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Knowle Hill Farm

2 acre garden created over 30yrs on S-facing slope of N Downs. Spectacular views. Snowdrops and hellebores, many tender plants, china roses, agapanthus, verbenas, salvias and grasses flourish on light soil. Topiary continues to evolve with birds at last emerging. Lavender ribbons hum with bees. Pool and rill enclosed in small walled white garden. New green garden is nearly complete.

Saturday 3 February, Sunday 4 February (11am - 3pm). Light refreshments.
Sunday 15 July (2 - 5.30pm). Home-made teas.
Admission £5.00, children free.
Hot food in February.

Refreshments in aid of All Saints Church, Ulcombe.

Visitors also welcome by arrangement February to September access only for 25-30 seater coaches. Admission £5.00, children free. Light refreshments.

The Hon Andrew & Mrs Cairns
01622 850240

Some steep slopes.

How to find us

Knowle Hill Farm, Ulcombe, Maidstone, Kent, ME17 1ES

7m SE of Maidstone. From M20 J8 follow A20 towards Lenham for 2m. Turn R to Ulcombe. After 1½m, L at Xrds, after ½m 2nd R into Windmill Hill. Past Pepper Box PH, ½m 1st L to Knowle Hill.

More about Knowle Hill Farm

The old (15C) house stands on the lowest slope of the North Downs overlooking the Weald of Kent. The view is spectacular and remarkably unspoilt though only 50 miles from London. The garden faces south-west and the soil is light and sandy over the ragstone bedrock. The Ph is 7-7.5 so we cannot grow anything which dislikes lime. The focus of the garden is the view but a view, as Russell Page remarked in The Education of a Gardener, 'usually means wind, and a windy garden is unrewarding'. We have done our best in the 34 years we have lived here to reduce the impact of the south-westerly winds by planting a shelter belt on the western boundary and gradually building up a framework of wind tolerant shrubs and trees while preserving the view. For us this enterprise has been far from unrewarding though not perfect and we are constantly dreaming up new projects to improve it. We have followed Page's advice in not allowing any planting to distract from the view which is seen from a broad sweep of grass which falls away, following the natural contours of the land, to a boundary of ancient box which over the years has formed a sculptural billowing shape which owes nothing to the modern fashion for cloud pruning.
Around the driveway we have planted flowing ribbons in a limited palette of plants including lavender, roses, sedums, heucheras and helianthemums. We are pleased with the restful appearance of this area which looks good all year round but especially in late June when the lavender is in flower. Near the house we have made small areas for sitting out, paved with brick and stone and made formal with clipped box, yew and bay. Here we stand pots filled with tender plants in summer and spring bulbs early in the year. A tiny herb and salad garden is conveniently close to the kitchen.
A small paved garden on the east side of the house has recently being replanted to provide a restful space of green foliage, clipped bay trees and four box spirals within a hedge of box. This is proving a more challenging project than we had expected but is now taking shape with many ferns (our latest plant interest).
A bed of pungent white and purple lavender runs the length of the house. Down one side of the lawn in front of the house is a long scalloped bed planted with yellow and blue shrubs and perennials among them Cestrum parqui and enormous clumps of the orange lily Henryi. In August the agapanthus are a magnificent shimmering expanse of blue.
Further down the garden a small walled garden with a pool has been planted with white and blue flowering plants. Clematis Perle d'Azure and Alba luxurians and roses in shades of cream and white complete the picture.
Behind the house a south-facing bank provides a warm dry environment for roses including our favourite Mutabilis and shrubs in shades of pink and purple interplanted with grasses, sedums, agapanthus, salvias and bulbs. Beyond through an archway in the yew hedge is a small area of meadow which after several years of effort now provides a good show of spring bulbs followed by cowslips and fritillaries and in summer lovely grasses and marguerites. The loss of an old cherry tree in 2015 has meant that any shade loving shrubs in this area have had to be replaced with a collection of China roses and irises which are doing well and we hope will make a spectacular show eventually on the warm bank.
A flight of steps leads up to the top part of the garden which is the only level area we have. At the top a border planted in shadows of red and purple flanks the lawn. though In July Crocosmia Lucifer puts on a great show and we have some nice red roses such as Dusky Maiden and L.D. Braithwaite, salvias and later on some good dahlias. 25 years on Olearia macrodonta, Judas trees and Leptospermum lanigerum have grown into substantial plants and have been pruned to show off their beautiful barks. They provide some welcome shade allowing us to grow hydrangeas, hellebores and primulas. The main walk with sentinels of clipped box contains roses, yuccas, salvias and lavenders. At one end a yew hedge encircles a sculpture created by our son and at the other a terracotta obelisk provides the eye catcher. We have tried to create views and glimpses of the panorama below from this upper garden and a seat in a yew arbour gives a distant vista of the Weald for those with time to sit for a moment. We ourselves seldom do so as there is always something for the gardeners to do. But we would not have it otherwise.