16. Kent – Friday 10 July

Long Barn Tour 16

Long Barn Tour 16


White House Farm, Ivy Hatch, Ightham
Maurice Foster VMH

Maurice and Rosemary Foster bought White House Farm and five acres in 1972, high up on what he describes as “the Kent Alps”. He has, over the years, added so extensively to his collection of plants that the garden and arboretum now cover 15 acres. Maurice describes himself as a tree man, but, as a long-standing member of the RHS Woody Plant Committee and a recipient of horticulture’s highest award the Victoria Medal of Honour, he is much more than that. It is an almost impossible decision when to visit; in Spring his extensive collection of Magnolias, Rhododendrons and Camelias are in flower, followed by billowing masses of climbing and rambling roses in high summer, the autumn colour is spectacular, but his great passion is the growing and breeding of Hydrangeas, particularly blue-flowered Hydrangea serrata, which line about ¼ mile of paths through the garden, and the velvet-leaved Hydrangea aspera. Forms with dark-coloured foliage in particular interest him and Hydrangea aspera. ‘Hot Chocolate’ with chocolate and burgundy-coloured leaves is one of Maurice’s plants, now commercially available. This is a very remarkable garden that would be overwhelming were it not for the generous enthusiasm and kindness of the gardener.

Long Barn, Sevenoaks Weald, Sevenoaks
Mr and Mrs Lars Lemonius

Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson created the garden at Long Barn, with a little help from Edwin Lutyens, from 1915 to 1930. The Nicolsons then moved to Sissinghurst and rented the house to, among others, Charles and Anne Lindbergh. Thereafter the garden acquired other owners and modest changes were made to the layout and planting. Lars and Rebecca Lemonius have triumphantly shown that it is possible to live happily in an historic garden. The planting feels crisp and contemporary and yet utterly sympathetic to this Kent farmhouse. The garden bows to its former owners and yet has moved on. The Lemoniuses maintain and nurture it to an extent that would arouse admiration even from Vita.