Visit Kent’s Secret Gardens – Orchard House

Seating areas are key to enjoying this garden has teamed up with the National Garden Scheme to introduce you to some of the local secret gardens worth seeking out.

We are blessed with many local attractions that can inspire your gardening, but there are plenty more gardens that you’ve never even heard of. The National Garden Scheme (NGS) opens the doors to these hidden gems for just a few days each year raising millions for charity in the process. We are pleased to be working with participants in the scheme to showcase the beautiful spaces welcoming you this year.

This week we spoke to Jeanette Lerwill, a professional gardener, garden designer and nursery owner in Claygate, near Marden, Kent, whose Orchard House opens its grounds for just two days in 2018.

Along with her husband Bryn, Jeanette has spent 12 years in the garden, which at 5 acres has been no small project. This expansive space began as an old Bramley orchard, but has evolved to include an ornamental garden with herbaceous planting (designed especially with their honey bees in mind), a gravel garden, tropical garden and ornamental vegetable potager.

The garden is also home to the couple’s Wheelgate Nursery, which according to Jeanette ‘had been a dream for many years’. The nursery specialises in hardy perennials and ornamental grasses. As if that wasn’t enough, Jeanette teaches gardening to small groups at home.

Orchard House will be open Sunday 20 May and Sunday 5 August 2018. Full details about the opening, including how to get there, can be found here on the NGS Website.

The interview continues below:

Jeanette Lerwill is the gardener behind the beautiful Orchard House

What is your favourite thing about your garden?

The variety of plants I am able to grow.

What is the latest project in your garden?

The new tropical breeze house with surrounding planting.

How has your garden evolved with time?

In February 2006, the first area I created was the vegetable garden… I have been working back towards the house.

The next phase of the garden plan was to re-pave the area immediately outside the kitchen I decided to have a small gravel garden set into it to break up the expanse of paving. I love gravel, or dry gardens as they are often called.

The dry garden is a beautiful contrast to the luscious herbaceous borders

The dry garden is a beautiful contrast to the luscious herbaceous borders

Soon we were to start keeping bees so I started thinking about providing food for insects. I planned two parallel borders either side of a pathway linking the vegetable garden with the ornamental area and decided to fill them with ‘bee friendly’ plants. The idea here was to give the bees forage for a long a season as possible.

What ‘bee friendly’ plants have you chosen for your garden?

The six standard Amelanchier grandiflora formed the structure and give early forage for the bees. They feed the birds with their berries in the summer and give beautiful autumn leaf colour. The path is lined with lavender which appears to attract more bumble bees than honeybees and hides the rabbit fencing which is necessary.

Good early forage is provided by the Helleborus feotidus, followed by alliums. Rosa rugosa, Cephalaria and Gaura also appear to be very attractive to the bees during the summer season and Rudbeckia, Echinacea and Persicaria in late summer/early autumn.

Colourful planting is ideal for bees

Colourful planting is ideal for bees

What are your favourite plants and why?

A very difficult question! I’d have to say my large tropical specimens, many salvias and if I had to pick one perennial it would be Gaura lindheimeri ‘The Bride’.

What plants have made you work the hardest?

The vegetables as they are annual and need re-planting every year but worth the effort for the lovely fresh harvest we get during the summer months.

What do you enjoy the most about taking part in the National Garden Scheme?

Meeting other gardeners and talking plants and gardens.

Do you have any advice for other gardeners?

Start around the house and work your way out. Don’t be afraid to try any plant you really like the look of. Not all plants read the gardening books and survive in unexpected places!

Full details about the opening, including how to get there, can be found here on the NGS Website.

Orchard House is open with NGS two days this year

Seating areas are key to enjoying this garden

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