Goodnestone Park Garden – a quintessential English country house garden in Kent.
These days snowdrops are all the rage and more and more special ‘Snowdrop Days’ are springing up each year all over the country. But it was not always thus ‘One hardly ever heard about them when I first started gardening’ Margaret, Lady FitzWalter told me earlier this month. What plant I wonder is ignored today that in fifty years hence will be all the rage?
Lady FitzWalter, the remarkable nonagenarian chatelaine of Goodnestone Park in East Kent, has over the decades created a first rate garden as well as resuscitating the woodland garden originally created by Emmy FitzWalter (the aunt of Margaret’s late husband, Brook FitzWalter) between the wars adding some 10,000 snowdrops each year. Like us here at Doddington Lady FitzWalter bulk buys snowdrops from www.camboestate.com. I know the received wisdom is that one should wait and plant snowdrops much later in the year but as Lucy Adams, our Head Gardener said ‘How would you know where to plant them once they have all died back?’. It is so easy just a quick click on the internet and hey presto hundreds if not thousands of galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’ are on their way. Don’t be deterred by the quantities as they are straightforward to dig in. The results are spectacular.
The annual ‘Snowdrop Extravaganza’ at www.goodnestoneparkgardens is eagerly awaited by gardeners in East Kent and this year’s on 22nd February attracted droves of galanthophiles (snowdrop devotees). But don’t despair if you didn’t get there as the gardens are open every Sunday until the 29th March from 12 – 4. It was Graham Gough of www.marchantshardyplants.co.uk who came up with the dashing title ‘Extravaganza’. There is a quiet charm to the woodland garden: the paths gently meander through it in a delightfully informal manner twisting and turning so that one is constantly discovering new vistas extensively planted with a wide variety of fine camellias, hellebores, hamamelis and fragrant daphnes just to name a few of the plants to be encountered.
Do take time to explore the remainder of the garden which includes a cutting edge gravel garden designed a few years ago to replace an old tennis court by Graham Gough
fine specimen trees, glorious vistas of parkland, herbaceous borders, a parterre designed by the renowned topiarist, Charlotte Molesworth and finally the justly famous walled garden.
I defy anyone stepping into the walled garden for the first time not to be bowled over by the view confronting them. Forget 18th-century eye catchers, as one looks down the length of the long walled garden which is divided into three sections by mellow hued brick walls, the eye alights on the tower of the Holy Cross church which adroitly punctuates the view. The whole ensemble is intensely romantic and picturesque and one that is deeply English in its sensibility. It is astonishing to think that this paradise was once a mere Christmas tree plot.
When Lady FitzWalter first moved to Goodnestone in 1955 the estate was in dire need of help, the house had been requisitioned by the army during the war and the garden was suffocating under a tangle of brambles and weeds. Sixty years later the garden is visited annually by thousands of people from all over the world who bask in the beautiful gardens Lady FitzWalter a consummate plantswoman has created. It is one of my favourite gardens which I never tire of visiting. And if you are a foodie, I can highly recommend the home made cakes which are delicious.