Group visit to Falconhurst garden, Markbeech 22/06/21
A series of photos by Bob Dyer

The house viewed from the lower terrace area. The prominent position overlooking the Weald gives the house and garden a huge wow factor
The owner of the property, Nicola Talbot (centre), photographed here with two of her lady gardeners, made us all most welcome to her beautiful property

Pond building update from Annie Francis-Fisher 20/06/21:
(Check out the short video below the 2 photos)

I started building a garden pond back in November last year with help from fellow member Bob Dyer. Unfortunately a combination of lock-downs, bad weather and other commitments forced us to delay finishing it. A report on the start of the project can be found near the bottom of this page.
After clearing the site of plants, fencing and numerous bag loads of slate chippings, we marked out the pond outline with a hose. It looked absolutely huge at 6 metres long x 3 metres wide and I had serious doubts that it was going to be too big. How wrong I was! It’s amazing how much smaller it looks now that it’s all planted up. 
Digging it out wasn’t easy as we hit huge rocks, lumps of concrete, bricks and all sorts, but Bob’s son Jon came to our rescue and we never looked back after that! There was a lot to dig as parts of the pond are 3ft 6ins deep to prevent freezing even in the coldest of winters and we also fashioned some shelves for marginal plants to sit on. We used all the excavated earth to build up a huge pile at the back for the waterfall, leaving it to settle for a couple of months over the worst of the winter. 
At last the day came to fit the liner. We lined the hole with an old carpet my son gave me to protect the liner from any jagged stones we might have left. Once fitted, we smoothed it out round the edges as much as possible before filling it with water.
We used ragstone – a ton bought from Gallagher’s quarry in Hermitage Lane – plus a lot I that already had, and various old tree stumps to edge the pond and cover the liner as much as possible. I’ve planted a lot of aquatic maginal plants round the edge to soften the look and create hiding places for all the wildlife. 
We used the rest of the rocks to create the waterfall, which seemed to take forever to get right. I knew the look I wanted and I wanted to hear the water cascading down into the pond. Eventually, after a lot of time and effort, we got it right and I absolutely love it now!
I’ve spent months planting up the whole area and all around the waterfall to make it look natural. We bought 30 sticklebacks and 6 golden rudd from a fish farm in Hadlow, which have since had babies, much to my grandchildren’s delight, as they create a lot of interest.
It’s a project which will keep evolving, and I’ll have to change plants according to the seasons but all in all it’s finished and I’m thrilled with the result.

Annie Francis-Fisher 20/06/21

The finished pond!

Some June garden photos by Bob Dyer

The garden at dusk

Platt Garden Update – 11th May 2021
By Bob Dyer

Some of our committee members visited Platt Garden, near Sevenoaks on 11/05/21 to spruce up the flower bed at the front of the building.
Since the last visit in 2020 (see previous entry near the bottom of this Blog page) a new school is in the latter stages of construction, adjacent to the garden.
The cold, dry Spring had taken its toll on the plants, but signs of new growth were beginning to show.
We removed several bags full of weeds and dead growth from last year’s perennials, leaving the site a lot tidier than when we started.

Members of the committee, including Rob Lines, Ali Crayford, and Bob Dyer

Borde Hill – Plant Fairs Roadshow – 18th April 2021
By Fiona Chapman

The sun was shining, Spring was in the air, and the excitement was palpable – from both the nurseries & the plant hunters.  The first Plant Fairs Roadshow of 2021 was about to open its gates (Hole Park in February having been cancelled due to Coronavirus restrictions).  It was also the first plant fair for many of us in a very long time.  In fact, one lady told of being so excited to attend her first event after lockdown, that she arose at 2.30am. that morning & had to go wandering round her garden until it was time to leave for the Fair!

Extremely well organised & set in the delightful grounds of Borde Hill Gardens, Haywards Heath, 17 small, high-quality nurseries were in attendance, all utterly passionate & extremely knowledgeable about their plants.  The fact that the entrance was by a time-allocated ticketing system allowed a steady flow of customers, who were able to chat with the stallholders in a much more leisurely way than the usual mass arrival as the gates open.

So many wonderful plants to choose from as well: Colin Moat of Pineview Plants had a really lovely selection of epimediums & pretty anemone nemerosa, Paul Seaborne at Pelham Plants a gorgeous new hybrid of Ranunculus called ‘Rococco Pink’ which creates large dramatic flowers.  Also, there were a variety of pretty pelargoniums, including Radula Roseum.  Tim Ingram of Copton Ash always has unusual plants – the Trillium Kurabayasii from California was looking particularly spectacular and Rachael Castle of Swallowfields Nursery’s Anemone Pavovina was looking really good too, as were the Pulsatillas at Rosy Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants stand.

There were plenty of tempting shrubs & clematis to choose from; I found myself coming home with 3 clematis from Marcus Dancer Plants for a new pergola, a gorgeous Amsonia tabernaemontana variety called ‘Storm Cloud’, with near-black coloured stems topped with stunning blue flowers from Daisy Roots & a delightful lemon yellow Uvularia grandiflora pallida for a humus-rich shady part of the garden from Pelham Plants.  None of which I knew I needed, but was extremely pleased with nonetheless!

A stunning Sorbus randaniensis with beautiful bronze new growth, (followed by abundant orange-red berries in the Autumn), also caught my eye at Graham Blunt’s Plant Base stall .

Riverside Bulbs were also in attendance with a sweetshop selection of dahlias & gladioli, as was Tom Critchley with a choice of wrought ironwork plant supports & decorative items to add interest to any garden.

A wander around the beautiful grounds of Borde Hill, with its stunning views over the West Sussex landscape, was an added bonus on a beautiful Spring day, with plenty of outside seating near the café if refreshments & a breather were needed – what more could one ask for after such a long lockdown winter!

A visit to Pineview Plants Nursery

I made a socially distanced visit to Colin Moat, the owner of Pineview Plants, at his nursery at Wrotham Heath on 11/11/20.
Colin is, of course, well known to many of the HPS Kent group gardeners and organises the Plant Fairs Roadshows.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2020-11-11-11.14.06-768x1024.jpg

2020 did not start well for Colin, as his nursery was hit by more than one winter storm suffering extensive damage to the main polytunnel, but with the help of friends rallying round he eventually got things up and running, only to be knocked back again by the consequences of the Covid-19 virus in the community. However, a switch to mail order selling plus visits from various gardeners has helped keep the operation running

The nursery specialises in plants for shade, with an impressive selection of Epimediums and ferns on display along with a large selection of other hardy perennials.

After the storms hit in early February 2020 (above)

Happier times now that the polytunnel has been reskinned, the plant displays have been raised up, and the work benches have been reorganised

The nursery is not open to the general public, but may be visited by appointment.
Colin may be contacted via email at:

Bob Dyer 14/11/20

A visit to Hever Castle Gardens

The gardener, Peter Cass, explained that after all of the rain this autumn, a spring, which was marked on old maps, had started flowing again after being dry for many years, so he was landscaping its contours and preparing a bed of rhododendrons either side of it.
Bob Dyer

What size garden pond?

We visited the garden of fellow HPS Kent Group member Annie, to give some tips on building a new garden pond.

For many of us a pond is a must-have as it offers a haven for wildlife, can look beautiful with some careful planting and maintenance, and provides interest all year round.
The big decision Annie had to make was how big should it be?
The first thing I did after I moved into my home in Maidstone back in 1987 – and when I was ready to tackle the garden – was to build a large pond, which is something I have never regretted, so my advice to Annie was to go big! She was a bit apprehensive, to say the least.

Original idea of pond size marked by the blue rope. Annie pictured either side of the fence

Annie’s original idea was to build the pond to a size marked out roughly by the blue rope, but after some consultation we decided that the fence at the back of the bed needed to come down so that we could build bigger.

So now the work has begun removing the fence and moving plants. The first to be moved was a hardy fuchsia (name unknown) followed by a Camelia (name unknown), a Leycesteria Formosa and various soft fruit canes.
There is a rather nice Trachelospermum jasminoides growing on the fence too, which we hope can stay in place rather than be moved, and be trained away to the side.

Annie hard at work dismantling the fence

We will update this blog as work progresses………….watch this space

Bob Dyer 21/11/20

30th Anniversary Garden at Platt

March 20th 2018 was the 30th Anniversary of the inaugural meeting of the Hardy Plant Society Kent Group. In order to mark the Anniversary year we created an HPS Kent Group garden in a small area in front of the newly built Platt Memorial Hall. As many of you will know we have had meetings here since the autumn of 2017. Platt gave us a venue to replace Sevenoaks in the west of the county, whilst still being handy for access from the M20 corridor.

In the late summer of 2017 Colin Moat and I went to visit the site, which is open and sunny and has a sandy soil with some clay. The idea was to create a ‘Prairie style’ planting and extend the season by adding bulbs and using seed heads and grasses over winter. Plants needed to be ‘good doers,’ being easy to maintain and grow. Ideally we wanted several plants of one cultivar to make an impact. With these criteria in mind we asked for plant donations, from the HPS Kent members. We had a very good response and, apart from bulbs, we have not bought any plants.

We revisited the site during the autumn to take note of what plants were already there and which of those we might keep. Those not being used were either to be replanted elsewhere (Colin did a stalwart job replanting many hollyhocks!) or potted up for future use by the Hall Committee.

At the beginning of November a working party of three met at Platt Memorial Hall. Our first goal was to ‘clear’ the area. Some of the existing plants were ‘salvaged’, e.g. Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’, which was left in position to give structure. An Agapanthus was lifted and replanted in a more suitable area of the garden. Symphyotrichum (formerly Aster) novae-angliae ‘Lye End Beauty’ was an existing herbaceous perennial, which we felt was too near the front of the border so we replanted it further back. We coalesced several unknown pink Phlox to make a more substantial clump. Luckily some plant labels were found alongside some of the existing plants, so we could name them with some confidence!

We had a rough plan in our heads but it only came together on the ground once we had received the donated plants – it was literally planned as we planted. The soil was not as sandy as we had first thought and, like all newly developed sites, was variable in the structure. We found a metal hasp and also half a paving slab in our digging! That first day we spent four hours on site and managed to achieve much more than we thought we would.

About a week later four of us met one morning to carry on planting the rest of the donated plants and the 780 bulbs which we had ordered. The bulbs were chosen to extend the season of interest and to increase over time: e.g. Crocus tommasinianus and Gladiolus byzantinus. We knew that there were some small Narcissi lurking in one area because we came across them when planting and hastily replanted them! I found bulb planting much easier than in my clay soil, whereas another member of the team thought it was much heavier than his soil. This led to a discussion as to how big some plants would get. Time will tell, but I suspect between the two extremes of our respective gardens.

I was pleased to say that the garden looked significantly different after our first two sessions of work.

Work was ongoing and in April 2018 we planted some Galanthus and Eranthis along with a few more donated perennials, to add to our initial planting. A mulch was put down which should help to decrease maintenance and help moisture conservation. As the garden has developed, there have been and will continue to be alterations, as occurs in every garden.

A couple of signs have been erected in the garden saying that the garden is for the Hardy Plant Society Kent Group’s 30th Anniversary, along with details of our website.

Over the last couple of years we have seen which plants do well and which struggle in these conditions. Mulch has been applied overwinter every year and has been really helpful in decreasing the maintenance required. Weed suppression, moisture conservation and gradual improvement of the soil are all benefits of mulching.

A selection of the plants which have done particularly well are Aster (Symphotrichum) cvs. Heleniums, Thalictrum, Echinacea, Lavandula, Allium cvs, Geranium cvs and Osteospermum, and the existing Rosa ‘Bonica’ plants, along the path edge, flower over a long season. Stipa gigantea has struggled and not grown very large. This was a plant over which we had much discussion as to size in the dry, sandy soil. It grows well in my clay soil and forms a good sized clump but achieves much less growth on Colin’s sandy soil. Phlox was another poor doer. It is just too dry.

A small maintenance team has been working there every so often, but it really does not need many hours’ work during the year – perhaps half a dozen visits with three to four of us working on average for two hours. We can also easily maintain the social distancing during the current pandemic!

The garden will continue to change and develop. We are now thinking that we will have to divide some perennials such as Symphotrichum novae-angliae ‘Lye End Beauty’ which was one of the original plants. We will probably repeat it elsewhere in the border.

Now, in the autumn of 2020, the garden has really come together and provides interest all the year round. Whenever any of us are working there, we always get very positive comments about the planting and how much the hall users enjoy seeing the changes throughout the year.

It has been a lovely experience to work on a garden with such different growing conditions to mine and learn what plants work. As they say ‘Right plant, right place’, and it really is true.


Bob Dyer with Tom Hart Dyke at The World Garden Nursery, Lullingstone Castle, Eynesford, Kent 30/10/20

I visited the World Garden, Lullingstone Castle on the penultimate day before closing for winter and was fortunate to catch Tom Hart Dyke, who created the garden.
We had corresponded on email a couple of weeks earlier after I saw his post on social media with a picture of his Hesperoyucca whipplei subsp. parishii which had flowered after around 25 years. It was featured on the cover of the September issue of the RHS Plant Review this year.
I saw his plant last year before it flowered, but being monocarpic, it had collapsed and been removed from the garden when I visited.
In my correspondence with Tom I told him I had the same plant in a pot in my front garden here in Maidstone that I started as a tiny seedling, which I obtained in California in 1995. What a coincidence that I should have one just a few miles down the M20, as it is very rare, Tom having been unsuccessful to date in finding another source.

My plant (below) stays outside with no protection, even surviving the beast from the East a few years ago.
I never water it or ferttilise it – and am now wondering if it will flower soon?
It is easily the most vicious of all my yuccas and agaves, with strong serrated-edged leaves with very hard, sharp points

Interestingly, Google lists it as the fastest growing plant in the world – but only when it flowers:
“The fastest growing plant on record is a Hesperoyucca whipplei that grew 3.7 m in 14 days”. This equates to 26.4cm/day or 10.4inches/day!

I’d like to record my thanks to Tom for taking the time to talk to me and for permission to post this article. It was a pleasure to meet such a knowledgeable and enthusiastic gardener and plantsman and I strongly recommend visiting Lullingstone next year if you get the chance, Covid-19 permitted of course

Bob Dyer

2 Replies to “Blog”

  1. Fabulous effort with your new pond, Annie! Thanks to Bob’s encouragement in making it as large as possible, I think it’s going to look amazing. I can’t wait to see the next phase!

  2. Well, what a result Annie! After all that hard labour, you & Bob have achieved an amazing pond, which will only improve with time. It looks fantastic & you must be thrilled.
    Lovely photos of your garden too, Bob, particularly the moonlit one.

Comments are closed.