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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.


A VISIT TO THE WORLD GARDEN, LULLINGSTONE CASTLE, 30/10/20

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
01/11/20

One Reply 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!

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