Sevenoaks gardener shows off his personal oasis

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells gave a professional level performance in the  ISA drama contests

Every year the National Garden Scheme introduces horticultural fans to some of the best secret gardens worth seeking out locally. Here, Jon Bond previews one of this year’s top picks – leafy 142 Crampton Road, Sevenoaks

Garden photographer Bennet Smith has created his own lush and leafy planstman’s oasis in Sevenoaks. At just 13m long by 5m wide, this very small space at 142 Cramptons Road boasts a huge variety of plants from around the world, while a central border dissects the lawn diagonally to create small intimate areas surrounded by plants.

Beginning with a lawn as a blank canvas, Bennet has made use of every inch of the space in his six years in the garden, even managing not one but two seating areas, making the most of the morning and evening sun. We asked him all about it

What is your favourite thing about your garden?

‘I am a plant enthusiast and I really love foliage! My garden is a tapestry of leaves selected for their texture, elegance, colour, size and shape, and I really enjoy combining them to create interesting partnerships. There are plants from every continent (except Antarctica), and I love the sense of enclosure. I can be outside, within a built-up area, but be totally hidden by plants.’

What is the latest project in your garden?

‘I’ve made changes to a small seating area to give it a bit more definition: It is now sunk down by a foot and edged with steel. My girlfriend, Suzanne, has also made a container with a selection of beautiful succulents and I’m really looking forward to watching that develop over the year.’

How has your garden evolved with time?

‘The garden was simply a lawn when I arrived six years ago. It’s exciting seeing the trees and shrubs slowly maturing – the ‘flamingo tree’, Toona sinensis, delicate acers, the giant lobed leaves of Tetrapanax papyrifer, and the ‘paper mulberry’, Broussonetia – all of which give the garden real volume by adding height.

‘The shed which formed an unwanted focal point at the end of the garden when I moved in has long since gone!’

What are your favourite plants and why?

‘I love airy umbellifers as they are such graceful plants and the insects seem to agree! They usually have elegant leaves, too, so they are great for a small garden. My favourite shrubs include Trochodendron aralioides – a beautiful, shapely evergreen with an open yet tidy habit – and Desmodium elegans, which has wonderful soft leaves edged with a silver line and delicate panicles of pale lilac flowers over a long period.’

Which plants have made you work the hardest?

‘It’s the other way around – the plants work hard for me! It’s a small garden so everything
has to earn its place. I want the whole garden to look good for as long as possible, so I concentrate on finding plants with interesting foliage which keep looking good throughout
the whole year.’

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

I opened the garden for the first time last year, and it was great seeing who turned up. My garden is full of my favourite plants and I really enjoyed introducing people to plants that I find irresistible, especially as they don’t pop up in too many other Kentish gardens.

Do you have any advice for other gardeners?

Visit plant fairs – Great Comp, Great Dixter, Sussex Prairies and the Plant Fairs Roadshow! They are a source of the best plant material from specialist nurseries, and the plants are much cheaper than at garden centres.

Choose plants that you like the look of, not ones that you think you ought to grow. Be bold with your space; plant big plants in small spaces – you can always prune them if they get too big. Divide the space with architectural plants so that it’s always changing and evolving through the season.

To find more information about how you can visit some of the country’s most beautiful private gardens, visit

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