The seven acres of Great Comp Garden offer both formal and informal gardens. The garden is 40 years old and was created by Eric Cameron and his late wife Joy. Terraces, woodland walks, a walled Italian garden, and collections of trees, shrubs, perennials, an herbaceous border, and heathers are features of this plantsman’s garden. Grass paths meander along and visitors come upon folly “ruins” created since 1976 from stone found on the property. A Partial Tour Around the Garden
In early spring look for helleborus, then 30 varieties of magnolias (the magnolia veitchii is 50 feet high with 2000 blooms), rhododendrons, and azaleas. The rest of the year rare and exotic shrubs and perennials are the attraction. Roses, geraniums, berberis, aucuba, and potentilla provide colour and texture. Summer sees the hydrangeas in full bloom along with campanula, acanthus, crocosmia, and berberis.
There is a huge collection of award winning salvias (a gold medal at the 2001 RHS show in London), and within the gardens is a small nursery where they can be purchased.
The house on the site dates from the early 17th century and was the home of Sir John Howell. The name ‘comp’ comes from the Latin ‘campus’ meaning a field. The land was owned in the 13th century by a crusader named Sir Roger de Leybourne. When the house was built by Howell the estate was 700 acres in size. The Lambarde family owned the estate for the ensuing 200 years. In 1900 Mrs Helen Maxwell was resident in the house and made it a centre for women’s activities. She was friends with Vita Sackville-West and was, like her, a keen gardener.
After her death in 1955 Eric and Joy Cameron arrived to an estate that had become 4.5 acres of garden, woodland, and paddock. They added to it to make a total of nine acres of land. They then proceeded to labour long and hard to create the delightful gardens on show today. William Dyson and two assistants now help Eric Cameron in his role as curator of the charitable trust.
On entering the garden from the car park look for the 150 year old yew tree on your right and the Doulton urn, the first ornament purchased by Joy Cameron for the garden. Ahead is what was once a paddock. Here there are magnolias in bloom in the spring—70 in total, of which there are 30 different types in the garden. Upon reaching the top terrace look for two ginkgos on either side of the steps. A Leyland cypress is on view when facing the house. Azaleas and camellias line some of the pathways.
Pass the Doulton urn and take the outside path to come upon the main cross vista. A long path—240 yards—leads to the Chilstone temple. Here there are heathers, mostly in bloom in March, April, August, and September. From the ‘temple’ there are two paths, one leading to rhododendrons and camellias. In this area also are hellebores, best seen in late March.
In the middle of the garden is a path to more azaleas and a specimen magnolia. Further along is the Italian garden. Hellebores are planted here, along with a California redwood tree. The tea terrace was built by the Camerons and nearby are herbaceous and other borders as well as a rare magnolia. In the crescent lawn area irises, tiger lilies, and other plantings hold sway. A curved path shows off hellebores, hostas, and geraniums.
The garden is a true delight and has the feel of a secret garden with treasures tucked away round the twistings and turnings of the paths.
Great Comp Garden
Comp Lane, Platt
Two miles east of Borough Green, Kent
Tel. 01732 886154
Open: April-end Oct, daily, 11am-5pm
Web: Great Comp Garden
Old Dairy tea room, open noon-4pm for lunch and tea; gift items for sale
Text and photos © by Barbara Ballard
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