Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Great Comp - another delight in "The Garden of England"

When you arrive at Great Comp and start walking round the lovely gardens there, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you've stumbled across an ancient site where the owner has made the best of the land available around crumbling Gothic ruins to plant a magnificent garden. But the ruins were actually created over the years by late owner, Roderick Cameron and his wife and are a clever reconstruction of ironstone rubble found in the garden that they developed over the years they lived there. This is a really unusual garden with a fine collection of specimen trees, that not only survived the terrible drought of 1976, but also the Great Storm of 1987. 
The Italian garden, which shelters many Mediterranean plants
When the Camerons moved there in 1957 there was little to see and certainly no garden to speak of - just four acres of land that was hugely overgrown and much in need of attention. After 50 years of hard work and the acquisition of adjoining land, the result today is a stunning seven-acre garden providing year-round interest, with some of the finest magnolias and rhododendrons anywhere in England in the spring, and a collection of salvias that attracts visitors from far and wide in the summer. The "ruins" add interesting focal points to a very personal garden, serve to protect some of the tender plants and provide places for visitors to sit and reflect on the lovely garden around them.
Part of the joy of Great Comp is its serenity and simplicity. It first opened to the public in July 1967 and remained open just a few days a year for the Gardens Scheme (forerunner of the NGS).  It is now open daily from April to October and because of the Camerons' foresight in setting up a Charitable Trust, it will remain open, despite the death of its creator, Roderick Cameron in November 2009. Today the property is managed by Curator, William Dyson, who has been at Great Comp for 17 years and he also runs a very fine nursery where you can buy many of the plants you see growing in the garden. 
Great Comp is a very enticing garden, with its many paths curving out of sight and large areas of informal planting. There's an impeccably-mown lawn in front of the house, fringed with tall conifers, willows and oaks, and from here different paths lead off into areas of woodland. But everywhere you look there are splendid shrubs, underplanted with hostas, lilies and salvias, and you will find more than 3,000 different plants here as well as the heather and rose gardens, and an Italian Garden with its fine collection of Mediterranean plants. 
There are more than 70 magnolia trees here at Great Comp, so a visit in the spring is particularly memorable, especially when the Magnolia veitchii is in bloom!  But the summer months see glorious heathers and herbaceous borders, set against the backdrop of Roderick's "ruins" (below). Popular too is the Great Comp Garden Show, to be held on 7th and 8th August this year.
There are many other great gardens nearby including Chart's Edge, Hever Castle and Ightham Mote if you want to visit different gardens on the same day. No wonder Kent is known as "The Garden of England".


  1. Charlotte, I just got the book on Great Comp in the mail last week, I was inspired to buy it after reading another post about Great Comp. I love reading books about gardens created from nothing (it gives me hope).

  2. Sounds a lovely garden one after my own heart.

    Charlotte have you changed your header and is that Clematis Vienneta Eviso?

  3. as delightful as ever Charlotte...

  4. If only one had space for a few gothic ruins in the garden :)