The garden at Smallhythe Place

Bright purple, pink and white flowers blossom in the orchard at Smallhythe Place

The garden is alive with colour this time of year. Walk through the apple laden trees in the orchard towards a sea of wildflowers putting on a bright display of pinks, purples and whites which stretch down through the gardens. Fresh shrubbery and marginal plants surround the pond, its mirrored surface reflecting their floral vibrance.

The pond reflecting the house and theatre in its surface

The garden at Smallhythe Place is a tranquil retreat made up of a traditional rose garden, orchard, nuttery and ponds, all of which are home to an abundance of wildlife including the protected Great Crested Newt.

Ellen Terry was very fond of her roses, which has led to the growth of over 50 different breeds of England's signature flower, including the Ellen Terry Rose. The rose garden puts on a colourful show for visitors throughout late spring and the summer months, and sits next to the wildflower bed, which was sown to capture Ellen's humble yet "wild nature" - E.V.Lucas.

Smallhythe Place is home to the only 'Ellen Terry Rose' we know to be in existence
The rose garden at Smallhythe Place in full bloom
Smallhythe Place is home to the only 'Ellen Terry Rose' we know to be in existence

Over the winter, the gardeners stripped this area back to encourage fresh growth and new colour that will develop throughout the season. This will enhance the diversity of the wildflower bed and will help to meet our objectives to increase the diversity of flora and improve the habitat for wildlife, work that recently won us the Silver Gilt award from the Kent Wildlife Trust.

The view of the house from the orchard at Smallhythe Place

Elsewhere in the garden certain trees and hedgerows come into fruition towards the end of the summer, their green leaves revealing pockets of deep reds, rosy pinks and browns, laden with a variety of cherries, apples and Kentish and Filberts cobnuts.

Apple laden trees in the orchard of Smallhythe Place
Rosy red apples hanging from our trees in the Orchard
Apple laden trees in the orchard of Smallhythe Place

There is a real party of wildlife at Smallhythe Place throughout the summer. When the sun comes out there is a profusion of birds, bees, lizards and newts. The brightly colored Buddleia against the wall of the Barn Theatre's Green Room attracts an array of butterflies with their sweet smelling nectar. Visitors can walk through the garden with a spot sheet and look for them, follow the hum of the bees to find our beehives or hunt for hegehogs and insects in our hedgehog houses and bug hotels.

Ducks love to bask in this tranquil setting beside the pond at Smallhythe Place
Two Ducks nesting on the side of the pond at Smallhythe Place
Ducks love to bask in this tranquil setting beside the pond at Smallhythe Place

In April, our resident Tea-room swallows returned from their winter's migration and settled back into their nest in the rafters. They were quickly joined by four more, as their eggs hatched at the end of May. Their numbers grew once again with a second brood of 5 hatching at the beginning of July. You can watch their progress on our newly installed wildlife camera. 

'Please do not close the door, swallows in residence' sign on the tea-room door at Smallhythe Place

Updating the garden

2015/16 was an exciting time for the garden at Smallhythe Place. The first project was the extensive pruning of the nuttery to restore it to resemble a traditional nut plat.This was a big undertaking, as the nuttery had reached 30ft high so the cobnuts were being pinched by squirrels before they could be properly harvested. Now they are at the perfect height for picking. It will take a number of years to achieve the right shape and structure, but with better exposure to sunlight they now have greater opportunity to grow.

The rose garden has also been transformed. The under-planting throughout the garden was renewed with a mix of herbaceous perennials and bulbs, and a native mix hedge was added running down the right side edged with dianthus.

The newly rebuilt 170ft rose pergola recreates the look and feel of the garden as it was in Ellen Terry’s day, when it was adorned with climbing roses. Here we have planted 54 roses which are slowly climbing their way up the wooden structure.

The 170ft rose perogla at Smallhythe Place

Earlier this year, our gardeners reinstated the croquet lawn on the old tennis court at the top of the garden. Now, just like Ellen Terry and Edy Craig used to enjoy, our visitors can grab a mallet and ball and play a game with friends and family on their visit here.

The re-instated croquet lawn at Smallhtyhe Place

From our hedgehog houses and new bug hotels, to our log piles and rockeries, we have made a number of different habitats in the garden. These are helping to diversify and increase our resident wildlife at Smallhythe Place.

Finally, our pond wildlife is developing nicely after its reinstatement at the beginning of 2017. With floating water lilies, skating water boatmen and the distinctive croaks of our resident Hungarian bullfrogs, the pond is once again abundant with activity.