herbaceous borders, a millennium rose garden with arches and pergola, fanciful topiary, a rock garden, an arboretum and a mizmaze of grasses and perennials.

Where: Mount Ephraim, Hernhill ME13 9TX

When: Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat, Sun and Bank Holiday Mon 5 Apr-30 Sept (11am-5pm)

How much: £6, children £2.50


16 Old Bladbean Stud

A series of 5 interlinked gardens have been designed and created by the owner, that include striking 300ft long double borders punctuated with timber obelisks, over 90 old fashioned roses, a yellow and white themed area, as well as an organic fruit and vegetable garden. A green ethos guides the garden, with an experimental self-sufficiency project of water collection, solar panels, wind turbine and chemical use kept to an absolute minimum.

Where: Old Bladbean Stud, Bladbean CT4 6NA

When: NGS, Sun 1, 15, 29 Jun, Sun 13, 27 Jul, Sun 24 Aug, Sun 7, 21 Sep, Sun 5 Oct (2pm-6pm)

How much: £5.50, children free

17 One Dering Road

An inspiring use of a small space with roses, perfumed lilies, entwining clematis, colourful containers, rare plants, quirky artefacts and detailing; created by a true plantswoman. The resulting garden is an oasis in the bustling town of Ashford, a romantic haven for the owners and a favourite with return visitors, for the garden, the delicious cakes and the warm welcome.

Where: One Dering, Ashford TN24 8DB

When: NGS, Sun 25, Mon 26 May, Sun 8, 15, 22 Jun, Sun 13, 27 Jul, Sun 10, Sun 24, Mon 25 Aug (2pm-5pm)

How much: £3.50 (regret no children)

19 Rock Farm

Two acres of garden are set around an old Kentish farmhouse in a lovely country setting. There is a wide collection of plants that thrive in the alkaline soil, in sunny and shady areas. The densely planted herbaceous border reaches a crescendo of colour in late June with spires of delphiniums, white lilies, golden achilleas and rich blue salvias, all carefully planned out with an exuberant result.

Where: Rock Farm, Nettlestead ME18 5HT

When: NGS, Wed 25, Sat 28 Jun (11am-6pm)

How much: £4, children free

20 Rose Farm Studio

A truly creative and unique artists’ garden, with a focus on productive as well as ornamental planting. From the pebble-dashed Morris Minor at the entrance of the garden to pumpkins growing out of recycled troughs and beans scrambling up the veranda, you know you are in for something a bit different as well as inspirational. Eclectic, quirky, relaxed and charming go merely part way in describing this garden.

Where: Rose Farm Studio, Pluckley TN27 0RG

When: NGS, Sat 2, Sun 3 Aug (12.30pm-6.30pm)

How much: £4, children free

21 Scotney Castle

A fairytale medieval ruin in a romantic moated setting, draped in wisteria and surrounded by shimmering reflections of azaleas and rhododendrons - this is a vista that has been enjoyed for generations. I would recommend heading straight down to the castle early when the grounds first open to take in the ethereal ambience. Then allow plenty of time to stroll the parkland and woodland at your leisure.

Where: Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst TN3 8JN

When: Main season open daily (10am-5pm)

How much: Garden only £9.10, children £4.60; whole property £14.30, children £7.20


22 Sissinghurst Castle Garden

World-famous and much-emulated garden designed in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. This is a garden of rooms, enclosed by crisply clipped hedges and walls, each with its own theme, including the iconic White Garden, a Rose Garden, the shady Delos area and the Purple Border. The framework replicates the missing rooms of the ruined Elizabethan hunting lodge, which can be best seen from the top of the tower with its panoramic vista. Owned by the National Trust and with grandson Adam Nicolson and his wife Sarah Raven still very much involved, along with a new head gardener, it will be interesting to see how the garden continues to evolve, balancing past, present and future.

Where: Sissinghurst Castle, Sissinghurst TN17 2AB

When: Open daily from 11am

How much: Whole property £12.40, children £6


23 Townland

A relaxed family garden full of texture and colour, comprising 1.8 acres landscaped with borders, roses, shrubbery, a Mediterranean gravel garden, meadows with winding paths and a wide range of fruit and vegetables with massed sweet peas. More formal by the house, becoming more informal as you progress, with wildflowers self-seeding and then selectively weeded.

Where: Townland, Sixfields TN30 6EX

When: NGS, Sun 8 Jun, Sun 13, 20 July (2pm-5.30pm)

How much: £4, children free

24 Wickham Lodge

Romantic planting with roses and lavender in a picturesque riverside setting in the historic village of Aylesford. The terraced gardens consist of 14 tiny themed sections, including Tudor, Japanese, tropical and productive gardens. Another must-see winner (our first!) of Kent Life’s Amateur Garden of the Year competition in 2010.

Where: Wickham Lodge, Aylesford ME20 7AY

When: NGS, Sat 21 Jun (11am-5pm)

How much: £4.50, children free

25 The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle

Irrepressible modern-day plant hunter Tom Hart Dyke continues to develop a collection of plants from across the globe, set out in raised beds for each continent. Visitors can learn the origins of both familiar and unfamiliar plants and the garden also holds a National Collection of eucalyptus.

Where: The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford DA4 0JA

When: Apr-29 Sep, Fri, Sat, Sun, Bank Holiday Mon (12pm-5pm)

How much: £7, children £4


Garden Tours with Leigh Clapp

Leigh Clapp, Kent Life’s garden edutor, is doing some bespoke Garden Tours this season, for one to three people, visiting gardens tailored to their interests. You will have the opportunity to visit gardens outside of their usual opening times and in some of the gardens it will be an exclusive visit, meet the owners, wander with them around the garden and take high tea, a treat not to be missed as you chat and share experiences with a fellow keen gardener. Using Leigh’s knowledge and expertise as a garden photojournalist and gardening editor, a day of your choice can be created.

If this sounds of interest, please contact Leigh on 01342 825879 or email: leighclapp@hotmail.com

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