The North Garden project

Summer blooms in the North Garden at Emmetts Garden, a National Trust place in Kent

Emmetts Garden was designed by Frederick Lubbock in the 20th century as distinct areas with the aim of cultivating particular plants using as near ideal conditions for the specimens as possible. Each area would then have a distinct character. The North Garden is no exception.

The Historic Character

Unlike the more 'wild' scheme of the South Garden, with trees and shrubs set in grass, the North Garden, or Shrub Garden as it was historically called, was designed using focal points to display the horticulturally distinct specimens of the area to their best.

An integral part of the garden were the views created from a northern plateau that overlooked the remainder of the North Garden and pond. This view then goes beyond to the South Garden and Wealden ridge. Similar vistas were designed from the very bottom of the North Garden, stretching up above its rocky slope and rising above the planting towards the original Acer specimen at the top of the garden.

Not just focused on views, Frederick Lubbock planned for these specimens to be enjoyed because of the true-to-life conditions they grew in. Water and ponds were used not just as a focal point but to create a  'bog garden', providing growing conditions for moisture-loving plants like Iris and ferns. More shady areas were developed to support 'Japanese' planting including Acer and Magnolia specimens, and a rocky bank created for hot and dry conditions to support cistus and Tree Lupins.

The end vision an ornamental area of specimen trees and shrubs under planted with heavy drifts of herbaceous planting. This would then fall away to more boggy planting around a pond overflow system. Such a design created height and depth with a wave of colour facing either north or south.

What happened?

When gardens change hands it doesn't take long for a vision to become clouded.

Dense planting of shrubs and trees looking up towards an obscured house

Later owners obscured much of that framework. The bog garden has been lost, a bank of rhododendron hybrids has hidden many of the views that were originally intended and with it this overcrowding has created an inability to appreciate the individual specimens that were meant to be the key highlights.

The project

This five year project seeks to evoke the early 20th century style of the North Garden, when the area was at its most significant.

Now in its third year, elements to the south, at the bottom of the slope, are coming into their own. Be on the look out for drifts of Lupins and Cistus as well as Hebes and Daphnes as you look up the slope towards the house.

Newly opened in the summer of 2019 is a viewing platform which provides sights of the North Garden that haven't been seen for years.

Over the project you'll also come across fragrant Azaleas, colourful Kniphofia more commonly known as red-hot pokers, Gentiana, ferns and iris - all were specimens that Lubbock grew in the area.

Restoration work in the north garden at Emmetts Garden, a National Trust property in Kent

Work has already come a long way to restore the pond in the North Garden that was filled in during the 1930s by Charles Bois. He feared that water might encourage mosquitoes, and with them malaria.

In the final year of the project we aim to restore the path that once ran from the top of the North Garden down the slope and through the heart of the garden beside the pond to eventually reach the South Garden.

Do visit us over the project to see how we are getting on. Over the years, areas of the North Garden will bed in and flourish so every time the area will look very different.