Beautiful, bountiful blossom at Smallhythe Place
The house and gardens may be closed, but that doesn't stop us sharing its beauty. Spring is one of our favourite times of year here at Smallhythe Place. The garden is alive with vibrant colours; fresh bulbs emerge in beds of greenery; daffodils, bluebells and primroses cover the pathways, and the sleepy hum of newly-awakened wildlife fills the calm spring air. It’s a new season, a time of new life, new colour and natural wonders.
Amongst the many spring marvels here is the blossom. In their various shades of whites and pale pinks, six different varieties of blossom dominate Smallhythe’s surroundings, from apple, pear and plum to cherry, hawthorne and medlar. Across the month of April their soft petals fill out the bare branches and lightly scatter the grounds below, whilst aromas of sweet perfumes seep through the air.
" ... they bloom at the first promise of the spring, they beautify even and the most grey landscape, they scatter at the first gust of the wind... But as they hold, when you look at them, you steal a little view of paradise... "
Smallhythe boasts around 30 different varieties of apple blossom in our orchards. Delicately coloured blossoms are among the most distinctive features of the apple tree, and their springtime beauty has made them a treasured emblem of apple-producing areas.
The apple blossom is a typical angiosperm flower, with petals surrounding multiple pollen-producing structures called stamens, which are crowned with sticky pollen-collecting stigma. Most apple blossom petals are pink when the flower first blooms, and they fade to white as the season progresses. Later in the summer their fruit ripens and our orchards become crowded with rosy red, and green apples, crisp and juicy ready to be harvested for our annual celebration of Kent’s produce, on Orchard Day (Saturday 19th September 2020).
In their bright colours, cherry blossom ranks as some of the most beautiful of flowers. When the tree is in full bloom during spring, it is a stunning sight, the Queen of the garden perhaps. The trees have large flowers, thick with rich pink petals and can be found standing beside the top pond in our garden. But full sun exposure is necessary to produce delicious cherries and strong trees, which can be a little challenging in our current climate.
Located above the soakaway in the lower part of the garden, plum blossom comes in varying shades of white, pink and red with a strong fragrant scent. Their flowers are around 2cm long and their leaves appear shortly after the petals falls. The fruit ripens in late summer producing delicious green and yellow gages.
Found amongst the apple trees in the orchard are our pear trees. Pear blossoms first appear as green buds that later become white as the weather warms. Their delicate flowers with a mild sweet scent are made up of five white petals measuring 2-3 cm, appearing in clusters of five to seven. After the apple, the pear is the world’s second most cultivated deciduous fruit tree.
Resting beside the field gate near the Theatre, the blossom of the medlar trees stand out against the fields of green behind. The flowers are white or pink-tinged, with five petals, and the tree later produces a brown globular fruit with leafy persistent sepals.
Like quinces and apples, the medlar belongs to the rose family, and is a wonderful fruit tree to grow in smaller gardens producing beautiful blossom, fiery autumn colour and an unusual fruit.
Found down by the lower pond and around the soakaway, the arrival of the hawthorne blossom has long been seen as a sign that spring is turning to summer. The pale green leaves of this hedgerow are often the first to appear in spring, soon followed by an eruption of pretty pale-pink blosom. Its highly scented five-petalled flowers grow in flat-topped clusters and teem with all sorts of wildlife. Once pollinated by insects, these flowers develop into deep-red fruits known as 'haws'.