The garden at Smallhythe Place
The garden is alive with colour this spring. Walk through the orchard amongst a sea of daffodils and fritillaries putting on a bright display of yellow and purple which stretch down through the gardens. Pockets of bluebells burst up through fresh shrubbery and new spring bulbs surround the pond, its mirrored surface reflecting their floral vibrance.
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.
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.
Elsewhere in the garden trees and hedgerows have been clipped and pruned in readiness for the season. Paths have been cleared and the remains of autumn’s fallen leaves have been raked and collected, adding to our hedgehog houses in quiet corners of the garden. Pink and white apple blossom now blooms on the trees in the orchard, perfuming the garden with sweet scent.
There is a real party of wildlife at Smallhythe Place throughout the spring. When the sun comes out there is a profusion of birds, bees, butterflies, lizards and newts. 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 watch the newly born lambs in the neighbouring fields.
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.