Penshurst Place, Kent – a garden I really wished to have found 20 years earlier. Now a firm favourite. A look back to 2017.

A look back to my first visit to this remarkable series of gardens within the walled confines of Penshurst Place, near Tonbridge in Kent. A garden I really wished to have been exploring for the past 20 odd years as I found it quite remarkable. I can see in my original post that I didn’t add much text to accompany the gallery of photographs and really this is remiss. A few links are necessary and an outline of the quite distinct gardens that have been created within the substantial walled outline of this Kent manor house. So:-

Penshurst Place has been home to the Sidney family since 1552 making it one of the oldest family-owned estates in England.

Surrounded by 11 acres of walled formal gardens and housing one of the few surviving medieval Baronial Halls in England, Penshurst Place is an historical gem in the Weald of Kent countryside. The stately home and gardens were once used as a hunting lodge for King Henry VIII, and now feature beautiful staterooms and grounds that are frequently showcased in popular TV and film productions.

Among the staterooms visitors to this historic family home will find The Solar, Queen Elizabeth Room and Long Gallery, which contain a collection of family portraits from across the centuries, antique furniture and skilfully crafted tapestries. Outside, visitors can enjoy a stroll through the 11 acres of formal walled Gardens, discovering hidden corners brimming with fruit trees, an abundance of tulips, roses, colourful borders and water features.

  • A very pared-back garden with central pool in front of the house, the South Lawn – grass parterres and box-edged infills with views over the surrounding parkland
  • Several distinct herbaceous borders backed by stone walls and miles of Yew hedging – a blue and yellow border, the Lanning Roper borders, a grey and white garden, a Jubilee walk.
  • The formal Rose Garden, with roses elsewhere on rustic pergolas seen from grass-mown paths – pure romance.
  • An Italian Garden and a smaller Paved Garden
  • A substantial Orchard and another, the Nut Garden
  • Diana’s Bath – a large pool with medieval origins
  • The remarkable 100m long peony border set off with Lilacs to one side and Berberis to the other
  • The sunken Magnolia garden, tightly bound again by Yew with narrow entrance giving way to an inverted space allowing you to look down through the branches and in season, into the crown of blossom
  • The Union Flag Garden which with imaginative bedding, does just that, in red white and blue, for the summer months
  • The Tudor-themed Heraldic Garden
  • The House itself, with a tall, tall tower matched in height by a slender Gingko tree. Marvellous.

Each garden is essentially a room unto itself, and some of the gardens are very different to the others, but there is a delight in moving from one space to another, with views into and beyond the cultivated gardens and into the parkland and countryside beyond. It has a cohesion rather than being a horticultural theme park.

I’ve seen it since, later in the season when the Peony border was definitely on the way to being in full spate (search for the story within these pages) – and would love to see it in High Summer and again as Autumn follows, with promise of exceptional autumn colour.

It’s a private house and garden, not affiliated to English Heritage or the National Trust. I think you may find some 2:1 entry terms through Gardeners’ World, though not of course any time soon. There is a playground for children, a picnic area and a visitor’s shop, and some food available in the cafe.

I hope it pique’s your interest and you might add it to your bucket list of gardens in the months after Lockdown.


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