Garden of the month: Yew Tree Cottage in Penshurst

Yew Tree Cottage, Penshurst

Yew Tree Cottage, Penshurst - Credit: Archant

Enjoy the subtle beauty of snowdrops and hellebores emerging at Pam Tuppen’s lovely garden, a sure sign that spring is on its way

A sure sign that spring is on its way is the sight of tiny snowdrops emerging from the undergrowth. From January to March these hardy beauties create drifts of snow-white blooms under trees and on grassy banks.

Adding splashes of colour are the nodding heads of dainty hellebores in crimsons, pinks and white, their pretty little faces just asking to be upturned and admired.

Pam Tuppen has been gardening at her home Yew Tree Cottage in Penshurst for around 30 years.

Having always gardened and been out in the garden every day, even at 83, it's clearly a heartfelt joy that continues to fill her with enthusiasm for the beauty of flowers, plants and wildlife.

“I would say the garden is a natural cottage style, quite billowy and all mixed up together,” she says.

Planted for all-season interest, from the earliest bulbs and primroses through the abundance of summer to the quietness of winter, there is always something lovely to look at in this garden.

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Over time Pam and her late husband together transformed the south-facing sloping site by terracing with rockeries on three levels, planting densely and creating little hidden nooks.

They dug out the bank by the back of the house to form a small courtyard. Paved with cobblestones that Pam salvaged from Covent Garden and adorned with seasonal pots and with furniture painted in a striking blue, it is favourite suntrap for sitting out even in the winter months.

The planting evolved as the garden took form, keeping it more formal by the house and wilder away from the cottage, making the plot of under a quarter of an acre feel larger than it is.

There is a sense of seclusion with the canopy of now-mature trees, including a large walnut and a pretty pink Prunus subhirtella, arches adorned with vines, intimate paths and the mix of old-fashioned and unusual varieties of plants that happen naturally as the seasons evolve.

Pam opens the garden through the National Gardens Scheme and also for the Kent charity Hospice in the Weald on selected days through the garden season.

In February visitors eager to be out and about after winter enjoy the drifts of snowdrops, clumps of vibrant crocuses, sunshine yellow aconites, dainty hellebores and subtle primroses.

The snowdrops are an eclectic mix of the common Galanthus nivalis with some more special varieties mixed in.

“Having a good patch of snowdrops in spring is marvellous. If people are starting off, always try singles and doubles that are more economical and multiply quickly to make a wonderful show,” she advises.

Elegant hellebores are scattered in beds through the garden. “I have lots and lots of Helleborus orientalis hybrids. There are creams, white, pinks, dark purples and mixtures with red eyes and spots that the bees have cross-pollinated.

“They don’t have names, seedlings just pop up now and I replant them. If I see something interesting at a nursery I may buy it and add to the collection,” she says.

An added bonus to your visit is that Pam grows many of the plants from seed and pots on plants for sale to raise money for charity, so you can take a little piece of her charming garden home with you. n


Yew Tree Cottage, Penshurst TN11 8AD

22 and 25 February (12pm-5pm)

Second and fourth Wed and Sun, March through to September

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