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Archive for the ‘Garden Features’ Category

Transforming the frontage of a Tunbridge Wells town house

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

By Tim Sykes – 10th August 2014

This front of house in one of Tunbridge Wells sought after parks has been recently transformed by Gardenproud. The solution included reconfiguring the entrance, some new outer and inner brick walls, a new stone driveway, painted benches, raised beds and some beautiful topiary.

The new frontage allows the occupants to park up to six cars, whilst still maintaining nice planted borders, so an attractive welcome to the house.

Key to the design was reconfiguring the property entrance from the side to centre.

This allows cars to enter and park on either side without vehicles blocking entrance and exits. Moving the entrance to the centre has also aligned this to the front door of the house, helping create a more dramatic impression of the house.

The portico of the house used to sit on a small concrete curved stone base, this was removed and replaced by a much wider Yorkstone paved area. This helps give the front door more gravitas.

The curved dwarf wall borders follow a similar pattern to the external walls which feature sandstone keystones. “This was a feature of the original walls which we liked and wanted to retain”, comments Tim Sykes from Gardenproud.

The original engraved facing stone has been cleaned up and re-fitted to the new gate piers. As have the finials and capitals from the old gate openings.

The old conifer that used to sit in front of the house became a casualty of the scheme ( a matching conifer that sat on the opposite side of the house came down in the great storm of 1987 smashing into the house). The two trees have been replaced by four new ones, two beautiful liquidambar styraciflua. And two prunus nigras.

Two Luytens benches were cleaned up and painted the same colour as the house, then planned into the landscaping that would ultimately sit either side of the portico.

Topiary borders are a feature of the above landscaping. These include large box balls and cones that have been planted into raised platforms, designed so that the platforms ultimately disappear into the hedging so that it looks like the spheres and cones rise up out of the border hedges. The latest photographs and light trim of the buxus show that the idea is already starting to take effect.

For further information about driveways, transforming the front of your house, and garden design contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820

Les Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac

Friday, August 1st, 2014

By Tim Sykes - 23/7/14

After a lot of research and compromise. Having visited Villandry at the start of our vacation, I was limited to one other garden visit! To my fortune we struck upon The Gardens at Eyrignac, just NE of Sarlat.

On the face of it not that far from where we were staying at a lovely house in Bergerac. So yesterday Sarah(my wife) and I set off for the day, leaving our boys to look after the ranch and enjoy the poolside inactivity.

Our journey to Eyrignac took us along the banks of the Dordogne, through the pretty village of Lalinde, past Tremolat, the hilltop village of St Cyprien, and onto the wonders of the cliff face settlement of Beynac, before heading north toward Sarlat.

Sarlat is a beautiful town which is very much at the centre of the holiday trade in the Dordogne, there’s money here! You can see it in the shops, the profusion of smart restaurants, the freshly painted facades, and the car parking spaces – full of Audi’s, BMW’s and the odd Maserati ( anybody willing to donate to me a matt black Gran Turisimo S and I’ll be your friend for life )!

From Sarlat we took the D704, then the D60 towards Salignac- Eyvigues. The turning to Eyrignac is on your right just before you get to Salignac.

Eyrignac is one of France’s most beautiful private gardens, and contains some fine topairy. It is owned by the Sermadris family, who have nurtured the house and gardens over some 22 generations.

A team of six gardeners maintain close to 10 acres of gardens. Key to the gardens success and unification is the strict rule that limits the number of main species in the gardens, to 10 varieties. The topiary features hornbeam, yew, Mediterranean cypress, apple trees, box, and mulberry trees.

One of the most amazing vistas is the avenue of shaped hornbeam and cylindrical yew topiary that directs you down a corridor towards the house.

The hornbeams provide a nice contrast to the dark and dense structure of the yew columns, a lighter green during the summer, and brown leaf during the winter. They look like beech, but the leaves are smaller, and so give a denser hedge.

Behind the hornbeam alley are two other interesting features. The first is the swimming pool. You’d feel like a greek goddess stepping into this deep blue pool.

With it’s Perigord style building alongside.

The second is the wide avenue that runs behind the pool and pavilion. It features some topiary of a grand scale, juxtaposed with large conifers (potentially a hangover from the garden’s previous English Parkland era) .

At one end of this avenue is a hornbeam rotunda. This has carefully cut windows framing beautiful vistas of the surrounding countryside.

At the opposite end of the avenue is the last surviving reminder of the English romantic period which influenced the gardens in the 19th century. The Neogothic English Arches.

With the dappled sandy surfaces of the courtyard entrance beyond..

These gardens are just idyllic! The Sermadris family have had a vision and they have just stuck with it.

Our travels took us to the Cuttings Garden, the Potager Garden, The Topiary Farmyard, The Meadow and finally the White Garden.

The Potager Garden was contained within a fenced and neatly pathed area…

The Topiary Farmyard is where the latest shapes are formed to replenish the gardens stock.

In contrast to the formality of the gardens the Meadow Area is a breath of fresh air!

Finally the White Garden

This recent feature combines geometric shapes of fine topiary, with water features and white perennial planting.

So what more can one say? This is a superb garden and one we shall re-visit.

The Shop? I managed to find the summer hat I’d been looking for ages, plus a very nice book about Eyrignac.

The only let down was the restaurant, after a long drive we were looking for a nice watering hole, alas only a posh ice cream to greet us. This could be something Eyrignac might address.

Otherwise it was a fantastic experience.

For further information contact Manoir d’Eyrignac direct at or  Tim Sykes of Gardenproud at 07725 173820, or at

The Gardens of Villandry

Monday, July 28th, 2014

By Tim Sykes – 28/7/14

Whenever the name Villandry is mentioned it conjures up hazy memories of long boozy lunches during my advertising heydays! A restauranteur rather cleverly created an excellent restaurant, come wine shop, come bar, come specialist food store in Great Portland Street. I’m pleased to say it’s still thriving today, some 15 years after my last lunch! Do pop in if you are passing that way. The food I’m sure is still very tasty, and the wine list even better.

Somewhere equally appealing are the Gardens of Villandry, situated just 15 kilometres west of Tours, France.

I recently persuaded my wife and teenage son to call in on them enroute to the Dordogne. “Yes, OK”, was the response.”But, you are only allowed exactly one hour!” This may seem rather stingy on their part, but believe me these things take some negotiating!

My main interest were the potager, or kitchen gardens, as I’m currently involved in designing a scheme for one of my key clients. So this focus helped whittle down the tour.

We arrived at Villandry at 10am and it was already blisteringly hot. We paid for ‘Jardin’ at the entrance (€6 Adults, and €4.50 Youths). The Chateau looked equally enticing, but not this time!

Villandry is reputedly the last of the great Renaissance chateaux of the Loire to be built, in 1536. It was not a royal palace, but instead the seat of a royal minister, Jean Le Breton. Despite being a Finance Minister, Jean’s architectural expertise was incredible, and he was noted for his works, including the creation of Chambord, which he oversaw before he built Villandry.

As part of the scheme Jean conceived of a garden landscape that would blend the chateau into the surrounding Loire countryside.

The Chateau and grounds remained in the Le Breton family until 1754, when Villandry became the property of The Marquis de Castellane. He was the king’s ambassador, and he brought the castle up to date with modern 18th century standards of comfort and design.

In 1907 Villandry was purchased by a Spaniard, Joachim Carvallo. Carvallo and his American wife were scientists. The house and gardens had fallen into disrepair, so Carvallo set upon a complete programme of renovation. The Chateau was transformed, but it was the gardens that most of his energies and imagination went into.

These are vast, and truly magnificent.

Laid out over 5 hectares. Today they are looked after by a full-time team of nine gardeners.

Given the size and complexity of the gardens, careful planning and a rigorous timetable are required. This all sounds very familiar!

There are 7 distinct areas of the garden:

1. The Ornamental Garden

Stretches behind the Chateau, and features some incredible topairy depicting different takes on the theme of love. Unifying these gardens is the use of box hedging borders set to a Moorish theme, and sixty yew trees, all carefully shaped to a standard size and design ( I have the specification)!

Whilst we were visiting, we were treated to the gardening team out in force tweaking these designs.

Inside each shape are flowers. These are all planted in blocks of colour to enhance the dramatic pattern of this area. My guess is that this part of the garden was also used for cuttings, so at different times of the year plentiful supplies of fresh flowers were available to the household. Something to remember for a cuttings section to my own designs.

At the end of my ‘hour’ , I visited the garden shop and have purchased topairy ball guides, so will experiment as soon as we get home! I also managed to pick up a selection of seeds from the ornamental garden area, including Coquelicot ‘Rouge a Coeur Noir’.

2. The Woods

If you have the time, and the inclination to climb up into the adjoining woods you can gain some stunning views of the Chateau and Gardens. Also situated up there are the greenhouses.

3. The Water Garden

An ingenious watering system for the entire gardens eminates from a large ornamental pond on the upper terrace. This is shaped in the form of a Louis XV mirror. From this water cascades down a staircase of waterfalls into a moat which then distributes water into the planting areas below.

4. The Sun Garden

This is the most recent of the gardens, set on a plateau above the Water Garden. It features a series of herbaceous beds, set out in a formal pattern, but planted with varieties and allowed to grow in a more informal fashion.

Whilst we were visiting we bumped upon an artist recording the beauty of the gardens in oils. With his Van Gogh hat he seemed to be enjoying the mid morning sun.

Another artist who has recently had their sculptures added to this area of the garden is Marine d’Harcourt.

5. The Maze

Is planted with closely cropped hornbeam hedges. The correct pathway leads to a lookout post in the centre from where you can work out your safe retreat.
Probably easy to get out of in the winter!

6. The Herb Garden

Adjoining the Maze is the long, corridor like herb garden. This is the traditional garden of the Middle Ages full of aromatic, cooking and medicinal herbs.

7. The Kitchen, or Potager Garden

This is what we were here to see. And wow! What a display. I counted 9 areas, featuring different geometric patterns, set in a series of squares, all in one huge quadrant, with wide gravel avenues between them.

The designs depict Medieval crosses, all different. The structure of the potager gardens is created by using low closely cropped box hedging, that is in a constant process of clipping and replacement. Planted amongst these in symmetry are standard roses. These reputedly symbolise the monks who in Middle Ages would dig their squares.

Within the box borders a combination of flowers and vegetables are planted in concentrated bands of alternating colours, which together help create the magnificent vistas you can achieve by looking across the Potager Gardens.

To this day the Carvallo family are actively involved with the gardening team in the design and maintenance of this section. In the garden I could see bands of Chard, ornamental cabbages, beet root, tomatoes and pumpkins.

Time nearly up and a quick detour to the Garden Shop. This took 10 minutes, an all time record! Then out we rushed to the cafe to pick up a much needed diet cola.

One hour exactly. But what an hour!

You can see more about Villandry at

For further information please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or at

Eridge Horse Trials 2014

Monday, July 7th, 2014

A couple of weeks ago we trialled a little experiment.

Can we make a show garden in 2 days?

The Eridge Horse trials was beckoning. This has in the past been an international event attracting intermediate riders across a 3 part course including dressage, show jumping and cross country.

For further information about events see  South Eastern Equestrian Services at

The Event is set in the delightful grounds of the Eridge Estate, owned by the Marquess of Abergavenny.

The horse riding fraternity are of key interest to us, as are the residents of Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding countryside, so what better way than create a lovely garden for all the visitors to the show to enjoy!

A very generous Tim Nolan, who incidentally organises the Trials with his mum, helped give us a big enough space and prominent enough position, to put us in front of our audience.

Thanks Tim!

So the test was on. A design was needed. Equipment, materials and plants were required. A design in hand and a couple of conversations later, and Tate Fencing and The Flower Pot Nursery, both based in Tunbridge Wells were on-board.

A BIG thank you to both of you!

The concept looked like this….

Essentially the show garden/stand revolved around a centre-piece – a nice (quintessentially English) open marquee, bordered by matching trellis panels and cottage garden borders. As a real crowd puller two giant terracotta pots contained two beautiful Ilex Crenata’s.

The Planting Plan included:

- A palette of Purples, Blues, Whites, Pinks and Lilacs

- Plants including……


Verbena Bonariensis


Hydrangea Macrophylla

Echinacea Southern Belle

Lava Terra Barnsley

Lavender Augustifolia Edelweiss

Delphinium Highlander

Veronica First Glory

Veronica Fascination

Veronica Spicata

Achilliea Millefolium

Ceanothus Burkwoodii

Persicaria Superbum


Thalictrum Delavayi Splendide

Geranium Orion


Stachys Lanata Byzantia

Campanula Lectiflora

Cistus Dansereaui

Salvia Amistad

Salvia Caradonna

Salvia Patens

Nepeta x Faassenii

Stokesia Laevis

With the plans under our arms we started to gather all the materials then set upon setting up the stand on the Thursday before the Show. We had 2 days to turn this into a reality……

We hope you like the finished result.

The whole experience was inexpensive, thoroughly enjoyable and created a surprisingly healthy list of enquiries, including cementing some good relationships with trusted suppliers.

So we’ll do it again!

For further information about our design, build and garden maintenance services contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or at Gardenproud.

A real treat at Chelsea!

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

By Tim Sykes of  Gardenproud,

We set off to the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show today with great expectation! Our journey took us via M&S at Charing Cross, where we picked up some delicious sandwiches, then onto the District Line to Sloane Square.

On our list of must sees were:

- The Extending Space

By Norman Fischer & Daniel Auderset

The idea of creating the illusion of a larger space by careful planting is one thing, but the use of architecture in a garden to elongate perspectives is brilliant. This garden gets my vote. It is executed brilliantly. There are parallels with a recent project we designed and I can see their ideas inspiring gardens for us. The very wide span of the feature arch is awe inspiring. Please tell me how you did it?

- The Telegraph Garden

12 roof trained lime trees provide a beautiful canopy for this garden. A mix of formal planting among herbaceous borders are carefully placed around a rectangular lawn. The whole concept is reminiscent of many Italian gardens we have visited.

All very well executed. Not surprisingly this took home a Gold.

- The Laurent-Perrier Garden

Designed by Luciano Giubbilei, this stunner won Best in Show. And it’s well deserved.

The judges liked the way it played with texture, light and form, with a cool contemplative design.
The planting features delicate forms alongside stronger, bolder leaves, stone surfaces, and reflection patterns in the water features.

Nice surprises included:

- The Barron Knights

This spectacle dominated our lunch break when we sat back and enjoyed our M&S sandwiches, washed down by a rather expensive (but very refreshing) two glasses of Champagne Laurent-Perrier. The Barron Knights were slightly more mature than yours truly, but close your eyes and the sound is amazing! A really good move by the RHS to get them on the bill. They played ( and we sang along) to all the old favourites, plus one or two BBC banned tunes, including a rather amusing one about David Bowie! They’ve got a new album out too, you can see more about it at

- The Topiarist Garden at West Green House

This garden is designed by Marylyn Abbott. You can see it in the Artisan Gardens. You Must see it! Marylyn is one of my all time favourites, and her book “Gardens of Plenty” which talks about the art of the potager garden is an all time great. It is my favourite garden at the Show and embodies an eclectic mix of fantastical topiary among lovely perennials. I want it!

- David Harbour

David Harbour’s sculptures continue to be incredible. If you’ve got a big landscape and large pockets then call me first, then look at David Harbour.

His larger than life mirrored spheres and painstakingly produced stone sculptures are a real spectacle.

But be prepared to invest over £20k for something of real scale. See more at

- Paul Vanstone
If you are in the market for something out of the ordinary, then visit Paul’s stand. You’d probably need to have deep pockets too! Paul and his team are brilliant sculptors. But brilliance comes at a price.
They work in stone and create large torsos that will look the business in your formal, or informal garden setting.

I was amazed by their polished pair of faces, called the “Kissing Profiles” which stood some 3m high in Italian Carrara Marble.

Pop them into a meadow and wow what a focal point.

See Paul’s portfolio at

- Outdoor Living

Al fresco living is the name of the game. Fire pits, barbecues, weatherproof loungers, swish terraces and bi-fold doors seamlessly leading from dining rooms and kitchens onto outside spaces.

What if it rains?

Well these Outdoor Living people have thought about this.

They have designed a smart modular system that looks stunning. One minute it can look like a contemporary pergola, open to the sun and fresh air. The next at the touch of a remote, smart shutters close up above you and hey presto you are protected from the elements.

See more about these clever people at

- Hope on the Horizon

Designed by Matt Keightley this garden is a contemporary space that represents the journey of injured servicemen and women through to rehabilitation. So it’s got a strong theme that Matt has expertly executed in both the hard and soft landscaping. All the more impressive when you consider that at 29 this is Matt’s first attempt at a Chelsea  show garden and he take’s home a Silver Gilt Medal!

Other focal points:

It was a great day out. Lots of inspiring thoughts to take into our thinking. Okish weather, and very pleasant company.

For more information about The Chelsea Flower Show, or to discuss your design requirements for your garden please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or email him at

Magnificent! I don’t need to go to Chelsea now!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

What a lovely thought!

But that was our dear client’s reaction was when she returned from holiday recently.

She found her Tunbridge Wells town garden transformed from the grass bank it was, to the contemporary space that she can now enjoy with her friends and family.

The new garden was designed by Tim Sykes from Gardenproud. A modern and tranquil space with interesting features and terraced planting, plus entertaining and relaxing areas designed to mask the natural topography, and create the illusion of a much larger garden than the town location affords.

“The basic design concept uses a series of offset rectangles, that both interact and interrupt each other, plus are layered. This helps create different points of focus and different compartments within the garden, ” comments Tim.

Even the rather swish terraced pond reflects the concept.

So does the bespoke pergola that now frames the pastel blue painted Lutyens bench.

First things first, the terrace was enlarged, so that it now accommodates a large table and chairs for at least 8 people in two possible locations.

Cedar strip panelling was used to help accentuate features and create vertical blocks.

The grassed area features two offset oblongs that leads the eye round to an interesting mirror.

This feature reflects the terraced planted up platforms on the opposite side of the garden.

Here is planted what will become a grouping of buxus balls that will eventually merge to form a cloud formation.

“The terraced pond was a labour of love!” states Sykes. “We wanted to create a slate clad vision that contrasted with the adjoining cedar and oak materials. But slate was potentially a problem from a frost perspective, so we eventually went down a route that used  slate coloured and textured porcelain tiles. A lot of research later and we found the perfect finish. Thank goodness!”

A textured slate strip forms the basis of the outer walls, and a riven traditional slate tile is used as the copings.

The whole garden, including the workings of the pond, all run off a clever wireless remote control system that has become the hallmark of Gardenproud gardens. “These days it’s important to be able to use the outdoor space in the evenings as well. So we try wherever possible to incorporate lighting with schemes and create zones that can be illuminated in isolation, as well as fountains and other water features that can be remotely controlled. It can all contribute to some quite dramatic results, and reasonably green too as they employ LED low wattage fittings, or bulbs. “

The planting plan also played a major role in this garden. A colour palette featuring blue, lilac, purple, white and of course various hues of green was featured throughout. Gigantic lilac alliums helped create a linking theme between different areas, bamboo columns form the basis of what will become the rear wall of the garden, a salix half standard tree links with planting of euonymous, salvias are repeated in different places in contrasting colours. Miscanthus sinesis flamingo sits among giant verbena bonariensis. Beautiful white agapanthus frame the black steel obelisk that tops the upper terraces. And behind this a wall of white jasmine will adorn the trellis background.

Two beautiful wisteria will eventually trail over the contemporary pergola. A border of lavender softens the link of the pond with the lower terrace.

Anyway, whilst our client may not feel she needs fresh inspiration from our Chelsea peers, I always do!

So I’m looking forward to my trip tomorrow to London to the Chelsea Flower Show 2014.

I’ll see what I can pick up and incorporate in our thinking for 2015!

For further information about Garden Design contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820, or via email

A Spring time visit to Nymans, West Sussex

Monday, May 5th, 2014

By Tim Sykes

Nymans house and gardens is on the ‘must see’ list of many a horticulturalist.

It incorporates a beautiful house and ruins into a romantic woodland setting.

Only 45 minutes drive from Tunbridge Wells, travel via East Grinstead and Turners Hill.

Nymans was the family home of the Messels who bought this West Sussex Wealden retreat in the late 1800′s. Inspired by the woodland surroundings Ludwig Messel set upon creating a garden with plants and specimen trees collected from around the world.

On our list of favourites were:

- a handkerchief tree from China

- a magnolia tree from Japan

- the beautiful wisteria pergola

- a handsome water feature at the centre of the walled garden

- the pieris japonica bordering in the rear rock gardens

- the many beautiful Rhododendron and Azalea specimens that surround the gardens

- the castellated yew topairy surrounding the house

Wherever you looked there were some beautiful vistas:

There was an excellent nursery at Nymans. Among our purchases were:

- beautiful Nectaroscordium Siculum’s - a bulbous perennial with attractive bell shaped pink and green flower heads on long stems of c 1.2m
- Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ – a hardy perennial that grows in clumps, with deep lavender blue flower heads that bloom throughout summer
- Hosta Francee - brilliant white edged leaves are the hallmark of this Hosta which pale lavender flowers appear mid to late summer
- Veronica Ulster Blue Dwarf - a compact hardy perennial with deep purple/blue tall conical flower heads

We visited early May, but we could see from the herbaceous borders that there was a lot of colour yet to spring forth, so late May early June could be a good time to see the garden in all it’s glory.

It was a very enjoyable day out and we can recommend a visit. We plan to go back soon and walk around the house.

If you are a National Trust member then you get in free. Otherwise entrance fees are £10.50 adults and £5.50 children. Don’t take your dog. We suggest you visit early (opens at 10am) as the car park is restricted, then leave by lunchtime ( the restaurant didn’t look brilliant)  and find a good local pub.

On your return trip, pop into Pots and Pithoi at Turners Hill for some real Cretan pots and further inspiration! See more at

For further information about Nymans go to

Or, contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820

Great Dixter!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

By Tim Sykes

And Great it truly is!

Great Dixter is known the world over as a place of pilgrimage for horticulturalists.

It was the family home of Christopher Lloyd, journalist and world re-knowned gardener himself, who worked so hard to make it the magnet it is today.

His parents Nathaniel and Daisy Lloyd bought the property in 1910, from Sarah Springett.

At the time the house was a shadow of its current granduer. Nathaniel had a vision for it and he hired the great architect of his time, Edwin Lutyens and his team to transform the building. Quite how he pulled this off is a mystery, as the young Lutyens was in great demand. Although closer inspection of the actual transformation experience would suggest that Lutyens colleagues may have been more responsible for the successful completion than he himself. This included dismantling and transporting another house from Benenden to Northiam, where Great Dixter is situated, and bringing the two together.

As was so often the case with architects of this period, Lutyens went onto design the gardens of Great Dixter. Not surprisingly, Lutyens contribution was fairly formal.

Much of this structure still exists today, albeit this is augmented with Christopher Lloyd’s and his mother Daisy’s own influence, which marries the formality with informality.

Christopher Lloyd being particularly well known for his work with the creation of wild meadows.

One of the great characteristics of the gardens are that they surround the house, so as the visitor you get an excellent view of the house as you journey around each room in the garden….

From the Meadow Areas, to the Mixed Borders, to The Walled Garden with its pebble mosaic, The Sunken Garden, The Long Border, and finally The Exotic Garden, there is a huge wealth of colour and mixing of species that is very Christopher Lloyd and a real feast for the eyes!

Our visit was in April 2014 and we’ll be back.

A must see is the Nursery and Shop. The Nursery is one of the best of it’s type and is championed by a brilliant horticulturalist you will find in the Nursery Shop. We bought loads of plants, so leave some boot space for this! The Shop has all manner of interesting gifts, but the star items are the re-furbed garden tools. I bought a fabulous pair of topairy shears for just £25.

I also bought……

- An ornamental rhubarb – Rheum Palmatum Atrosanguineum.

- Camassia Leichtlinii Caerulea – for its lilac blue flowerheads

- Geranium Maderense – for it’s Spring flowering Magenta Pink Flowers

- Achillea Millefolium Red Velvet – you pop this in a full sun position in moist well drained soil

Great Dixter is based at Northiam, near Rye. So if you are staying at The Mermaid, it’s a must visit.

For further information see

Or call 01797 254044, or go to Great Dixter, Northiam, Rye, East Sussex TN31 6PH

If you are visiting Chapel Down Vineyards, go to Great Dixter first, then call into Chapel Down and book a taxi home. On this occasion we ended up at The George in Robertsbridge.

This is a fine Coaching Inn, run by John and Jane Turner.  See more at or call Jane at 01580 880315. The food is excellent, there is a very fine Argentinian Malbec on the wine list, and you have to leave room for the deserts as they are just brilliant!

For more information about Great Dixter call Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820.

Visit Sissinghurst Castle Gardens this April

Monday, March 17th, 2014

By Tim Sykes

It was interesting to watch on BBC’s Countryfile recently the feature about Vita Sackville-West and her upbringing at Knole. As the daughter she unfortunately didn’t inherit Knole but with her husband Harold in the 1930′s she went onto buy Sissinghurst Castle and began a transformation of the gardens. Harold mainly planned the garden structure, whilst Vita turned her attention to the planting schemes.

Today the house and grounds are looked after by The National Trust. It’s only a short drive (half an hour) from Tunbridge Wells, along the Biddenden Road, near Cranbrook.

The gardens are open from 11am – 5.30pm. The Castle and Grounds are surrounded by a working farm, ancient woodlands and parkland of c 450 acres. The house dates back to the Middle Ages. It was bought by Sir John Baker ( one of Henry V111′s Privy Councillors) in 1530, when it was greatly enlarged by him and his son.

The Castle and Gardens are well worth a visit and during April are bursting with colour.

A brilliant vantage point is to climb the Tower and see the structure and beauty of the garden, then plan your tour accordingly. You will see from the Tower that the garden is split up into a whole series of rooms, all with their own unique planting schemes.

The Lime Walk is among my favourites, but you must spend time in The White Garden. The White Garden was originally planted as a rose garden in 1931, but later altered in 1950. Vita referred to it as her grey, green and white garden. There is no escaping the brilliance of her focus, and the end result is a captivating space, that’s very romantic.

For a good lunch, nearby Biddenden is a picturesque Kentish Village with pleasant pubs. Alternatively stop off at Goudhurst on route. I’m reliably informed that The Vine, Goudhurst has just undergone a restoration and offers excellent fare. I must treat myself to a visit!

You can see more about Sissinghurst Castle and Grounds at

Further details about The Vine at Goudhurst can be found at

For further information about Gardenproud please contact Tim Sykes, on 07725 173820,  or via email at

It’s March and the garden beckons

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
After one of the wettest winter periods on record we all look forward to March with a little prayer that the weather might improve for us gardeners.
At the time of writing Sarah and I have just returned from a very pleasant walk with Basil our dog, around the grounds of Burrswood, Groombridge. It was heartening to see that the daffs were starting to appear and the snowdrops were out, so maybe Spring is not that far away! Visit the Crown on the Green. You will be welcomed by a very friendly landlord, and if you are lucky the dog will get a treat!

Before we journey outside, I wanted to share with you some photographs of Amaryllis that have been appearing on our Gardenproud Facebook page. We gave a number of our friends Amaryllis bulbs for Christmas and pictures have been flooding in of their progress, so we have posted some of these on our Facebook page. Interest in the progress has come from a number of people, including would you believe Judi Cohen from New Jersey, USA – the wonders of social media! Judy sent us some amazing photographs of her Amaryllis. Her secret to creating wonderful flower heads is to restrict the soil content of the pot. I put the bulb in very little soil, forcing the action away from the roots and into the bloom.” So a tip to remember for 2015.

March is always a good time to be attacking the moss on your lawns, and boy have I seen a lot moss around the gardens of Tunbridge Wells recently! So a good scarifying, followed by a feed could help give the lawn a bit of a lift before the growing season gets a hold. If the lawn is particularly bad you may need to aerate the surface and give it a top dressing and over seeding. Watch the temperature though, because your seeds won’t germinate in cold weather.
Cotswold Grass seeds who are one of the leading suppliers recommend “Soil temperatures needs to be in excess of 4°C, usually late February in Southern UK, two weeks days later in the North. The optimum soil temperature for seeds to start chitting is 7-10°C which is usually reached by mid – late March across the UK.”
One of the things you are going to have to watch (as soon as the temperature rises) is weeds. Last year we had quite a wet start to the year and the weeds grew like mad. So given this years dose of rain you’ll need to get on top of the bed maintenance pdq.
Here a few additional thoughts on March from our friends at RHS:
1. Remove dead foliage, weed and top dress pots and containers with fresh compost
2. Protect new spring shoots from slugs
3. Divide overgrown clumps of perennials
4. Start mowing the lawn, as the weather becomes drier
If you have a vegetable garden then now’s the time to plant out your shallots, onion sets and early potatoes. When the ground is suitable you can plant new fruits, including raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries and blackcurrants ( lots of fruit plants like a free draining, acidic soil, so it maybe sensible to check the pH levels and then mix in horticultural grit, with a good ericaceous compost).
If you haven’t done it already remember to prune your apple and pear trees before the first leaves start to break.
Whilst things will be hotting up in the garden, March is also a great time to be tweaking the beds for your summer borders. Think about the effect you want to achieve, the relative heights of plants, or bulbs once they are established, then look at the borders and decide which of your existing plants you want to keep. It’s also a good idea to have a colour palette in mind. The trend is towards more focused palettes, which I like. So you might mix lilacs, violets, blues, creams and whites, but avoid yellows, pinks and oranges. You’ll be able to select your summer flowering bulbs from the local nurseries.
All of the local ones have a great choice, but you can also find an excellent selection on the J.Parker’s website If you prefer a catalogue, then call them on, 0161 848 1124

Finally, another date for all your diaries! Don’t miss the Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor this year! It starts on April 23rd. Entrance is £10 and the festival runs until 5th May. This year will mark their 20th Anniversary, so I’m sure the displays will be stunning. Don’t miss the restaurant, so time your visit around lunchtime!
I hope you enjoy your garden this March.
For further information please contact Tim Sykes, at Gardenproud 07725 173820, or at