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The garden at Smallhythe Place

The house and garden at Smallhythe Place showing flowers in bloom in June
The rose garden next to the house in June at Smallhythe Place | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Home to an abundance of wildlife, including the protected great crested newt, the garden at Smallhythe Place is a tranquil retreat made up of a traditional rose garden, orchard, nuttery and ponds. This compact cottage garden is packed full of interest from spring to autumn.

The colourful and serene cottage garden will delight visitors wandering through its lush greenery. After visiting Ellen at Smallhythe, critic E.V. Lucas commented: ‘There was something of wildness in her nature, something wilful and untamed, something almost fey, which assorts well with this brave old house, with these rich beams, these windows.'

This vivid description is reflected in the nature of the bright outdoor area with its blooming rose garden and old wildflower bed, which is at its best in late spring and summer.

Seasonal higlights to watch out for

Although Smallhythe Place is closed throughout winter, there is much garden interest to see when the property reopens in February.

Daffofils and snowdrops will start to appear around this time, scattering their colour across the length of the garden. A variety of blossom including apple, pear and crab apple are a delightful sight to see in early Spring, as the Daffodils come out in full force in the Orchard.

Ellen Terry was quite struck with these yellow beauties, affectionately calling Smallhythe Place her "Daffodilly Farm".

In the summer months, roses are in abundance in the garden. From the Ellen Terry Rose, to the wonderful climbing roses across the front of the 16th century cottage and the 55m long pergola that blooms with 52 roses of 9 varieties.

The garden is the perfect spot for visitors to enjoy a summer's stroll, a picnic or a lawn game.

Rose pergola at Smallhythe Place
Rose pergola at Smallhythe Place | © National Trust Images/Caroline Penn

The orchard

Elsewhere in the garden, 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 filberts and cobnuts.

April is where blossom errupts in the orchard in a sea of white and soft pink. Visitors can follow the winding paths and delight in the many varieties the garden has to offer.

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.

The herb garden

At the very top of the long garden sitting in front of the Writing Hut is a herb garden, possibly put in by Edith Craig, Ellen’s daughter. A rustic red brick path splits a quadrangle of small beds with a sundial in the centre. In the past these beds overflowed with culinary herbs.

Over the last few months the garden team have been working to improve this corner of the garden by constructing a set of timber raised beds to lift the height of the planting, with the added benefit of bringing the aromatic herbs to a level that might be better accessed by all.

These slotted into the original beds to maintain the original layout of the herb garden and can be removed in future to restore the herb garden to its original form if needed.

The beds were filled with a mix of topsoil and horticultural grit to create a free draining and relatively nutrient poor growing medium that should suit the palette of Mediterranean herbs which have been planted.

We have planted the beds up with the usual range of herbs; sage, mint, thyme and oregano and dwarf Rosemary but have also included several more floristic plants to add to the beds impact, deep purple Salvia ‘Nachvlinder’, the beautiful salmon orange Agastache ‘Apricot Sprite’ and the ever-useful Erigeron karvinskianus to drape and self-seed among the brickwork.

The Herb Garden and Writing Hut at Smallhythe Place
The Herb Garden and Writing Hut at Smallhythe Place | © National Trust Images/Cassie Dickson
Traditional Kentish house and barns reflected in pond in foreground beneath blue skies

Discover more at Smallhythe Place

Find out when Smallhythe Place is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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