Kent Life Garden of the Year Awards 2016 winners

KEN OCT 16 Garden winners

KEN OCT 16 Garden winners - Credit: Archant

Five categories, 11 judges, five great gardens – we salute the best of the best in the seventh Kent Life Garden of the Year awards. Compiled by: Sarah Sturt. Pictures by: Leigh Clapp, Thomas Alexander and the winners

KEN OCT 16 Garden winners

KEN OCT 16 Garden winners - Credit: Archant

Amateur Garden of the Year

Thatched Cottage, Hever

Wendy and Ivor Macklin

The competition was particularly close this year with three gorgeous gardens as our finalists. Just edging the competition, Thatched Cottage is our Kent Life 2016 Amateur Garden Winner.

We were all charmed by the romantic, traditional-style gardens around a quintessential thatched cottage in the little village of Hever. Owners Wendy and Ivor Macklin have worked together over the past 12 years to create a series of loosely linked garden rooms with abundant planting of cottage favourites, from roses adorning pergolas to cheerful massed daisies, to create an idyllic scene that so charmingly suits both their home and the surrounding landscape.

“As interior designers we have an eye for colour and form, however that is where we cease to agree. I try too hard to control and regulate the garden while Wendy, being an artist, allows the casual abundance of wild foxgloves, aquilegias and primroses to soften and naturalise my lofty approach,” says Ivor.

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It was important to the couple that the garden suited the 15th-century house, be somewhere to relax in and also encourage wildlife. “Backing on to a meadow and stream, it has been important for me to keep areas wild and maintain the cottage garden tradition of growing native plants and letting flowers self seed,” adds Wendy.

Colours are carefully considered, with gentle pastels in the front garden and brighter tones as you progress further from the house in the back garden. Productive areas are included with a jostle of herbs by the back door and a small fenced vegetable plot bordering the fields.

Structure from hard landscaping and clipped hedging is softened by the billowing effervescence and seating is placed to take in the vistas. The garden is shared with others, who also delight in its ambience, when it has opened for charity through the National Gardens Scheme, and the couple also run a B&B from an oak building in the garden.

Fleet Day Nursery

Fleet Day Nursery - Credit: Archant

“Gardening is a mixture of exhilaration when it works and frustration that it will not remain, and teaches me to enjoy and live in the now but plan for the future,” says Ivor.

“Each year it’s a joy to see the subtle changes as the garden progresses and all the hard work is rewarded. Being in my garden I can truly be myself. I never stop learning and never find it a chore. It relieves stress and like any creative activity, it lifts the soul,” adds Wendy.

Get in touch

Thatched Cottage B&B, Hever TN8 7NH

Sweet peas at St Martins

Sweet peas at St Martins - Credit: Archant

Primary School Garden of the Year

Fleet Day Nursery, Dartford

These are the youngest entrants we have ever had in this category, and their enthusiasm for all things gardening and nature makes them deserving winners of our 2016 Kent Life Primary School Garden of the Year.

No matter what the season or weather, the children at this stimulating nursery can be found sowing, planting, watering, harvesting and maintaining the planting areas, feeding and caring for their pet animals, learning about mini-beasts or playing make-believe games in their wonderful garden.

Each child has wellingtons and raincoat in readiness for inclement weather and they happily spend time outside every day, learning as they play and experiencing the range of possibilities on offer.

Guiding their gardening is the enthusiastic Karen Adams, who has integrated the various aspects into the every day curriculum.

All is planted and cared for by the children and the range of plants and crops grown, and cared for beautifully, is impressive – from herbs and onions to poppies and hanging baskets of strawberries.

“Each year our parents and carers donate seeds, bulbs, pots, plants, compost etc. and by spring and summer the garden is a riot of colour and variety,” says nursery owner Lise Sampson.

Fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs and spices are all used and utilised by the children in some way. Some vegetables are prepared by the children and eaten for their tea; others fed to the nursery pets, there are herbs and spices in the sensory area, play dough may even be scented with mint, and they hold a plant stall at their annual open day where produce grown is sold.

Abbey Physic Community Garden, Faversham

Abbey Physic Community Garden, Faversham - Credit: Archant

Everything is clearly labelled and cross-curricular Early Years Foundation subjects intermingle, such as still life drawing of plants to learning about life-cycles of butterflies. Recycling and up-cycling practices are integral, including plastic bottles and even an old chest of drawers transformed into planters.

“The garden attracts a variety of wildlife in the form of insects, mini beasts and birds. Our bird boxes have housed wrens, tits and finches and the children have a bird hide where they can watch the comings and goings of the busy parents and chicks,” adds Lise.

Situated within the grounds of Fleetdown Primary School we hope their tiny green fingers continue to be encouraged as they head off to ‘big school’, and those early seeds that have clearly been imprinted on their minds continue their passion for gardening and the environment.

The younger you can inspire children the more likely it will be part of their lifestyle in the future.

Get in touch

Fleet Day Nursery, Fleetdown Primary School, Dartford DA2 6JX

Hole Park

Hole Park - Credit: Archant

Sacred Space in a School Garden

St Martin’s School, Folkestone

This is the first year that Kent Life has run a Sacred Space competition for schools, and the judges were very impressed by the quality of all the entries, and particularly the final three, which all showed imagination and creativity in the way that they had taken relatively small or unused areas of the school grounds and transformed then into places of reflection and contemplation for use by all members of the school community regardless of age.

It was a tough decision, but St Martin’s School in Folkestone is our winner. Housed in an old, traditional building that until recently had no garden provision, five years ago, the school set to and created what is now called the Quiet Garden. This is used as a teaching resource and a place where all members of the school can find some peace in the ‘busy-ness’ of a primary school.

The garden is maintained by the Greenfingers Club, an oversubscribed activity run by the caretaker. This gives the children a chance to recognise the work and joy that a garden gives. They learn that gardening takes time, but along the way are many wonderful moments where nature takes over, and with a little tender loving care, the children enter into the nurture and sheer hard work of enabling the Quiet Garden to be the beautiful and peaceful place that it is.

The small garden is imaginatively laid out to maximise the space and features mosaics, bright colours and the imaginative use of arches and raised beds. There’s a wildlife area and a wicker cross to remind us this is a Christian place of learning.

The overall impression is of a place of beauty and reflection, and the fact that the children themselves are maintaining the space means that they have an ownership and understanding of the philosophy behind the garden.

We were also impressed with the way that the area is used as part of the school’s teaching and learning on a day-by-day basis, integrating the quiet garden so that children (and adults) see the need for reflective practise as part of their daily lives. The wonderful way it is maintained, and cherished, indicates how important it is to them.

Get in touch

Penshurst Place

Penshurst Place - Credit: Archant

St Martin’s CofE Primary School, Folkestone CT20 3JJ

Hever Castle

Hever Castle - Credit: Archant

Community Garden of the Year

Abbey Physic Community Garden, Faversham

“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.” - Mirabel Osler

Creep through the secret door in the historic walls of Abbey Physic Community Garden in Faversham and you are likely to be struck by two things: colour and a smile. Colour may come and go with the seasons, but the smiles are perennial.

The positive effect that working in gardens has on people with mental health issues is beyond doubt. Yet rarely can the therapeutic power of gardening be more evident than in Abbey Physic Community Garden, where support, companionship and training leads to psychological regeneration as clear as the cyclical regeneration of the natural world in which it exits.

It can be no coincidence that Abbey Physic exists in a walled garden; warm, secure places to grow fruit, flowers, vegetables and, it would appear, confidence. The wildlife garden is an extra draw for children from the school next door who can learn about the ethos of permaculture underpinning Abbey Physic: a balance of care for people, care for the earth, living within limits and distributing surplus.

The understated nature of managers Suzanne Campbell and Richard Senior helps Abbey Physic thrive the way it does. Suzanne’s humility on the day of our visit belied the growth she and her team cultivate; both horticultural and human.

Making things grow has mastery to it, a kind of power that works best when it meets with humility. Yet, in a time when mental health services are so stretched, we can ponder on what kind of savings gardens like Abbey Physic could make for the NHS and social care commissioners if they contracted with them directly.

Gardens always hold a promise of tomorrow and this garden can look to the future from a proud position as Kent Life’s Community Garden of the Year 2016. The perennial smile has every right to broaden.

Ightham Mote

Ightham Mote - Credit: Archant

Get in touch

Abbey Physic Community Garden, Faversham ME13 7BG

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle - Credit: Archant

Large Garden of the Year

Hole Park, Rolvenden

Hole Park is truly a garden for all seasons; a sea of bluebells and wood anemones in the spring, with spectacular rhododendrons, magnolias and azaleas to follow. Billowing herbaceous borders, woodland walks and water planting mark the summer months, followed by brilliant autumn colours in both woodland and garden, and there is delicious food to be had in the Old Stable.

Hole Park lies in the beautiful Weald of Kent with views that form a part of the garden, which the visitor will come across at surprising moments. The Barham family have lived here for more than 100 years and it is Edward, Clare and their children who are the current custodians.

Quentin Stark, with Steve and Ann, look after 16 acres of planting woodland and water. Hole Park is a family garden surrounding a family house and this is very much the ethos of everything you see and do on your visit. If you haven’t been there yet, do go soon: they are worthy winners of this prestigious award.

Get in touch

Hole Park, Rolvenden TN17 4JA

Lullingstone Castle

Lullingstone Castle - Credit: Archant

Large Garden of the Year: Special Awards

Visit Kent is delighted to give the following gardens a special award for contribution to tourism in the Garden of England

Penshurst Place

One of Kent’s great historic gardens, Penshurst Place remains a family home and the garden reflects the events, people and commemorations surrounding the illustrious Sydney dynasty over many centuries. Much of the garden has been developed by the contemporary designer, George Carter. Cory Fernmoor and his team manage this lovely, multi-faceted place, including the renowned Paeony Border, Heraldic Garden and lovely White Garden. The visitor experience is one of a very personal history and of enchantment.

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Penshurst Place, Penshurst TN11 8DG

Hever Castle

This beautiful and historic place, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, and still in private ownership, is another of the great jewels of the Garden of England. Neil Miller and his team manage this huge and diverse garden which was designed by John Jacob Astor. The planting is on an enormous scale, with great drifts of roses; the scent is almost overwhelming on a warm day.

Wild flower meadows, woodland planting, a sunken garden and a water maze are but a tiny part of what you will see. The grandeur of this garden and its statues, urns and arches, the glorious lake and Italian loggia tell a parallel story, that of the love story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII and a much more contemporary love story of a man, a house and a challenge well met.

Get in touch

Hever Castle & Gardens, Hever TN8 7NG

Ightham Mote

Now in the hands of the National Trust, this most romantic of houses has undergone extensive restoration, to the fascination and delight of the visiting public. Richard Burton and his team have also embarked on a major programme of development and enhancement of the existing gardens to reflect the extraordinary beauty and peace of this ancient moated house.

The garden will frame the house and will be beautiful and diverse in equal measures. The colour of the borders is perfect against the soft grey of the stone, and reflected in the moat. An exciting project to watch as the vision unfolds.

Get in touch

Ightham Mote, Ivy Hatch TN15 0NT

Leeds Castle

Magical, serene and regal, Leeds Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world. Andrew McCoryn and his team are working with chief executive Sir David Steel towards a new vision for the gardens to enhance the already perfect landscape, castle and moat.

The Barbican Garden, with its 30ft high rockery at the centre (pictured) is currently being restored and with the backdrop of the portcullis and the Great Water, is a spectacular achievement. The Culpeper Garden, formerly the Kitchen Garden, and designed by the renowned 20th-century landscape gardener Russell Page, is a changing palette of colour throughout the year, and along the south-facing terraces at the water’s edge is Lady Baillie’s Mediterranean Garden, full of palms, cacti and succulents.

To produce a garden that will enhance such a place is a major challenge, but visitors will see that the new vision for Leeds Castle is moving towards an exciting conclusion. For Visit Kent to watch as this unfolds is a great privilege.

Get in touch

Leeds Castle, nr Maidstone ME17 1PL

Lullingstone Castle

Both Tom Hart Dyke and his World Garden are unique. He is a contemporary plant hunter and his vision and concept of creating a plant version of countries and continents within a defined space is phenomenal. Each area is crammed with indigenous plants and Tom has an encyclopaedic knowledge of them all, their provenance, their habits, tolerances and intolerances.

This plantsman’s paradise – which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2015 and was planned during Tom’s nine-month kidnap ordeal in Colombia in 2000 – grows and develops almost before your eyes as plants jostle with plants, countries with continents. It’s a gardener’s joy; full of life, colour and Tom’s personal touches.

Lullingstone, which dates back to Domesday, has been in his family for centuries; the creation of the World Garden adds a very contemporary twist by this modern-day plantsman.

Lullingstone Castle, Lullingstone DA4 0JA

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