Border restoration work unveiled

Blue and yellow border at Penshurst Place returns to its roots following three-year restoration job.

Furness: 800 plants bedded out by gardens team to restore border
Furness: 800 plants bedded out by gardens team to restore border

The blue and yellow border at Penshurst Place has been brought back to its roots after three years of restoration.

The Kent garden's colour scheme celebrates the heraldic colours of the Sidney family, who have lived at the residence for 450 years. But over the past century orange, red and pink crept into the mixed herbaceous border and shrubs grew too large.

The sheltered, south-facing garden is 39m long and backed by a brick wall damaged by honeysuckle and self-seeded buddleia. Repairs necessitated the removal of climbing roses and clematis, so head gardener Cory Furness decided to grab the chance to redesign the planting scheme, creating a strictly herbaceous border.

Plants were removed at the end of the 2012 season and the garden sat fallow in 2013. "We did a lot of double digging to get rid of the ground elder, acanthus and bindweed. We picked through to get every bit of root, but it has paid off," said Furness. "We also focused on incorporating farmyard manure and compost into the beds."

Stone edging was realigned and the wall rewired using old-fashioned pins made by a local blacksmith. Around 800 plants were bedded out in 2014, with tall growers such as Salvia uliginosa, Rudbeckia 'Herbstonne', alliums, delphiniums and lupins replacing shrubs.

The stars of the show are two new irises, 'Penshurst Blue' and 'Penshurst Yellow', selected from a range bred by local enthusiast Olga Wells. They are the perfect height and have a lovely perfume, said Furness.

He monitored the garden for a year before reshuffling things in winter and removing poor performers such as Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', which was dominating the garden without producing decent flowers.

Most plants were grown off-site by Roger Allport and Perry Hill Nurseries. The exceptions were the agapanthus, Anthemis and Hemerocalis already thriving at Penshurst Place.

Being a private garden, Furness is on the whole free to change things as he sees fit. "There are elements within the garden we wouldn't want to change - the landscaping, the lines of the Italian garden and the ponds because they are grade listed," he added. "But we certainly can change the planting displays. It's nice to have that sense of freedom."

Extended colour - Spring through to autumn

Penshurst Place head gardener Cory Furness said he is most pleased to have stretched the blue and yellow theme from spring through to autumn.

Early spring sees primroses, violas and spring bulbs such as Fritillaria along with Brunnera macrophylla and Asphodeline lutea, which flowers from March to late summer.

Irises and Scabious 'Fama Blue' follow, while in the autumn months asters and rudbeckia are still blazing.

Four varieties of clematis also stagger their flowering times - from C. ascotiensis through to C. 'Maria Basescu'. Roses 'Casino', 'Bouquet d'Or', 'Royal Gold' and 'Graham Thomas' complete the picture.

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