A report by Geraldine Fish on our garden visit in August to Norton Court in Teynham.
We had a perfect afternoon for our visit to Norton Court, whose garden, set in 10 acres, has been developed over the last 20 years. Approached through apple orchards, the house sits serenely in a wide expanse of lawns, with a view out across a ha-ha to pastures, and trees beyond; the view is interrupted by groups of box, clipped into low, informal shapes.
We were greeted with tea and cake in a brick paved courtyard. Four multistemmed quince trees, Cydonia oblonga ‘Meeches Prolific’, growing in huge terracotta pots were an attractive feature here. The owner, Sophia Steel, then took us in a wide arc around the house, through a recent planting of apples (the variety ‘Falstaff’ was particularly recommended); past an area set aside for topiary, then through an avenue of pleached hornbeam to a very pretty blue, white and yellow border, with very substantial standards of Rosa ‘Iceberg’, blue agapanthus, and very neat white dahlias with a yellow centres (variety unknown).
A path with well-filled borders on either side leads past a tennis court and towards a large swimming pool. Both these features have been cleverly sited so that they are not too obvious, but nevertheless each is in an idyllic setting. The pool garden includes four Magnolia grandiflora, set in flowing borders. They are less than 20 years old and growth on the deep brick clay earth has been so robust they have already had to be quite heavily top-pruned.
On leaving the garden, through a high brick wall, there is an open area for ball games. Rather than look at a long blank wall from the field, this becomes the backdrop for a rose garden. Several beds back on to the wall, with box hedging on the three remaining sides, and a nib of grass in between each bed.
The prettiest side of the house looks out on to a parterre with box hedging leading out from the house like the spokes of a wheel, with lavender in between. Beyond this the view is across spacious lawns to the magnificent historic trees – four mighty sequoia, two splendid black walnut trees (Juglans nigra), one of which is 350 years old, and a wonderful old English walnut (J. regia).
Four children have grown up in the garden, and grandchildren are now regular visitors so the garden and its many features are well used; I haven’t even told you about the serious tree houses built around the sequoias with a bridge swung between them!