The garden at Smallhythe Place
The garden is alive with fiery colour this time of year, as the trees turn a golden hue and a carpet of newly-fallen leaves rustle in the fresh autumn air.
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 sits next to the wild flower bed, which was sown to capture Ellen's humble yet "wild nature" - E.V.Lucas.
The rose garden and wildflower bed put on a colourful show for visitors throughout the summer months. Last year we did some work to weaken the grass and sow more flower seed which has successfully enhanced the wildflower bed even further. This was part of our objective 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.
Elsewhere in the garden certain trees and hedgerows come into fruition at the end of the summer, with a variety of cherries, apples, and cobnuts in the nuttery. Our visitors can take a stroll through the gardens and pick their own apples from our orchard. Crisp and juicy, they are just too tempting to miss.
There is a real party of wildlife at Smallhythe Place throughout the autumn. When the sun comes out there is an abundance of birds, bees, butterflies, lizards and newts. Visitors are able to walk through the garden with a spot sheet and look for these little critters themselves, or follow the hum of the bees to find our beehives.
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.
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.