David King & Matt Rock
The Gardens were originally created as a display garden for the Henry Doubleday Research Association, (now called Garden Organic). The 12.5-acre site was gifted, along with a sum of money from local organic farmers Donald and Pixie Cooper. The gardens opened to the public in 1995 and were once described as “among the most inspirational garden acres anywhere, for everyone” before finally closing in 2011.
Despite the efforts of volunteers, the gardens had fallen into disrepair and large areas were significantly overgrown. The new owners, Rod and Nicki Clark, bought the site in 2013 and have made a significant investment to restore and replant the gardens, following the original planting guidelines and with one of the original gardeners on hand to give advice to the team.
The production areas of The Gardens will help provide fresh produce for the catering team, as well as a stunning and ever changing backdrop for wedding photographs.
The Gardens are divided into 16 areas which demonstrate planting styles through different ages including a medieval garden, Tudor garden, 19th century cottage garden, Victorian Garden and an Edwardian garden originally inspired by the style of Gertrude Jekyll.
There is also an area of orchards and a large fruit garden planted with a number of varieties including apples, pears, cherries, nectarines, tayberries, blackberries, raspberries and kiwi, demonstrating Kent’s long heritage as the garden of England.
The garden’s certification as organic expired a number of years ago before Rod and Nicki bought the site and so the phrase has now been dropped from the name. The gardens will be managed as sustainably as possible, using a minimal amount of pesticide on the advice of experts, where plants and trees are really struggling with pests and disease.
The Gardens will continue to play a role in helping to educate and encourage the next generation of gardeners and horticulturists. Young people will be able to gain hands on experience in this historic and unique garden in the heart of Kent.