Gardens in Kent
Kent isn't known as the Garden County of England for no reason. Discover year-round interest in walled gardens, vegetable plots and borders – and one of the most famous gardens in the country.
Our Kent gardens are alive with colour throughout autumn. Early in the season, look out for dahlias in the walled garden at Chartwell and South American salvias at Sissinghurst. Later on, there's a fungi festival at Emmetts Garden and stunning, 100-year-old purple cut-leaved Japanese Maples at Scotney Castle.
The Katsura Cercidiphyllum japonicum (toffee apple tree) near the North Lake unleashes an intoxicating scent of burnt sugar in early autumn. The borders of stable courtyard provide a colourful display well into autumn, in keeping with the courtyard and cottage setting.
Dahlias and sunflowers bloom in the early autumn sunshine. Admire the 170-year-old Cryptomeria Japonica (Japanese Cedar) towering above the Golden Orfe ponds. Later in the season, the annual pumpkin display is in full throes in the Walled Garden and branches are laden with apples in the orchard.
As the season passes, the leaves of the Liquidamber styraciflua tree turn deep burgundy. Catch the unmistakable candyfloss scent of the Katsura Cercidiphyllum japonicum (toffee apple tree) in the South Garden. There's an incredible array of fungi specimens such as white spotted fly agaric and stinkhorn.
Autumn is a time for bright and bold colours in the garden and surrounding trees, with the light shining through the branches turning green leaves to warm shades of red. Anemones remain bright and strong while the rest of the vegetation begins its journey to dormancy.
Look out for yellow tulip trees, and the Oriental bittersweet Celastrus Orbiculatus over the doorway onto the bowling green lawn at the old castle. Stunning, 100-year-old purple cut-leaved Japanese Maples, below the Bastion, are an autumn staple. The Liquidambar styraciflua tree, down by the boathouse in the garden, makes a stunning photo opportunity.
Catch late flowers in the Purple Border in early autumn. As the season settles in, colour abounds in the Nuttery and Lime Walk. Vibrant reds and oranges continue to blaze in the Cottage Garden. Crisp autumnal colours make the Gazebo pop against long-reaching Wealden views.
Trees and hedgerows come into fruition, laden with a variety of cherries, apples and Kentish filberts and cobnuts. Over 30 varieties of apples grow in the orchard, as well as pears, crab apples and plums. It's managed traditionally, avoiding chemicals, and the meadows beneath the trees are cut just once a year.
Asters, hesperantha and the 'autumn crocus' colchicum are the highlights just over the border in Burwash. The Wild Garden is the focus of autumn tree colour, with ornamental trees such as European ash Fraxinus excelsior in their finest throes. Spot varieties of apple, pear, plum, damson, and greengages that would have been available in Kipling’s orchards.
The first spots of colour start peeking through in our gardens and countryside in winter. Enjoy a wide variety of uniquely different evergreens at Emmetts Garden, or admire the garden water features at Ightham Mote. Keep your eyes peeled for the pure white of snowdrops as they begin to grow in the new year. By visiting our gardens in winter you help us care for them throughout the seasons.
The garden at Chartwell is a feast for the eyes year-round. January sees the start of the snowdrops appearing all along the borders. Look out for the special 'summer snowflake' snowdrops cropping up around the Gavin Jones waterfalls as a larger, later blooming flower. The hellebores soon follow throughout the borders to create a rich display of pink, purple, white and green blooms.
Discover the shape, design and structure of this iconic garden. The colder season is also perfect for woodland wanders with the sun shining through bare trees. Winter aconites and in particular Eranthis hyemalisis make an early appearance in February, as do snowdrops dotted around the garden and estate, adding a splash of colour to the winter scene. Winter is a great time to see a wide variety of birds with robins, redwings and field fares to name a few.
The much-photographed views at Scotney Castle look magical with a dusting of frost and a swirl of mist snaking around them. Flashes of colour come from the red and orange whips of dogwood and purple patches of heather. Look out for colourful bark set against bare earth all around the garden.
The evergreens such as the pines and distinctive spiny Monkey Puzzle tree bring colour to the winter landscape. Bare trees elsewhere create far-sweeping views out over the Kent countryside. The South Garden’s prickly heath bush (Gaultheria mucronate) with its bright pink berries provides a splash of colour. It’s also home to the Blue Atlas Cedar and the drooping branches of the Brewers Spruce. Some roses could stay in bloom until December too. Snowdrops scatter around the garden from the New Year.
With wintry mists and frosty mornings, the garden and estate at Ightham is beautiful this time of year. The sound of running water from the springs and water features provides an atmosphere of intrigue. Pick up a leaflet from Visitor Reception to follow the trails. On the slope, beneath the silvery bark of the birches, a charming display of cyclamen and snowdrops appear alongside the vibrant stems of dogwood and the spotted flowers of hellebores. You might spy our green-fingered garden team at work with tree surveys.
The clipped yew hedges and avenue of pleached limes look crisp and angular with a frosty layer. In January, the garden team carry out of pruning of the rows of pleached limes along the lawn. Evergreen shrubs keep the garden looking fresh even through the darker winter months. Bursts of colour can be found in the borders with Hellebores stealing the show. From February snowdrops, hellebores and pulmonaria are just emerging, signalling the end of winter.