I have for some years now been meaning to visit Scotney Castle, a National Trust property near Lamberhurst in Kent. It qualifies as one of my ‘ninety’ because it opens once a year for the NGS. So on my way driving down to Sussex a few weeks ago with fellow garden owner Kate, we took the opportunity to call in.
It was a thoroughly miserable day so we took shelter by looking inside the house first. Commissioned by Edward Hussey III the house was built by the architect Anthony Salvin between 1837- 44. The garden was created at the same time, and with the house positioned to overlook the Old Castle and estate, the style is conducive to the perfect picturesque country home.
There are essentially four gardens: the formal terraces by the house, a walk through the quarry, the ruined castle or romantic folly, and the walled garden.
Near the front door is the hallmark of many an English country house, the Magnolia grandiflora.
The terrace by the house is very unfussy and a group of hydrangeas try to lift our spirits on this grey day.
Gravel surrounds the house and the terraced lawns are left un-mown in order to conserve the green-winged orchids which flower in April and May.
No sign of the orchids on this wet August day, just an occasional showing of an ox-eye daisy. My companion is dismayed and feels the wildflower look is not in keeping with a house of this era.
On the north-easterly side, steps lead down to a fountain where the view stretches over the Weald.
Lying in wait on the fountain a cat remains hopeful for a fish or two.
Once the scene of Victorian splendour,
there is now an air of decay on this side of the house.
Could this really have once been a place for bathing beauties?
From the Belvedere at the end of the terrace
we look down through the mist to the ruined Castle below; the autumn tints are just beginning to come,
and descend through paths of mature evergreen azaleas and rhododendrons.
From the top of the quarry we look back up at the house,
before disappearing further down the ancient-looking stone path.
It is from here that the stone was quarried to build the house.
It is a lovely walk through a dense collection of mixed shrubs and we particularly admire a fine specimen of the hydrangea family kirengeshoma palmata, just coming into flower.
Emerging from the quarry there is a patch of perennials planted to provide a little colour for this time of year,
and arrive at the centrepiece of this picturesque landscape, the ruined Castle. It was partially demolished by Edward Hussey III to create a romantic folly.
Some folly, it is much larger than I imagined and we cross over the bridge,
where below, a clump of Pontederia cordata hugs the edge.
It is not all ruined, for we are able to climb the stairs and enjoy the view from the upstairs windows.
Wisteria climbs over solid archways, inviting us through into the garden beyond,
where there is still plenty of colour in the border running along the ruined walls.
Itea illicifolia cascades down from up high.
The rain is persistent but does not detract from the beauty of this watery setting.
Returning to the house the leaves of the liquidamber styraciflua are just one of the many fine trees that are beginning to turn.
On the west side of the house is the hexagon-sided Walled Garden and as we enter we are confronted by blaze of colour, dahlias one side
and sunflowers underplanted with nasturtiums on the other.
A traditional water carrier is reduntant today.
It is not just flowers that grow; there are plenty of vegetables and we are reminded that the pumpkin season will soon be upon us.
We love the style of label embedded in the soil.
It is such a pleasure to see a huge variety of fruit trees skilfully trained against the walls.
The NGS and the NT have a long association. After the war the NGS offered to donate funding to the National Trust to help restore and preserve important gardens. In return, the National Trust opened many of its most prestigious gardens for the NGS, a partnership that lasted for many years.
Today each organisation has gone its separate way with the NGS focusing more on funding nursing charities than conservation. A few properties such as Scotney with the garden full of all year-round interest also open their garden gates for the scheme. Despite the rain we have found plenty to enjoy and it is well worth a visit when it is open for the NGS in May.