VISITING KENT'S PUBLIC GARDENS
England is famous for its public gardens and people flock from far and wide – even from overseas, to visit them. As tranquil as they are scenic, they provide a relaxing retreat for those who want to escape the chaotic and mechanical world in which they live. England has more gardens open to the public than the whole of Continental Europe put together, but it is the county of Kent that really shines.
The 'Garden of England', as it was dubbed by Henry VIII after he sampled a bowl of Kentish cherries, has an impressive 180 public gardens, perfect for the aspiring or expert gardener looking for ideas for their plot, as well as for those looking for a balm for their souls. It is essentially a giant garden full of individual gardens ready to be explored.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Sissinghurst Castle Garden is one of Kent's most famous public gardens and certainly the most romantic. It was created by pre WWII English writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband, historian and diarist Harold Nicolson. A member of the Bloomsbury set in the 1920s, she is as well-known for her love affair with Virginia Woolf as she is for creating this stunningly picturesque garden at Sissinghurst Castle. The garden is divided into intimate garden “rooms”, each designed in its own very unique way.
Each room has its own character and each is incredibly beautiful. It was Sackville-West's role to focus on making the flowers in each room exciting and if today's plantings are anything to go by, she certainly succeeded. Rare plants fight with pretty English garden flowers for attention, but both are stunning in their own rights and are a joy to behold.
Leeds Castle Gardens
Leeds Castle is one of the most popular Kent tourist attractions and with so much to see and do, it's the perfect day out for the whole family. Its gardens are truly spectacular and anyone visiting the Castle will be missing out if they leave without taking a stroll around its beautiful grounds. Made up of a number of separate gardens, there's an array of diverse floras waiting for you to explore aided by great signposting and information boards.
The garden that gives visitors their first view of Leeds Castle is the Cascade Garden, with its pretty Cedar Pond and cascading waterfall as well as the recently restored bridge that provides splendid views of the other side of the pond. The motte is an inspiration to anyone looking to add a water feature, pond or lake to their own property although few would be able to boast the same surroundings.
The Wood Garden comes alive in spring, with a vibrant carpet of daffodils, narcissi and anemones bursting into life. The gardens change throughout the seasons here at Leeds Castle, but whenever you choose to visit, you're unlikely to leave disappointed.
Penshurst Place Gardens
Penshurst Place gardens aren't just considered to be one of the most beautiful in England but also the oldest, with records dating as far back as 1346. The house itself is described as 'the grandest and most perfectly preserved example of a fortified manor house in all England', but while it exhibits a wonderful array of paintings and furniture dating back to the 15th century, it is Penhurst Place's magnificent walled gardens that remain the jewel in its crown. Its 11 acres of gardens are divided by hedges to form “rooms” (akin to Sissinghurst Castle Garden) and flowers are planted to give a succession of colour throughout the seasons.
Visit Penhurst during the summer months and help the kids find their way through the 'Maze made of Maize' and along its famous woodland trail before stopping to catch your breath in the the superb Garden Restaurant. Penhurst really is a wonderful day out for the whole family and a great way to keep your younger members of the family entertained as well as educated during the long summer holidays.
Once you have explored even just a handful of Kent's stunning garden paradise's, you'll fully understand why the county has retained its title as the 'Garden of England' for all these years. Each of its 180 public gardens are stunningly diverse, but all share one common trait. They all provide the perfect retreat if you're looking to escape the smoke, noise and general chaos of modern day life. If you're looking for a way of getting back to nature, there's no better than visiting the gardens of Kent.